Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Movie Review: Serenity

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good acting and engrossing story
Cons: Climax gets too apocalyptic, like much of most of Joss Whedon's work
The Bottom Line:
Concludes TV show
By continuing Firefly
Ending is too much

Satisfying Conclusion for Firefly Fans

Back in the fall of 2002, there was a little show on FOX called Firefly created by Joss Whedon. It never did well in the ratings and was pulled about half way through the season.

I'll admit I was a casual fan at best of the show, watching about two thirds of the episodes. Ironically, I really got into it after the cancellation news came out. My biggest disappointment was that several story arcs were left with big question marks. What exactly was going on? Thanks to exceptionally strong sales of the show on DVD, we finally got to find out with Serenity.

Set 400 years in the future and a few months after the TV series ends, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his crew aboard the Firefly class star ship Serenity are still outlaws. They make their living by conducting raids, sometimes for hire, and delivering black market merchandise to far parts of the galaxy.

Also on board the ship is River Tam (Summer Glau), a fugitive from the intergalactic Alliance. She was being programmed for something before she was rescued by her brother (Sean Maher). The process has left her a shell of her old self, often babbling for no apparent reason.

Her presence on the ship also makes the Serenity a much hotter item for the police of the Alliance government then it already was. This is even more true when one Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) begins a dedicated search to return River to the program. With the stakes raised, Malcolm makes it his mission to find the truth about River. What he learns will send shockwaves through the galaxy and potentially bring the Alliance government to its knees. That is, if the crew can get the truth out there for others to see.

As I said, I was only a casual fan of the show and hadn't seen it since it went off the air. Fortunately, the movie does a good job of reminding us about this particular science fiction universe before jumping into the new action. This recap is done in an entertaining enough way not to bore those who rewatched their DVD's in preparation for the movie and contains enough background to bring new comers up to speed.

Once the new information comes, the movie moves forward quickly. Action scenes in the beginning are followed by new information that ultimate leads us to a conclusion I didn't expect. The actors do a good job through all of this, making us care about the outcome.

The show had a couple trademarks, both of which are present in the film. While the show was a science fiction, there were western elements as well, from the planets to the old style weapons characters used. This allows for some beautiful scenery as the ship is flying over landscapes and through horses. Additionally, the characters had a very deadpan sense of humor that carries over well to the big screen.

My only disappointment with the film was with Joss Whedon's story choices. As with Buffy and Angel, he felt the need to end this franchise with an apocalyptic finale that all the characters don't pull through. While this is probably realistic, it's not why I go to the movies. Also, since both the shows mentioned ended that way, it had a been there, done that feel to it, not the original climax that he was probably hoping for.

I often complain when a show I like is canceled without a chance to tie up loose ends, so I'm glad Serenity was made. While it will appeal mainly to those who have seen Firefly, those not familiar with the TV show can enjoy it, too. When I was done watching it, I felt satisfied with the story, even if I didn't like all of it. While there are places the franchise could go from here, I am quite satisfied to let it rest in peace.

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