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Serenity Movie Review
I must admit that this movie is definitely not for everyone. I’ve tried on many occasions to introduce the Whedonverse to many of my friends and family members with no luck. But, it you enjoy characters with depth and don’t mind a little bit of sci-fi, Joss Whedon’s Serenity (2005) is the movie for you. If you don’t know Joss Whedon you need to familiarize with him immediately. He is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), Angel (1999-2004), Dollhouse (2009-2010) and most importantly Firefly (2002) which is the basis for the movie Serenity. Let me explain. After the devastating cancellation of the TV series Firefly, Whedon had the opportunity to make the movie Serenity as sort of a goodbye and wrap-up for the acclaimed series. But don’t worry, you don’t need to know the series to enjoy the movie. In fact, I didn’t know anything about the series before I watched it. I picked it up at random at my local movie rental place and haven’t looked back since. I loved it! Later on, I watched the series and I had more of a backstory for the characters, but I emphasize, you don’t need to know the series to enjoy the movie. If you already know the series, awesome! You already must be part of the Whedonverse! Maybe later, I’ll write a Hub about the universe that is Whedon and its cult-like status. But this Hub is about why you should watch the movie, not about the awesomeness that is Joss.
The movie Serenity is what you might call a space western. It has all the elements of sci-fi, the movie is set in the future, it’s in space and there are these “creatures” called Reavers who feast on human flesh. But what makes it a space western is that they use old-fashioned guns, ride on horses, and even visit frontier towns. The movie has a simple plot, compared to other sci-fi megahits like Star Wars. The movie is set in the year 2518, where humanity now lives in a series of terraformed planets in another solar system because Earth could no longer sustain the human population. The solar system was divided in two, the Alliance-controlled central planets and the more uncivilized outer planets that refused the Alliance control. This conflict led to war where the Independents suffered a great loss and had to succumb to the control of the inter-planetary parliament, the Alliance. All of this is explained in the first 3 minutes of the movie, as I said very simple! But this is not the main focus of the movie. The movie follows the crew of the Firefly class ship called Serenity and their pursuit of a life free of alliance control. The crew travels from planet to planet looking for work wherever they can find it, albeit inside the confines of the law or not. But their freedom is put in jeopardy, for you see one of the passengers on Serenity is harboring a secret, a secret that the Alliance would do anything from getting out. So, they send an assassin to stop this from happening by all means necessary. I don’t want to give too much away since I don’t want to spoil the movie for you. But I will give you a glimpse on the backstory of the characters and hopefully inspire you to watch the movie.
A few items that have to do with the Firefly/Serenity universe:
The ship is captained by Macolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). He is a Browncoat, which means that he fought for the Independents side in the war. He is a simple man and his only objective is to get by, he just wants to get by. He loves his ship more than anything and, even though he won’t admit it, his crew. Zoe (Gina Torres) is his second-in-command. She fought with Mal in the war and have been together ever since. She is a tough fighter, but she shows her softer side when she is with her husband Wash (Alan Tudyk), the genius pilot. Mal was looking for a pilot for Serenity and Zoe found a husband. Wash is laidback and sometimes goofy, but when it comes down to it, he never wavers. Jayne (Adam Baldwin) is the hired gun, the muscle. He is thuggish and kind of slow, and sometimes doesn’t agree with the captain’s decisions. But he is loyal, or tries to be, mostly because he is afraid of what Mal would do to him. And then there is Kaylee (Jewel Staite), the heart of the band of thieves, the little sister. She is the ship’s mechanic, and a genius one at that. She is sweet and is always covered in dirt and loves the ship just as much as she loves Simon (Sean Maher), the ship’s doctor. Simon Tam comes from a wealthy family. He is very proper and seems out of his element on board the ship, but he would do anything to help his little sister, River (Summer Glau). River is a child prodigy, both in intelligence and in athleticism. Most importantly, she is a reader, a psychic. The Alliance had her captive in a facility where they experimented on her and it wasn’t until her brother left his brilliant career behind to help her escape that they wound up as fugitives in Serenity. Although they are not part of the crew in the movie, but you get the feeling that they once were, we have two unusual passengers, a shepherd and a companion. Not much is known about Shepherd Book (Ron Glass), other than he has a mysterious past that has something to do with the Alliance. He brings a sense of faith to the crew and wants Mal to find something to believe in, just something. And then there is Inara (Morena Baccarin), she is a companion, a high class courtesan. Although you might think that this goes hand in hand with a bunch of crooks, you would be wrong. In fact, it’s the just the opposite. In the Alliance society, companions are perfectly legal and they are part of the social elite. Inara is Mal’s love interest, but although they know that they care for each other, they are constantly bickering and nothing has been resolved yet.
If you liked Serenity/Firefly, check out these other items by Joss Whedon:
As you probably would have guessed by now, the assassin was sent after River. She is mentally disturbed, because of the experiments done to her, and doesn’t even know that she knows this secret the Alliance wants hidden so badly. The crew wants to keep her safe and tries to expose the Alliance when they figure out the secret that involves a deserted planet called Miranda. For you see, it was the Alliance who created the Reavers, the wild cannibals that terrorize the outer planets and the ships they meet on deep space. The crew goes through many hardships, but they accomplish their mission, although it won’t be as gratifying as they would have thought.
The movie has a great sense of humor and has plenty of dialogue. That is understandable since they have a couple of things to explain. But the dialogue is witty and well written. But, don’t think for a second that you will be bored, because the movie has plenty of action too. It has great special effects and astonishing cinematography. But really the movie isn’t about the flashy special effects or the how much gross it made at the box office. The essence of the movie is its narrative and characters. Although you don’t get to know their whole life’s story, you get know enough. This is my favorite movie of all time. I absolutely love Serenity. I love the movie just as much as Mal loves Serenity. Just like Mal says at the end of the movie (which is my favorite line by the way):
“Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse... but you take a boat in the air that you don't love... she'll shake you off just as sure as the turn of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she ought to fall down... tells you she's hurting before she keels. Makes her a home.”