Serenity

  • Title:  Serenity
  • Director:  Joss Whedon
  • Date:  2005
  • Studio:  Universal
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Straite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“This is the captain, we have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then explode.”  — Capt. Mal Reynolds

“I aim to misbehave.”  — Capt. Mal Reynolds

Another film I received as a gift, though I had seen Serenity in the theater, and liked it.  Mind you, I liked it, not loved it.  Serenity is the film sequel to the short-lived television series, Firefly.  What is it about Firefly that its fans are about as rabid as Fundamentalists – and about as hard to convince you’re really not interested?  I’ve seen the TV show, and it just didn’t catch my interest, for many reasons, only one of which is it’s a Western (and a thinly disguised one at that) — the heroes are also soldiers of the South who lost a Galactic Civil War.  Think about that.

The film starts, without credits, with a prologue or teaser, showing Simon Tan breaking his sister, River, out of a government “research” facility.  Yes, this is another “science is bad; government is bad” science fiction movie.  I miss when SF meant adventure, wonder, and fun, instead of the now popular anti-science and anti-government parables.  Anyway, Simon succeeds in getting River out, as we know, since the two were passengers on Capt. Mal Reynolds ship, Serenity.  However, the film does, to it’s credit, have a much more linear sense than the television series ever did, which helps considerably.

Mal and his crew are on a job, but River accidentally sees a subliminal message in a very weird commercial – and goes bonkers, then knocks out or kills everyone in a frontier bar.  Mal and company return to Haven, Shepherd Book’s community for shelter.  They leave to pick-up the Companion, who had left to conduct her own business, and return to find everyone in Haven dead.  But through River’s actions, they now have a problem to solve:  What is Miranda?  Why does the Alliance (a system-wide government of several planets) want River dead?  Just what is going on?

Eventually they discover Miranda is a planet — a planet no one knows and no know talks about.  They discover it’s located beyond the Reaver band.  Reavers are vicious killers – cannibals, and violent criminals.  We see a Reaver attack early in the film, to explain to the audience how awful they are.  Mal disguises his ship as a Reaver ship, to get through the band, un-harassed.  This works.  They find planet Miranda, but everyone there is dead.  At first, it seems there’s no obvious reason that everyone’s dead — no signs of environmental disaster, no signs of violence.  But they discover a recording.  The Alliance put Pax, a drug in the air system — the drug had such a calming effect people stopped doing anything.  But for about ten percent of the population, it had the opposite effect — people went wild, and became monsterous, violent, killers.  It other words, a bad drug reaction created the Reavers.  The ultimate “bad trip”.  Not to mention that Pax, the drug that calms people to death, sounds an awful lot like “Bliss” – the drug that did the same thing in the Doctor Who episode “Gridlock”.  But ideas do run around.

Mal and company then have to get the recorded message to Mr. Universe, the ultimate TV/Media fan so he can broadcast it on all screens.  The government agent who’s been chasing them throughout the film gets there first, and kills Mr. Universe.  But, Mal receives a message about a secondary transmitter (unfortunately, Mal does not erase or destroy the message — so the agent also hears it).  The conclusion of the film has what’s left of Mal’s band fighting a historic last stand, and getting injured one at a time, while Mal goes one on one against the agent before he can send out the message.  Course, Mal wins, and he also doesn’t kill the agent, just ties him up.  River defeats the Reavers who had been after the remainder of Mal’s shipmates.  Book was killed in Haven and Wash is killed when Serenity makes a less than perfect landing.

Overall, though not a bad film by any means (the acting is very good, and the film has some very strong, and very different female characters), it also doesn’t stand up that well.  Some of  the “shocks” of the film I remembered from having seen it six years ago, weren’t shocking now because you expected them (the biggest of these is Wash’s death, which really seems like a waste, and pointless).  It’s not a bad film, not by any means, but it’s not a exceptional film either.

Recommendation:  Do see it.
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Shall We Dance (1937)