Posted on June 11, 2006 by Flames
Serenity is a full-length film written by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel). Because the film was primarily created for cult fans of the short-but-sweet TV Series Firefly the question on everyone’s mind has been “Do you need to be a Firefly fan to see this film?”
Even though I’ve seen the Firefly series, I don’t think you need to have a background in this part of the ‘verse because of the way the film was constructed. This is a well done balls-on space western that has a tight storyline that keeps you entertained. For the people not familiar with the ‘verse, the film has a great visual introduction into this stark future. Overpopulation used up the earth, so humans sought life elsewhere. Through the miracle of terraforming, we humans pioneered the great unknown into something manageable and majestic. Just like a true Western, there are places that are “civilized” beyond belief, and there are those that are the last of the space cowboys—won’t adhere to Alliance rule, so they’re outlaws.
Make no mistake, Serenity isn’t about a bunch of namby-pamby good guys—it’s about a band of reluctant heroes thieving and scavenging to get by in the midst of one (maybe several) big government conspiracies. Captain Mal leads the band. His dark personality borders on supreme jerk at times, other times you realize it’s all a front. His job is to ensure his people are safe. Kaylee, played by Jewel Staite, is the ship’s mechanic. It’s nice to see a woman in this role; Kaylee has a natural knack for this type of thing and does it all with a genuine smile. Adam Baldwin plays Jayne, the rough-and-tumble character with few smarts and lots of muscle. Simon and River (played by Sean Maher and Summer Glau) are the focus of this film. Simon is a doctor who originates from the core planets (civilized, advanced, futuristic) on the run after he saves his sister River.
Summer Glau plays a girl on the brink of insanity, teetering on the edge between something physical and something psychic because of horrors she’s experienced and feels around her. The Alliance, for military purposes, butchered her brain. River is the character you want to comfort one minute, and run away from the next. She’s valuable, so valuable that the Alliance sends a top-secret Operative to retrieve her. The film is a good old-fashioned chase—the Operative chases after the crew, the crew sprints after the Truth.
Former crew members, Book and Inara, are also caught up in the conspiracy. Both characters were regular crew members in the Firefly series. Here, you experience moments with them that seem out of place if you did not know their prior history. I felt that there wasn’t a good buildup explaining the roles of these two characters in the film for those that hadn’t watched the series. Truth be told, Book’s locale seemed more of a plot device than a believable location—his leaving the crew was never discussed in the series. Inara is Mal’s Mona Lisa; they love each other but here love (like the brotherly love Simon has for River) is portrayed as dangerous, tragic.
Few supporting characters leave as much of an impression as the Operative and Mr. Universe (a geek in love with technology). The Operative is misleading—he is not a two-dimensional character that you hate because you have to— in a way you respect him on his mission. And then there are the true, tragic bad guys—the Reavers. Humans so twisted and monstrous, that they have become a new boogeyman haunting the ‘verse. Even the Operative fears these creatures, as well he should.
There isn’t much out there in current science fiction movie history that is done extraordinary well, you won’t find yourselves bored with the characters or shocked by bad CGI. Bottom line, is that if you’re looking for a science fiction movie that’s done well and is a little different from the norm—you’ll want to see this film.
Reviewer: Monica Valentinelli