Distributed By: Universal
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
It feels as though I have been waiting for years for Serenity to be released in theatres. The continuation of the canceled Joss Whedon created series, Firefly, opened on September 30th and made it’s way to number 2 in the box office after its first weekend. Not bad for the sequel to a show that crashed horribly with only a cult fan base. Not bad at all when you realize that while Joss Whedon had written movie scripts such as Toy Story and Alien Resurrection, and had written and directed episodes of his own Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, the man had never directed a feature film, let alone one that he’d written himself. The good thing about this film—you’d never know if you hadn’t been told.
Thankfully, I hadn’t been waiting years. Due to a confusing butchering of the airing schedule for the “space cowboy” styled series by the Fox network, I had never watched it until after it came out on DVD because the way they had aired it on television was simply too confusing. I watched it a few months back, but there were some who had been waiting for this movie since the series’ death in 2002. Another good thing about the film—it’s worth the wait.
Beginning with a scene only glossed over in the series, in which fugitive sibling team Simon and River Tam (Sean Maher and Summer Glau) escape a medical facility in which River was being experimented on by the Alliance (think Star Trek’s Federation if it had been run by Darth Vader—if Vader was more subtle) and turned into a psychic who is insane and occasionally violent. This is being watched by an Operative of the Alliance (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is intent on finding and killing River before she releases any government secrets she may have gleaned off of the minds of those that worked on her.
To do so, the Operative must go through the crew of the Serenity, a Firefly class transport ship run by outlaws. The captain of the ship, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) was a Sergeant in the war of independence against the Alliance. On the losing side of the battle, our hero Mal has named Serenity after the battle that lost him the war. His crew, consists of his old war buddy Zoe (Gina Torres), her husband and pilot of Serenity, Wash (Alan Tudyk), ship engineer, sweet and innocent Kaylee (Jewel Staite), and the rough and burly mercenary Jayne (Adam Baldwin). Through the course of this movie they are also reunited with former crew members Inara (Morena Baccarin), a companion (or paid escort, but at this point, such a business is legal) who Mal harbors secret feelings for, and Book (Ron Glass), a Preacher whose home becomes a sanctuary to the crew of The Serenity when their missions go bad.
The movie centers around Mal’s decision to protect the teenaged River at all cost against the Alliance, even if it means his own death, or the death of his crew. Through scenes like the opening scene in which River is shown escaping, as well as quick one line comments that give us an idea what we’ve missed, Serenity never feels like it is recapping a dead series, but instead, giving you the back-story of the characters you will be following for the rest of the story. By never weighting the story with exposition, Serenity becomes a fun sci-fi western that fans of the series and those that never even heard of the series should be able to enjoy equally.
The movie is action packed, complete with everything from hand to hand combat, gun battles, and space ship chase scenes. Also, in Whedon’s true style, the combination of humor, drama, and action tugs at the heart strings making this one fantastic ride for anyone who enters.
There was attention paid to Serenity’s box office earnings in the hopes of a reintroduction of the series or a possible franchise. Without saying too much, the movie had a great finality/opening that would lend itself to either choice. In the end, I have no idea what Whedon will decide on, but while I wait, in the now immortal words of our hero Malcolm Reynolds, “I aim to misbehave.”