Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review of "Browncoats Redemption"

I have a confession: I never watched Firefly when it was on TV the first time (except for Jaynestown which is a horrible first episode to introduce someone to the series). I saw them at Comic Con the first time they came out to promote the movie (it was postponed so they were there two years in a row to promote the film – 2004 & 2005 I think). That first year they were there, I had only just discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. As you already know, quite a few Firefly actors appeared on those shows. I didn’t get in line for the autograph session because it was jam-packed and I wasn’t a fan of the show.

But, destined to be the huge fan I now am, my friend (who I would introduce to the show and convert into a fan before the movie came out) was approached by one of the security guys in the autograph area. The Serenity signing was over and there was one more promo card (8.5 x 11) that was signed by the entire cast and Joss Whedon. The security guy couldn’t keep it so he gave it to the first person he saw: my friend. He knew I was interested in the signatures because many were on Buffy & Angel (or created both shows (if you’re reading this Joss, thanks for that)). He decided that he’d let me have the signed promo in exchange for making a photocopy of it for him. Right after the con I put Firefly in my Netflix queue and as soon as I was done watching I was hooked and that signed promo went to the top of the list of things I would run out of the house with if it were on fire.

Of course the show was awesome and the movie was just as awesome so I won’t go into those. I bought “Done the Impossible” at the Comic Con a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed that but it’s been out for a while so I won’t go into that either.

I saw the “Browncoats: Redemption” postcard on the freebie table at Comic Con and checked it out. It looked great and I was excited that some fans were still so passionate and excited by the show and movie to make a fan film – especially a fan film that was 90 minutes long – so I pre-ordered it. And the other day my mailbox rewarded me for all the times I opened it to junk mail and bills by giving me, “Browncoats: Redemption.”

The movie picks up 3 months after the signal went out in Serenity and the universe got hip to what the Alliance did on Miranda. Civil unrest is starting to brew so the Alliance is looking to squash any Independents who might be looking to rally the people. Their mission includes the arrest of one Captain Laura Matthews who is hiding a secret so large that uncovering it threatens to divide and break her crew apart.

I have to be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I was expecting a vaguely familiar universe with a passable script and characters trying to be the original crew. As a fan, I just wanted to see the film so I could have an opinion one way or the other. But what I got was a great story with crew members who had unique personalities and even a twist (Captain Laura Matthew’s big secret) that I never saw coming.

The crew is a likeable bunch who are easy to root for and who I want to see more of. There’s definitely a treasure trove of back-story in these characters, like the reason Lux gave up a successful boxing career or Cam’s history with Laura. There is one scene where some of the crew are sitting around sharing stories and laughs and it felt like a real moment of bonding between old friends and new shipmate, “Pete.” If this movie was the pilot episode, it would have been good enough to bring me back. I would even enjoy fan-made sequels just so I could spend more time with these characters.

Unlike Serenity which is a Firefly class vessel, Redemption is a Scarab class vessel so the good folks at NEO f/x volunteered their time to animate this new ship and scores of skilled volunteers worked tirelessly to build a set that rivaled Serenity’s full-sized set (in Firefly and Serenity, the ship was built so that a camera could follow a crew member throughout the entire ship, giving the viewer a sense of how large the ship is) and pulled it off. The film is shot in the same way the series was (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it) so it’s familiar and comforting. The story is sprinkled with inside references from the episodes of the show and the movie. There are even a few outside film references that you might pick up. The film even features cameos from actors who were on the show and in the movie (I won’t ruin the “Who?” or “In what context?” for you).

I only have two complaints. The first is the varying sound quality. The second is a scene in which a rocket sort of explodes next to Redemption and there’s no explanation as to where it came from and the crew sort of ‘under-reacts’ to it. But those two complaints are pretty minor taking the film as a whole. I’ve walked out on movies that took millions to make (“In the Name of the King” and “Crank” come to mind) and have stopped movies before the end, put them in the Netflix envelope and sent them back (“Domino” and “Ninja Assassin” come to mind), but I watched this film straight through and watched all the behind the scenes material.

And the DVD is packed with “making of,” “behind the scenes,” stuff that was amazing. This film was a real labor of love with an all-volunteer force of Browncoats who came from everywhere to pitch in and help and donated funds to the cause. There was a nice feature called, “I am a Browncoat” that features fans filming themselves saying “I am a Browncoat” in varying ways (in varying video qualities) that I thought was really cool. In a film made by a ton of fans, it was one more way to include the fans. There was also a bunch of great interviews between cast and crew of the original by cast and crew of “Browncoats: Redemption.”

For those of you who wondered like I did, “How can they do this without getting sued,” the makers of the film reached out to Fox, Universal, and Joss Whedon to get permission to make film and sell it with the proceeds going to charity.

If you live in LA, the upcoming “Creation Entertainment Salutes Firefly, Buffy/Angel & Dollhouse” in November is playing the film on Saturday of the convention and selling copies of the film (hopefully some of the cast will be there signing). The film’s crew are hoping to sell 32,396 copies of the movie which is the number of copies that the Serenity Collector’s Edition sold on its release weekend (the Collector’s Edition came out a few months after the initial DVD was released) and would give each charity about $80,000 each. And who are the charities? The charities are, Equality Now, Kids Need to Read, The Dyslexia Foundation (TDF), The Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center, and The Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation. These are all charities that are supported by the cast Firefly cast and Joss Whedon.

The film was completely worth ordering, fun to watch, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again and again.

Browncoats: Redeption official site
The Facebook page