A Film Review By The Mike
|Rating:RATED PG-13 for Intense Violence and Discussion of Nethers being Twixt.
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alan Tudyk
Directed By: Joss Whedon
Shortly after we’re introduced to the titular ship in Serenity (after a jaw-dropping opening that the undeniably cool Chiwetel Ejiofor makes his own), Capt. Malcom Reynolds announces to his crew that “we may experience some turbulence and then… explode.” while they’re making a “routine” landing. In one sentence, and with no prior experience with Firefly, the short-lived show the movie is a continuation of, the film had told me exactly what to expect from it. I was introduced to a crew of bandits that aren’t especially good at being bad, and knew that I was going to experience a light-hearted romp that would leave me grinning. Or at least that’s what I hoped for.
For a while, I doubted myself. There were a few slow scenes, some minor defects in direction, and a lack of explanation for some of the characters’ actions (which was no doubt something I missed on TV). But I couldn’t stop watching, couldn’t stop grinning, and couldn’t stop being enthralled by each and every scene. It’s now safe to say that I was watching a future science-fiction classic.
For those that weren’t familiar with the show, I’ll give a little backstory. It’s 500 years from now, and Earth has become too populous for its own good. Millions and millions have left Earth’s atmosphere, terraforming planets on the other end of the solar system and creating a governing Alliance that rules over most of them. As with any society, however, there cannot be total adherence to these principles. Several less-fortunate planets are left looking like the old west, and the people on these planets are left to fend for themselves to survive. That’s where the Serenity comes in. Led by Capt. Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), the crew has become a bunch of drifters that take the jobs they can get, whether they are legal or not. They’re not bad guys by any means, they’re just frontiersmen.
This crew is what gives the movie its heart. Capt. Reynolds is a maverick leader who’s never the most personable person on board, but is always the most assured, even in error. He’s seconded by Zoe (Gina Torres), a tough gal, and her husband Wash (Alan Tudyk, AKA Steve the Pirate!), the ship’s whimsical pilot. Also on board are the tough guy, Jayne(Adam Baldwin); the sweet little mechanic, Kaylee (Jewel Staite, who’s a total cutie); and the ship’s doctor, Simon. We also find that they’ve acquired Simon’s sister, River (Summer Glau), a psychic/government weapon who sets the story in action. It seems the Alliance is afraid she might have information she shouldn’t have, and wants her back (which is where Ejiofor’s “Operative” comes into play).
One of my biggest concerns throughout the movie was getting to know the crew, which was a tough job. Kaylee, Jayne, and the Captain were all vibrant and lovable from the start, and River was an enigma that kept me interested. But there’s little getting to know Zoe or Wash (although he does have a few great one-liners), and when Reynolds’ love interest, Inara, comes on board the film gives little background into her character. I assume that most of this is something that fans of the show will not notice, but as a newcomer I have to admit a little frustration in the development of these characters.
But, as I said above, the movie alleviated my concerns as it went on. I got to know and understand most of the crew, and there was enough chemistry (both dramatic and comedic) between them that I truly cared what happened to them. And when the film does get to its unflinching and unsympathetic final battles, I couldn’t help feeling the intensity of seeing this crew under danger of extinction. It’s rare that you truly feel the characters that we deem “heroes” are in trouble when the chips are down, but Serenity manages itself beautifully, and doesn’t let the audience off easy.
Serenity gets us involved with its characters and their motivations, shows us both the good and bad sides of their endeavors, and, by doing so, lets us go into battle with them. It involves the viewer emotionally like no film of its sort has in a while, which makes me inclined to give it nothing less than my highest recommendation. Even if you’re not acquainted with Firefly, Serenity is a stand-alone sci-fi epic that I surely hope will lead to more from the ship and its remaining crew. I feel like a geek saying it, but I know that I’ll be first inline if the ship gets another mission, hopefully next to a friendly Kaylee look-alike. Yep, Joss Whedon’s won me over big time with this lovable crew of ragamuffins.