Banner

Serenity

Serenity

What She said:

She

Three years after the failure of the TV show, Firefly, the crew of the Serenity are back in this big picture adaptation of the sci-fi, action, adventure, western comedy.  All of the original cast make reappearances as their trademark characters.  Nathan Fillion plays Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, captain of the ship.  His right hand lady is Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres).  Also on board are pilot Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Alan Tudyk), mercenary Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), mechanic Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), and brother and sister duo Simon and River Tam (Sean Maher and Summer Glau).  Companion, Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin) and Shepherd  Derrial Book (Ron Glass) also return for the movie, although they are not necessarily on board the Serenity throughout.  So yeah, the whole cast is back, and their appeal and dynamic is stronger than ever.

The movie is essentially just a larger version of the show.  It picks a topic/adventure and spends the whole program exploring it.  The show would vary from episode to episode, although there were some overarching themes, and the film piggybacks mostly where the show left off.  The evil Alliance is after River Tam with renewed vigor and, led by a ridiculously talented assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor ), they will stop at nothing to recover the former lab rat.  In an effort to collect her from the Serenity, they wipe out all of the crew’s frequent bases and friends.  This does not sit well with Mal, who goes from about to kick River and Simon off the ship to passionately protecting them and trying to bring down the Alliance once and for all.  If you’ll recall, he’s got a strong history with them, having fought against the Alliance as a member of the Independent army years back.  To get to the bottom of the mystery of why the Alliance wants River so bad, Mal and crew must face near-certain death, fight a lot of cannibalistic super-killer Reavers, and keep the Serenity from falling apart.  It’s a huge challenge, but if any crew can do it, it’s the Serenity’s.  Some great mysteries of both River’s and the Alliance’s pasts are revealed, and heads roll, literally.

Serenity

Serenity is a great continuation of the show.  It benefits from a better special effects budget than what TV permits and good writing.  The writing on the show was always decent—fun dialogue and fast action— but there were some inconsistencies.  The general plotline of Serenity is linear enough that it allows for the movie to have a very strong foundation upon which to be built.  Like the show, the movie has moments of levity and much of this humor comes from the relationships and interactions between the crew of the ship.  They’re each quite different, and yet they get along well as a team, despite times of being at each other’s throats.

I mentioned this movie being heightened by a bigger special effects budget.  It really is nice to see the ships engaged in space fights with movie level quality picture and sound behind it.  Of course, a TV show is a different standard, but there’s more depth to Serenity because it was bigger budget.  The movie offers some closure where the series somewhat abruptly left off.  Would it have been nice to have seen the show run for 3-5 seasons and then have a movie?  Oh heck yeah, but being that this wasn’t an option (thanks Fox), Serenity is a welcomed addition to this fantasy universe.  It’s like the show, but even better, and that makes it a great pick for anyone who is a fan of the genre.

Thumbs up.

 

What he said:

He

Before Joss Wheedon was known for being the man behind the third highest grossing film of all time – The Avengers – he was known as that guy who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the tv show, not the movie). Buffy had its own spinoff show called Angel. So, you’d think his next tv project would be ratings gold, but that wasn’t the case at all. Firefly (review here if you need a refresher) struggled and was canceled after three months. The show had quickly achieved a cult status though and fans rallied so much they created enough interest for Wheedon to lookinto making a proper sendoff. People were pissed it was canceled and got their wish in the feature film Serenity. Not even Buffy – which was on for seven season – got the big screen treatment. There’s something to be said about that.

Serenity picks up a few months after where Firefly left off. The crew – or at least most of them – is still seeking work while simultaneously on the run from the Alliance. The Alliance seems to want their science project River Tam (Summer Glau) back now more than ever. River is as crazy as she’s ever been and has also become even more dangerous. This has become a divisive issue amongst the crew. Oh, and Inara (Morena Baccarin) and Shepard Book (Ron Glass) have finally moved on. The show always hinted that they were temporary passengers, but in the time that has lapsed between the show and movie, they finally did.

Serenity

The movie opens up with the introduction of the main antagonist. He is known only as the Operative. The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an assassin sent be the Alliance command to do what the rest of their agents have been unable to do: reacquire River Tam. River is a teenage prodigy and budding super weapon. The Alliance has done all kinds of experiments on children in an attempt to turn them into super soldiers. But there’s more to it than that. They really want her back. They see her as some kind of threat to their existence, so they send the Operative after her.  

Meanwhile back on Serenity, Mal and company are getting ready for another job. Mal would like River to start pulling her weight. Simon (Sean Maher) objects to this. Besides the fact that she’s his kid sister, she’s not exactly most stable person on board. She shows flashes of skills that would be valuable in their line of work, but she also has these – well let’s just call them meltdowns – from time-to-time. Because of those skills though, Mal is willing to take the risk and River becomes the newest member of their heist crew; along with Jayne (Adam Baldwin), Zoe (Gina Torres), and himself. It’s not without complications, but the job appears to be going well, until the planet they’re on is attacked by Reavers. You remember the Reavers, right? They are rabid, violent, and cannibalistic humans from deep space? The crew narrowly escapes their encounter with them thanks to some slick flying by Wash (Alan Tudyk). When Simon hears of the danger his sister was put in, he expresses his displeasure with Mal. I really liked that little bit. It was nice to see the doc develop some balls for a change. I like Mal, but he bullied Simon early in the show, so it was nice to see the doc get a little payback. He’s only looking out for his sister; who the Alliance turned into a psychopath.

After that, they all head off to meet another one of their contacts about another job. Everything appears to be business as usual until River has another one of her meltdowns in very public fashion. She’s being her usual weird self when she suddenly gets violent with just about everyone she sees. The entire incident is caught on camera and the Alliance is quickly on the scene. The crew manages to escape just in time.

The Operative may have missed them at this stop, but he’s one step ahead of them and has already taken Inara captive at her new home. He forces Inara to contact them and lure him into his trap. Despite her leaving the ship because of her complicated relationship with Mal, she ends up running from the law with him once again. Oh yeah, and somewhere along the way they end up meeting up with Shepard Book; so it’s like a family reunion of sorts.

Serenity is my textbook definition of a classic adventure story. There’s laughs, a little action, and even some romance. It’s not a straight comedy or action oriented movie (the show wasn’t either), but a combination of the two. Throw in a little drama and romance and you’ve got yourself recipe for an entertaining movie. This movie is every bit as adventurous, funny, and all around entertaining as the show. It was great to see it not lose any of the elements that made the show so likeable, but also nice to see it get the big screen treatment.

The other thing I really liked about the movie was how they brought everything together. The biggest issue in the show was always the gang being on the run from the Alliance; due to their harboring River and Simon. Yeah, they were criminals and all, but River made them a marked group of men and women. But there’s other aspects of the show that were sort of background storylines that played nicely into the main plot. I really enjoyed and respect that. It’s good storytelling.

When working on this review it surprised me to see that this movie actually didn’t make money. It cost $39 million to make (pennies by today’s standards) and brought in a little less than that. I just don’t get it. How many canceled TV shows can say they got to go down in style with a finale on the big screen? People rallied to get it made and it still struggled despite good reviews. Do people just not know about this franchise? Why does stuff like this get canned, but CSI and Law & Order each have 15 different incarnations a piece? That’s not even counting all the other ripoffs of those shows that people seem to love. Because of that, I feel obligated to stick up for it a little bit; that and I think it’s a really entertaining little series. If you like a good sci fi story, a little adventure, and a few laughs along the way, Firefly/Serenity might just be for you.

Rathing: Thumbs up.