It's been a while since I've done a positive movie review -- so here's a two fer
Over thanksgiving, I went to see Casino Royale, the new James Bond film. It's a complete re-do of the franchise. Gone are the obsession with bizarre gadgets and tongue in cheek humor (and you can forget about Q, the gadget master). Gone is M's secretery, Moneypenny. Gone is the "shaken, not stirred" tagline (indeed, there's a bit where Bond orders a martini and the bartender asks "Shaken or stirred" "I don't care" replies Bond).
Taking the place of such traditions are grittier and icy cold fight scenes. This is a bond who actually gets hurt -- a lot. And because this Bond gets injured, he's actually much tougher. In the 80s, Bond became this kind of uber-cool superman. Now we've got a Bond who just barely survives -- this is a bond I can identify with. He hurts, he bleeds, he's human. He also falls in love and has his heart broken. It all works, and it works well.
Then, this weekend, the first DVD of Firefly arrived from Netflix. I'll be honest -- from all the hype I've received about this show, I thought I'd hate it -- "a space western" they told me. Space ships and six shooters and cowboy slang. I didn't think there was nny way this would work. And yet, the first episode into it, it's working great. Easily some of the best sci-fi dialogue I've heard in a long time. The plots are tight and the characters complex.
I especially like how they've worked in a preacher as a heroic character (not to mention, this is 500 years in the future, and it's the only sci-fi show I've seen to actually incorporate some kind of nod to the Christian faith).
Both Bond and Firefly are gritty, and contiain violence and sexuality (though not over the top -- it's there in the story, but the filmmakers don't linger and glorifiy in sex and violence). But the heroes in both reflect a deep understanding of human depravity -- they're up against villans and they confront these villans not with rosy colored eyes, but with understanding the human sin nature.
The feel of both is characterized by one of the characters in firefly who tells a new crew member on the ship "We're all lost in the woods. The difference is that the captin likes it." All the characters are making their way in a dangerous world where people are ambiguous and the heroes are tough on top with a soft spot underneath.