*. Those of you who have been reading these notes for a while know how I like to talk about how a video-game aesthetic took over mainstream filmmaking in the twenty-first century. I’m not just talking about the ubiquitous use of CGI, but all that comes with it, like the denial of reality, a sense of moral weightlessness, and a general superficiality that presents character as only pixel deep.
*. A glimpse of things to come was what I dubbed the Year of the Simulacrum: 1998. This was the year of The Matrix, Dark City, and The Truman Show. In each of these movies reality was revealed to be an artificial construct controlled by sinister forces. We hadn’t quite arrived in the new dispensation yet, but these were billboards announcing what was up ahead.
*. Which brings me to Serenity, a movie that takes the video-game movie to its logical next step by positing that reality isn’t just like a video game, but is in fact such a construct. In this way it’s like the simulacrum trilogy, only without any of the philosophical and moral questioning those movies indulged. In fact, it takes that questioning and turns it into pure mush.
*. Life, you see, is just a game made up by a kid in his bedroom. What’s more, this game isn’t just reality, it’s something even more than that. It is the afterlife, with Plymouth (the game’s version of Truman’s Seahaven Island) being a digital Garden of Eden. And I don’t mean it’s a cloud where consciousness can be uploaded, the so-called rapture of the nerds, but it’s really heaven.
*. Blame writer-director Steven Knight. The direction is totally slack and the script trash. The boy invents the game in part because his step-father is a jerk. How big a jerk? He’s the kind of guy who goes on a fishing trip and immediately starts talking about where he can find some children to fuck up the ass and how he abuses his son and plans on killing him. So I guess that means he’s a bad guy.
*. The cast is decent. But what can poor Anne Hathaway do with such a one-dimensional part? Or Jason Clarke, usually so enjoyable, do in his? Diane Lane just shows up, for no reason at all. Matthew McConaughey at least gets to take his clothes off and walk around in a wet t-shirt.
*. The twist, if you can call it that, is so stupid I don’t know how to properly address it. Of course it makes no sense at all, but in addition it’s gooey with sentimentality and had the effect of making me care even less about any of the characters since absolutely nothing is at stake. Reality is plastic, there are no rules, and death is no more real, or unreal, than anything else. “I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know anything, you know. Nobody knows anything. You know, all that I know is that there’s a you and a me somewhere.” That’s not heavy, it’s thin.
*. Enough already. I can’t remember the last time I hated a movie so much. I mean I hate it for the fact that it even exists as much as for what it represents. We were warned in 1998. And twenty years later we get this?