Directed by Joss Whedon
Written by Joss Whedon
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alan Tudyk, Gina Torres, Jewel Staite, Adam Baldwin, Morena Baccarin and Ron Glass
Length: 1 hour and 59 minutes
Genre: Action, adventure, space western
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Description from IMDB:
“The crew of the ship Serenity try to evade an assassin sent to recapture one of their members who is telepathic.”
A crew of outlaws aboard the spaceship Serenity, led by Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), are chased by agents of the Alliance, a totalitarian government. Siblings Simon and River Tam (Sean Maher and Summer Glau) are under the crew’s protection and bring the Alliance’s full fury in their wake as an operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) follows their trail. As they seek safe haven, River begins exhibiting strange behavior that ultimately leads them to the edge of the galaxy, where a terrible secret will be revealed.
The Serenity is piloted by Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Alan Tudyk), who is married to the first mate and Mal’s comrade during the civil war, Zoë (Gina Torres). Kaylee (Jewel Staite), the ship’s mechanic, is bubbly and optimistic in contrast to Jayne (Adam Baldwin), the gruff fighter who looks out for himself. River and Simon, as stated above, are siblings; River is psychic and a genius who has strange visions after being experimented on by the Alliance, and Simon was a promising surgeon who gave up his career to protect his sister. The crew is led by Captain Mal, who holds a rigid sense of loyalty to his ship and crew, often chasing away those who care most for him, including Inara (Morena Baccarin), who once lived on the ship as a companion, and Shepherd Book (Ron Glass). These characters, living in close quarters aboard the Serenity, become a sort of family and treat the ship as their home.
The ship itself does not have its weapons, which helps put it in mind of something more than just a star fighter or military vessel. It serves as a unifying force for a small group of people spending most of their time in cramped conditions scraping up odd jobs just to get by. As would probably happen in real life, comedy is inherent in the interactions between the crew and their reactions to dire situations. Sarcasm saturates most dialogue and adds levity to a film that is able to balance its serious stakes and entertaining action well. This melding of multiple tones parallels the film’s unique genre and perspective.
Serenity (2005) is a continuation of Firefly; a television series that was canceled after only one season. It is not a science fiction film; rather, it is a Western set in space. The characters exist in a lawless realm that is slowly shrinking as civilization expands among the stars. They are forced to fend for themselves in a galaxy being put under the Alliance’s boot and that is ravaged by the mindless, cannibalistic Reavers. There are elements of Chinese culture with the characters speaking in Mandarin and aesthetic choices such as ornamental fans. The characters use their own slang, including “shiny”, which effectively means “good” or “well”, and all of this adds to the believable world building.
I stumbled upon Serenity (2005) before knowing anything about its predecessor series or the man behind the film. I simply thought it was a great sci-fi movie that went unnoticed by most of the mainstream moviegoers; instead, it is so much more. It is the answer to an entire legion’s question of how the crew of the Serenity would fare after the end of the season, and the series. People talk about shows being before their time, and Serenity shows that with the right budget and backing, Firefly could have been even more influential than it already is. However, that didn’t happen; we are left with a satisfying conclusion to the story of Serenity’s crew. Though we lose some beloved characters along the way, the story is told well and entertains throughout. If you haven’t, I would recommend watching the series before the film, though it stands well enough on its one.
Verdict: 4 leaves on the wind out of 5
Recommended for: Fans of Firefly, fans of Joss Whedon and his work, those who enjoy westerns, those who enjoy space, those who enjoy westerns in space, people who like witty banter, and sarcastic people.
Not recommended for: People who don’t like Firefly (a.k.a. people who have not yet seen Firefly), people who won’t shut up about a Firefly reunion, those who don’t want to learn how Reavers clean their spears, or people who only like hard sci-fi.