I was so much looking forward to seeing Serenity and when I finally did I was so infuriated by the poor condition the cinema was in, broken air condition, tiny screen (UGC in Paris), muffled sound and a stench that lingers just at the threshold of your senses. The French subtitles did not help either.
So, what positive things can I say about this movie other than “I swallowed a bug” River Tam (Summer Glau)?
Summer Glau is hip. She is it, really, she is the new Space Odyssey Amazon Über-Ninja Terminator of the year. Having seen “Firefly” before, I was ready (and able as one can be given the circumstances) to dive right into the “verse” once more and join in on a bumpy ride together with the crew of good ole Serenity, primary buffer panels or not.
“Serenity” is funny in a crude way, blunt jokes aside I could not help but notice the urge of getting the aspect of conflict of our main protagonist Mal (Nathan Fillion) into the movie: the battle of Serenity and “leave no man behind”. That was just a tad too much, point in fact it was way too much. First, the issue of morality of former honorable soldiers resorting to petty theft is raised, then 5 minutes later we are faced with the questioning of loyalty and code, which in Mal’s case only led to defeat (Browncoats lost the war, folks). It’s just too much to properly develop in 119 minutes. If you have seen the series then you already know the characters well enough to just acknowledge all the hints and references but if you haven’t then you might find it confusing if not annoying.
The crew of “Serenity”, a Firefly class space ship, is running from the Alliance, mainly because they took on two refuges, the Tams, and trying to make a living with doing the odd trade job here and there, most of the time not quite legal. This is also how the movie sets out. A heist that goes bad because of Reavers intervention and the dump of the goods that again goes bad because of sublime Alliance intervention that manifests itself in “a creature of extraordinary grace” and some kick ass fight scenes.
There is plenty of action in “Serenity”, the effects are good and considering the budget they are surprisingly good but the real weak part of it is the “crammed and forced” story line. In the beginning the audience is presented with what seems the perfect villain: The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and we are thrilled by his performance, however building up such a prototypical agent of evil and then having him falter and fall into resignation so quickly in the end is just too easy and less than satisfactory. Still, you best write that name down, because I bet you will see more of it in the future. Villainy has a new name, kills children if it has to and is hard to spell!
Joss Whedon never had the chance to tell his whole story with “Firefly” getting cancelled after just 14 episodes and with the movie the fans at least get a closure of some sort. Not all might like it, since it is rather drastic in some aspects but it’s better than no closure, for sure. “Serenity” is mainly for the fans but even newcomers to Joss Whedon’s version of the future can enjoy the bumpy ride and when you see an armada of Reaver ships coming your way, sit tight and enjoy the show, because there are times when even the best villains resort to the more simpler questions in life:
The Operative: [seeing a whole fleet of Reaver ships coming at him] Will someone just fire!
In conclusion, “Serenity” is a character driven Sci-Fi movie which you can enjoy best if you have seen “Firefly – The Complete Series“. The movie has its short comings, let aside the CGI it is mainly the fact that too much is crammed into 119 minutes, at least that is the impression one gets and the pacing suffers from it.
All in all, the series is better than the movie.