Despite its name, Serenity is not very, well, serene. It contains a rather large quantity of explosions, fistfights, stabbings, and shoot-outs.
It’s a little tricky to review Serenity, since it is trying to be two things at once. Serenity is in fact a sequel to a TV show named Firefly, a space western (in a very literal sense of the phrase) documenting the adventures of the crew of the Serenity, a smuggling ship. Featuring well-drawn characters and snappy dialogue, the show was a true gem of sci-fi adventure. Sadly, it was cancelled before the first season could be finished. The reason for this? Fox network, apparently not understanding how plots work, decided to air Firefly’s episodes out of order, with the goal of airing more action-packed episodes first in order to entice their viewers. The result, needless to say, was a confused, muddled mess that was impossible o follow. That’s the tricky thing about plots. They have to go in a certain order, or things just don’t make sense. Yet some fans managed to piece together the plot despite Fox’s carelessness, and somehow I guess these fans managed to persuade someone to make a big-screen, big-budget sequel.
But I digress. Serenity, the movie, tries to wrap up all the hanging plot threads left unresolved at the end of Firefly and give the disappointed fans of the show some sort of closure. Yet it also attempts to stand on its own as a space action film. This is evident in the way that all the western-ey elements that made the firefly show so zany and just plain weird are gone from Serenity. There are no horses or cows, no cowboy pistols or country dances. Serenity looks and feels more like Star Wars than Firefly. The goal of these changes is to make the universe of Serenity more accessible to viewers unfamiliar to the show. At the same time, a lot of the character drama in the movie is hard to follow unless you’re already familiar with who these people are from watching Firefly. It’s a tricky balancing act, and Serenity pulls it off…mostly.
While watching this movie, I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who’d never seen the show. To look at Serenity with unbiased eyes. And what I saw was a fun, exciting adventure movie…with a few really confusing subplots that seemed crudely tacked on, and some melodramatic scenes that weren’t built up to nearly enough. Those who’ve seen Firefly will find these moments profoundly touching. Those who haven’t may wonder why these scenes made it off the cutting room floor. To be honest, Serenity isn’t going to pack a real emotional punch if you haven’t watched Firefly. But it can still be enjoyed. It’s got snappy dialogue, a pretty good plot, and some really good one-liners. Not to mention some really good fisticuffs.
If you have seen Firefly, then this movie is probably going to rock your world. I’ve got to admit, it’s got its slow moments. There was a long segment in the middle where I found myself getting antsy. I thought to myself, Jesus, they’ve only got two hours to deal with and they’ve barely moved the plot anywhere. Can they actually tell a story in the time that’s left? Is this actually going somewhere?
The answer is yes. The film rebounds and closes with a magnificent third act. We get to see space marines fighting zombie-psycho-rapist-swordsmen things, a black ninja fighting the captain, a big space battle, and an epic last stand. Not to mention the resolution of a few romantic subplots. And the last scene is genuinely heartwarming instead of cheesy, due to skillful writing on the part of Joss Whedon. Well done, movie.
It’s a rare movie that manages to appease both fans and newcomers without sacrificing the integrity of its source material or dumbing down its characters. Serenity is that rare movie. Firefly goes out with a bang.