REVIEW: SERENITY (2005)

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SERENITY (2005)

“I aim to misbehave!”- Malcolm Reynolds

The story of Joss Whedon’s cult classic series Firefly and it’s not only premature demise but, large and loyal fan following is stuff of legend at this point but, at least fans got some closure when Whedon convinced Universal Pictures to transfer the adventures of Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and the crew of the Serenity to feature film. It’s mediocre box office performance sadly spelled doom for any further adventures but, at least this theatrical ‘final episode’ gave fans some closure and was a fitting goodbye… and a damn good movie too!

The flick starts off with Capt. Reynolds deciding to put the psychic talents of mentally unbalanced teen River Tam (Summer Glau) to use in a routine payroll heist against the wishes of her doctor brother, Simon (Sean Maher). The simple theft goes awry when a horde of cannibalistic Reavers attacks and they barely escape. Simon vows to finally leave Serenity with his sister but, when River receives a subliminal message in a bar and decimates the occupants with an outburst of martial arts, Malcolm decides his charges should stay and the crew need to determine what just happened and why. And they may get more answers then they bargained for, as a mysterious and lethal assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is in hot pursuit of River and this take’s Serenity’s crew to the most dangerous parts of the galaxy to finally find the answers to what lurks inside River’s head that the Alliance is so afraid of… and afraid is exactly what they should all be.

Obviously to really enjoy this flick you should be familiar with writer/director Joss Whedon’s endearing and eccentric crew and their previous adventures but, there is enough info to make it enjoyably watchable to those uninitiated to this sadly short-lived saga. Whedon has always had a gift for charmingly eclectic characters and ensembles and that goes a long way here to bringing us a very endearing bunch of outlaws to root for and giving these characters some nicely unexpected layers. We also get a very unique villain in the ‘Operative’, a man who seems part samurai, part philosopher and part cold-blooded killer. He truly believes his ruthless acts are for a greater good and has a disturbingly business-like approach to killing. The contrast is Malcolm, who appears like a man out for himself  but, has a lot bigger heart then he let’s on and is far more willing to sacrifice himself for others then he’ll ever admit. There is plenty of action to put our beloved characters in and Whedon gives us some nice suspense and energy to those sequences but, never let’s them overshadow the important stuff. We even get a really good look at the Reaver’s and finally get to see them in gruesome action only hinted at in the show’s scant 14 episodes. Whedon handles a big budget, feature movie like a pro, giving it a very fast pace but, not sacrificing character or story development in the process. His choice as writer/ director of the mega-hit The Avengers is no surprise to those familiar with his work. This is a quality sci-fi flick that not only gives us an intriguing story and multi-layered characters but, the explosions and laser fire that post Star Wars science fiction is expected to deliver. There’s some crisp cinematography by Jack Green that takes Firefly’s look to the big screen nicely with a very effective score by David Newman to properly accent Whedon’s action packed adventure. Overall a very underrated genre flick.

The cast is simply great. All our regulars are back with Fillion leading the pack as the hard-nosed outlaw with a hidden heart, Malcolm Reynolds. He can be both cold-blooded and warm-hearted almost in the same beat and just when you think you’ve figured him out, he surprises you. A tribute to Whedon’s writing and Fillion’s underrated acting. Ejiofor is simply a very unique and original villain. He makes his ‘Operative’ very charming but, like a serpent, that charm is only to lure you in for the fatal strike. He is completely convinced his cause is just, yet, is not just a brainwashed tool. There is an intelligence and a surprising lack of malice with his actions which oddly makes him scarier. And the actor carries this off very well. The rest of the cast are delightful as they were on the show and they translate their character dynamics to the big screen without missing a beat since we last saw them… and make them accessible to those who are just getting to know them. Glau, Maher, Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Jewel Staite, Gina Torres, Ron Glass and Morena Baccarin all do good work in taking Whedon’s characters from script to screen for one final adventure.

Overall, I love this flick. As a fan of Firefly it both gives closure to those who enjoyed the series and yet still makes us sad that this was the last appearance of the Serenity crew, fan fiction and comic adaptations aside. It is a well made, well written movie that gives us all the action and adventure we want but, adds an intelligent story and a heart as well. It’s a perfect example of why the series is so rabidly loved by it’s cult following of fans and a sad testament to a series that was never given a proper chance. Also stars David Krumholtz as ‘Mr. Universe’.

PERSONAL NOTE:  I want to be honest and admit that I am a perfect example of how Fox’s seemingly intentional mishandling of this show worked. Despite being a big fan of Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer series, I was not impressed with the first few episodes (which Fox aired out of order thus omitting crucial character development) and passed on the rest. It was only till a friend lent me the DVD box set which feature all the episodes and in the order intended, that I became a full fledge ‘Brown Coat’ and joined the ranks of it’s loyal fan base. Also, my only disappointment with Serenity is Whedon not finding a way to bring oddball bounty hunter Jubal Early (Richard Brooks) back one last time. Loved that character from my favorite episode Objects In Space.

3 and 1/2 fireflies.

Serenity rating

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