Serenity


Year 2005

Nathan Fillion as  Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds  
Gina Torres as ZoŽ Washburne
Alan Tudyk as Hoban Washburne
Morena Baccarin   as Inara Serra
Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb   
Jewel Staite as Kaylee Frye
Sean Maher as Doctor Simon Tam   
Summer Glau as River Tam   
Ron Glass as Shepherd Book
 
Director - Joss Whedon
Screenwriter - Joss Whedon

If you read the commentary for Firefly and how much antipathy it generated for me, it may come as a surprise that I feel that the film isn't too shabby. It's the same group of psychotic characters. It's the same Salvador Dali universe. It's the same free for all of flash versus substance. Yet, it's watchable.

It's lightly recommended that prior to watching the movie, you suffer through the inanities of the series. Otherwise, you'll miss a couple of in-jokes and the behavior of the characters will seem even more unbelievably ludicrous than they would without a back story.

The movie attempts to bring together all of the loose ends of the series in two hours. There were so many loose ends in the series that two generations of psychoanalysis wouldn't make sense of most of them. That observation doesn't mean the series is deep; it's means that the characters are lunatics!

Here's the back story. A space ship named Serenity is the home to a crew of part time traders/smugglers. Two of the crew members, a brother and a sister, are running from the facist government which goes by the moniker of "The Alliance". The sister had to be rescued by her brother from an Alliance training center. Mentally, she's wreck as a result of the facist's training. The Captain of Serenity unsuccessfully fought against the Alliance during a failed Civil War. He has his own demons.

In the movie, we watch as brother Doctor Simon Tam (Sean Maher) rescues sister River Tam (Summer Glau) from the secret, black operation run by the government. People die at the hand of the government via "The Operative". Oh, no! What a concept! The government is evil! I didn't see that one coming! Guess what the theme of the rest of the movie is?

After that back story has been shown, it's time to move on to the spaceship Serenity. Let's continue with the ship's Captain, Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). Call him "nutjob" for short. He promised everyone on board his ship that they were part of the crew and he'd look after them. But when we first meet him, he's going back on his word. This is a guy you'd followÖabsolutely nowhere. When verbal abuse isn't enough, like the Fruit Loop he is, he resorts to physical violence. Just the guy I want to hang around with.

So, at the onset of his introduction, he bludgeons the Doctor and forces River to go along on a bank heist, thereby putting her in harm's way in order to protect his own skin. During the heist another ship, that no one ever sees until it lands because technology like sensors, radar, eyes and ears are missing, deposits a load of Reevers (also known in other movies as zombies) on the planet and in that town where the bank robbery is taking place. No matter how big the universe and how tough it is to see a spaceship until it's practically pressing on your chest, it's a small world I guess. Or million to one odds are really fifty-fifty.

Reevers are some sort of degenerate humans that are sadistic, masochistic, and cannibalistic. How tens of thousands, if not millions, of them survive without dining on each other is never explained. The infrastructure to make the Reevers seem believable is ignored in favor of their ability to steal a scene, which I guess is why was the Captain's abuse in the earlier scene was considered necessary. The plot would have moved along just as well if the involvement of the Tams could have been engineered differently. The Captain's need to sadistically dominate his crew members should have been tamed down.

Anyway, back to the bank heist. Fight, fight, battle, battle. Someone must've been shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, etc.

Unhappy with their betrayal and physical abuse, the Doctor and his sister decide to get off at Serenity's next stop. They get into trouble and River trashes a bar full of low rent thugs. Uh, oh! They're on the run again and back on Serenity as she high-tails it out of Dodge.

On their flight away from the latest planet to remove the welcome mat (there are ten planets in the spacefaring lanes and seemingly a million moons with Earth gravity that are just meandering about), a new character joins the line of those collecting a paycheck. This time it's a nasal misanthrope imaginatively called Mr. Universe. He has the power to tap into any communication medium. No cipher is beyond him. Stop me if you've seen this character before in any one of a dozen other movies or even the "X-Files". You get the feeling he would probably have been a major character in the television series if the series had continued. Maybe if he'd even been introduced before or given some back story he wouldn't seem so much like a bad patch on a bald tire.

Maybe they could've worked Mr. Universe into the bank heist scene and made it worthwhile? Reevers and Mr. Universe introduced to the audience together? Well, it's too late now.

So now that he's been introduced to the audience so that they'll recognize him later, let's forget Mr. Universe. Instead, let's have the plot switch over to other "Firefly" characters that left the ship at some point since the series was cancelled, unlike the Doctor and his sister who stayed for the abuse.

First, there's the "Companion" or "Pillow Girl". She's the love interest for the Captain. I don't get it. She's attractive, in control, and usually knowledgeable. She's definitely smarter than Captain Mal. But, rather than dismiss him (he's as verbally abusive towards her as he is towards everyone else) for some reason, she wants him. As for Mal, he's too into anger to realize what he wants. In other words, it's a love story that doesn't convince.

The Operative (remember him? The government killing machine?) is waiting for Mal at the Companion's residence. Fight, fight, battle, battle. Someone must've been shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, etc.

Now let's visit Shepherd Book (Ron Glass), another escapee from the spacefaring asylum. As an ex-operative finding salvation through religion, this character could have been one of the best. Instead, the writers produced an arrogant know-it-all that the crew members can't see through. (Book would say something like, "But the best way to ensure that death is immediate is to use one of three methods I've developed." Everyone would respond, "Wow. Shepherds really are smart!" or something in that gobbledygook Chinese portmanteau that they babble on in in bare coherence. They definitely wouldn't say, "This 'Shepherd' is a wolf in sheep's clothing and is an ex-killer. Let's be wary of his advice.") Sheesh!

Bear with the folderol for the sake of River. She's the only credible character. She's supposed to be the most incredible, but she's the only one who makes sense. Now that we're half-way through the movie and all of the compulsory visits to characters past have been taken care of, hold onto your seat because the thrill ride finally begins!

First, a colony gets wiped out thanks to the government Operative. At River's urging, Serenity flies to the source of everyone's problems. Another colony gets wiped out thanks to the government. Serenity flees to Mr. Universe's work-out center. The Reevers follow Serenity across millions of miles of space (Mal shot one of the Reevers' ships, and that's the ONE THING it took for them to break out, en masse, and attack a government armada. It's never mentioned, but Mal seems to be a little too much in sympathy with the Reevers' mindset, if you catch my drift. If you don't, then let me say, he's as psychotic as they are!) Then, someone on Serenity is killed by a cross-bow bolt from a ballista that no one ever sees. It must have been time for a surprise scene with a guest appearance from Detritus even if the scene didn't make sense. Then there's the final battle, or two, or three. Everyone gets shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, etc. and River blossoms. Well, maybe River doesn't blossom; maybe she becomes a raging torrent or something. Anyway, it's rip snorting fun!

So, if you want to ignore the first half of the movie as being superficial strutting and posturing and only watch the last half after you've checked your mind at the door, then this is about as much fun as Die Hard or The Matrix. Well, maybe not Die Hard which had a good sense of humor. And maybe not The Matrix because it had revolutionary special effects. But, you get my point.

Oh, I never did like the Captain. None of the characters are really likable except the one who was killed by the matchstick from outer space. Yeah, you gotta watch out for wood. No telling when it'll pop up.


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