My emotions may be running a bit high at the moment, but I absolutely loved Serenity. It is rare that I go to a film with high expectations and have them exceeded. Joss Whedon and crew have successfully created a stunningly original vision of the future. Serenity melds westerns with sci-fi, drama with comedy, action with adventure, all with such ease as to make them all work together in harmony.
A little background is in order. Serenity is the film spin off of the short lived television series Firefly. Firefly lasted for 9 episodes on Fox a few years back before it’s plug was unjustly pulled. Anyway, the episodes were aired out of order, destroying the continuity and never allowing a fan base to truly develop. This film brings that universe to the big screen in glorious fashion.
The world of Serenity involves a new galaxy, colonized by the ever expanding numbers of humans. There are the central planets which form the Alliance, a government of sorts, while the outlying planets rebelled against their control. These outlying planets are more or less cut off, and lack any technological develop, creating a wild west style frontier.
This is the world in which our heroes live. They take jobs transporting freight, or people, with the occasional side trip to steal the Alliance’s money. They are a group of outlaws, causing trouble and hiding from the authorities. Our story follows them as they do all they can to protect a young girl, River (Summer Glau), and her protective brother, Simon (Sean Maher), from those who seek her harm, namely, the Alliance.
Out team is made up of the captain, Malcolm ‘Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), his right hand man (woman?), Zoe (Gina Torres), her pilot husband, Wash (Alan Tudyk), the tough guy, Jayne (Adam Baldwin), and the engineer, Kaylee (Jewel Staite). Also along for the ride are Inara (Morena Baccarin) and Shepherd Book (Ron Glass). Opposing them is The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the forces of the Alliance. Then there are the Reavers, creatures that were once human and enjoy the flesh of man.
Serenity is epic in scope, yet personal in nature. These characters are real, they all have their defining moments, moments which draw you in and make you care about their fate. While you become personally involved with them, they are in the midst of a story that spans a galaxy and has repercussions for each and every person living in it.
Joss Whedon wrote and directed for the first time on the big screen. He was previously involved with the screenplays for films like Alien: Resurrection, Toy Story, and Titan A.E. He has a real talent for great dialog, characters who have just the right thing to say at the moment. He can make you laugh out loud, or bring a tear to your eye in a span of minutes, and make it feel natural. Nothing seems forced or out of place. He also does a great job at introducing the story to those new to the universe without boring the fans, and it is done in such a quick and precise way that it works as a revelation to all comers and moves onto the rest of the film without skipping a beat.
The effects are plentiful and completely convincing. Taking us from a frontier town, to the center of technology, to a spaceflight, never skipping a beat. Combine the effects with actors who inhabit and become their characters and you have a great combination to convince us that this is their reality. Something else, not exactly an effect, but when the ships are shown in space, there is no engine noise. I know, it’s a small detail, but I always liked the touch (it was also like this in the series). The music is also memorable, one of the best I have heard this year. Combining traditional orchestral score with th twang of an acoustic guitar, fitting in perfectly with the film. It was written by David Newman.
Bottomline. Words cannot adequately express how much I enjoyed this film. I was taken on a ride I will not soon forget. From the stunning opening sequence, to the comedy that is intertwined, to the high action, to the unexpected twists and turns the story takes, there is a lot to like. Fine acting, a compelling tale, a great look, this is a great ride.