Serenity


[Danger, Will Robinson! Spoilers below!]

Mal: "So. No more running. I aim to misbehave."

This is a marvelous movie, satisfying on many levels. Joss Whedon was able to tie up a lot of loose threads from the series, and give us an exciting story that really worked.

We finally got the lowdown on the terraformed planets and moons, and that they were all in one huge solar system. Made perfect sense, but I kinda needed that one spelled out. We also finally learned about the origin of the Reavers, and it actually made sense, too. I always thought the Reaver thing was a weak plot point before, but not now.

And we learned why the Alliance was searching so frantically for River. I didn't think I was all that into River's story, but I was wrong. We finally got to see what River could do, and she was awesome. River sort of turned into Buffy in this movie. Joss Whedon and those super teenaged girls, should have seen it coming.

Much of the emotional conflict in this movie (as in the series) was between Mal, our antihero, and Simon, a very traditional sort of hero. The death of the boy that Mal abandoned during the initial heist was a topic that kept coming back. To Mal, River was like that boy, but he couldn't quite bring himself to toss her over the side even to save himself and his crew. Zoe said early on that a hero was someone who got other people killed. By that definition, Mal is now a hero.

The violence was immediate and real without going over my personal limit of gore. That final siege really, really got to me. At one point, after the deaths of Book and Wash, I started to believe that every one of the characters that I loved was going to die, and I got very upset; I was feeling every blow each character took. (It takes a lot of skill to get an audience to that point, so I give a lot of credit to Joss Whedon.) It was a relief to get to the end with seven of the cast relatively intact.

Book's death was sad, but didn't devastate me. I liked the character, but he always floated around the sidelines and I wasn't emotionally invested in him. I was, however, very emotionally invested in Wash and I absolutely hated seeing him die. Zoe's stoic grief really got to me, too.

I was pleased that Simon finally gave Kaylee what she wanted; that final scene with the two of them made me smile. But why why why did Whedon leave Mal and Inara in relationship limbo? We got nothing. Pardon me if I've misunderstood, but isn't Mal the lead character? I suppose that Whedon was hoping to explore it further at a later date, and I agree with his explanation in the extras that it didn't go with the flow of the movie. But emotionally, I didn't care. I really felt that this was the one area where I didn't get what I wanted. This movie is probably all we're ever going to get. Would it have been too much to ask to have Mal and Inara succumb to an irresistable impulse after their long separation and fall into each other's arms?

Bits and pieces:

-- Joss Whedon managed to establish a complicated science fiction universe and the basic plot lines from the series in about nine minutes. Impressive.

-- I'm even more in love with Nathan Fillion than before. He's such a fabulous leading man, exceptional with the comedy, the drama, the action. Please, would somebody give him the lead in a blockbuster or a series as soon as possible?

-- The change to the big screen made the sets and the actors all look different. Serenity herself looked much the same, only much bigger. And there was a new and more exciting mule.

-- It has been eight months since the pilot episode of Firefly. We finally saw Simon spring River from the Alliance "school." Much referred to, never seen before.

-- I'm glad they toned down the Chinese and the Western slang a little for the big screen. It never really worked for me.

-- The thing with the guard in the vault was straight out of Butch Cassidy. Mal shooting the unarmed Operative in Inara's House was a bit from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

-- Do Reavers have children? I doubt it; they'd probably eat them. Will they die out in a generation?

-- Jayne was right about the grenades. Jayne is rarely right.

-- Loved Inara with a bow and arrow during the siege; it was perfect for her character.

-- How about Mal with a pen knife, facing the Operative with a sword? Visually hilarious, and symbolic of the balance of power behind their entire conflict.

-- The Operative, whose name we never learned, felt a bit like Jubal Early in "Objects in Space." I guess Joss Whedon wasn't done with Early.

-- Mr. Universe and his lovebot were a callback to Warren and April on Buffy.

-- River finally tapped into her conditioning because of a fruity bar commercial in a place called Maidenhead. Note the name "Maidenhead." No more innocence for River.

-- Pax, the drug that created the Reavers, means "peace" in Latin. That's what you'd call ironic.

-- Sarah Paulson, who played the woman in the hologram on Miranda, gave an outstanding performance.

-- Despite my desire for more Mal/Inara, I wasn't that interested in her backstory. But I was sort of interested in Book's. And now we'll never know.

-- The scene where Mal knew instantly that Inara's message was a trap but acted on it anyway is a terrific example of why Joss Whedon is so brilliant. The audience knew immediately that it was a trap. The action still had to go in that direction. If Mal hadn't known, it would have lessened him as our leading man. So knowing it was a trap and preparing and going in anyway was just perfect.

-- Mentioned planets: Beaumonde, Haven, and Miranda in the Burnham quadrant. The opening action was on an outer-rim planet, no name mentioned. I didn't catch the name of the planet that Inara lived on.

Quotable quotes:

Wash: "This landing is gonna get pretty interesting."
Mal: "Define 'interesting.'"
Wash: "Oh god oh god, we're all gonna die?"
Mal: (into loudspeaker) "This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence, and then explode."

Simon: "If there's fighting, drop to the floor or run away. It's okay to leave them to die."
Mal: "Doctor, I'm taking your sister under my protection here. If anything happens to her, anything at all, I swear to you I will get very choked up. Honestly, there could be tears."

Simon: "This isn't fear. This is anger."
Mal: "Well, kinda hard to tell one from the other, face like yours."
Simon: "Well, I imagine if it were fear, my eyes would be wider."

Kaylee: "We're going on a year now, I ain't had nothing twixt my nethers weren't run on batteries."
Mal: "Oh, God. I can't know that."
Jayne: "I could stand to hear a little more."

Fanty or Mingo: "Our end is forty, precious."
Jayne: "My muscular buttocks, it's forty."

Book: "You got a plan?"
Mal: "Hiding ain't a plan?"

Book: "It's not your way, Mal."
Mal: "I have a way? That better than a plan?"

Zoe: "So. Trap?"
Mal: "Trap."
Zoe: "We going in?"
Mal: "Only but a few hours out."
Wash: "Yeah, but remember the part where it's a trap?"

Mal: "Dear Buddha. Please bring me a pony, and a plastic rocket, and..."

Mal: "You wanna run this ship?"
Jayne: "Yes."
Mal: "Well, you can't."

River: "Please, God. Make me a stone."

Wash: "I'm a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar." I loved Wash, dammit.

River: "You take care of me, Simon. You've always taken care of me. My turn."

Operative: "Do you know what your sin is, Mal?"
Mal: "Hell, I'm a fan of all seven. But right now, I'm gonna have to go with wrath."

I loved this movie. It was clever, fast moving, visually stunning, and emotionally satisfying. There was one major thing wrong with it, though: it wasn't twenty-two hours long. We're probably never going to get more of this wonderful 'verse. And that's sad.

Four out of four stars,

Billie

(This is one of Billie's favorite movies.)


12 comments:

Trousers said...

Watched this again tonight and kind've wish I hadn't. Firefly has become my security blanket, if I have a bad few weeks, then my firefly dvds come out.

So a few weeks ago I got the series out and it's still as brilliant as it ever was, however I can't say the same about the film. It's been about three years since I last watched them, but whereas the show still seems fresh and new, Serenity actually was a bit of a chore to watch. Which is odd, considering how much I loved it on release.

I hope I can resist pulling out the boxset again for a good few more years. Firefly is my favorite show ever, and I want to be able to introduce my daughter to it before I get too jaded with the show!

Josie Kafka said...

I just watched this again. It's still wonderful, and still makes me cry.

ChrisB said...

I wanted to love this movie. I went into it this morning excited to see the end of what was an amazing show. The first time through, I was hugely disappointed. I then read Billie's review, realised I had missed something then watched it not once but twice more.

One of my issues is that I struggle with Mal as a character when he becomes too hardcore. In the first half of this movie, he was just awful. All over Simon, and I had hoped we had moved beyond that. He shot three (yes, I counted) unarmed men, showing absolutely no remorse about it. It took the death of Book to bring him around. Like Billie, I liked Book but wasn't too upset when he died. Writing this, it occurs to me that Joss probably used his death for just this reason.

I was really upset about Wash's death. I know that Joss is known for killing off his characters (don't get me started on Tara), but this death felt manipulative to me. One of the core nine was already gone -- why did we need another one. And, such an undignified death as well. Wash deserved better. Kudos to Gina Torres for playing her grief so very, very well.

I did like the River story and I loved her fight scene. I also liked getting a bit of the back story about her and about the Reavers. They do make good villains.

In terms of the two romances, I actually thought they were handled well. I adored the scene with Kaylee and Simon. "Now, I'm gonna live!" was the line of the movie for me. I'm so, so glad they finally got together, but it is a bit creepy that River was watching...

While I would have liked to see Mal and Irana share a bit of something, I was all right with how it ended up. I think his "good answer" at the end was enough for me.

So, I've come down finally on the positive side, but just barely. I was expecting a lot better from this team. I am glad, however, that we got some closure on the series.

Alan Ashwood said...

"What was that?"
The very first and very last line said by Mal in this amazing film, and that was my sentiment exactly - but I knew I wanted more.
I discovered Serenity in 2009, and being a bit of a scifi/fantasy fan, rented it to watch one winter's night.
Expecting a run-of-the-mill space shoot 'em up, I was quickly caught out by the juxtaposition of the darkness of the story, and the intimate 'family' relationships and banter of this rag tag crew, and their mysterious captain.
As I was drawn in, I found the whole experience totally unique. These were real people, unpretentious, bonded, and obviously close.
Each character was brillantly crafted by Joss Whedon, and superbly played by each of the actors. I have found no other characters in the genre, either TV series or film (movie), in which you could relate, and care for the individuals; but within two hours, I did.
Of course, because I had never seen Firefly, I did not understand the relevance of Shepherd Book; and how important he was to the remaining crew on board, and i hadn't had the background sufficient to really understand how damaged River was when she first 'boarded' the Serenity.
I became totally engrossed in this film, and quickly learned to pay close attention to the dialogue. Not something that's particularly important in most science fiction, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and the like.
Because we never had it televised here in the UK, I didn't discover Firefly until January 2012. I now understand completely what all the fuss is about. After watching the whole series (in the correct order), I watched Serenity again, and it made all the difference, doubling my enjoyment of this remarkable 'verse.
It's a sad fact that there's unlikely to be any more stories from the Serenity, but it stands out as the most remarkable and best written scifi creation - ever! I want more.
Like I said, "What was that?"

Matthew L said...

Although it's very likely we will not get any more Firefly either on TV or movie form, Firefly has continued in comic book form with Serenity: Those Left Behind, Serenity: Better Days, Serenity: Float Out, and Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale.

Anonymous said...

How did river know about the origin of the reavers before seeing the hologram with everyone else had she been to Miranda before ?

sunbunny said...

Anon - River read the minds of the politicians that came to observe her when she was still at the Academy. She already knew.

I remember watching this movie the first time. I knew Joss was going to kill someone (not because of any spoilers, just because it seemed like a Jossy thing to do), and I figured it would be Book. So, Book died and I was all "Phew! That's done." Then Wash died. AHHHHH!!!! Why does Joss Whedon do this to us?

KidLazarus said...

"Then Wash died. AHHHHH!!!! Why does Joss Whedon do this to us?"

sunbunny, I think Joss would say he does it because it's what we need.

He is an amazing story teller.

Wash's death, so sudden and violent, reminded very much of two deaths in Buffy--one towards the end of season six, and one in the series finale. Unexpected, out of the blue, brutal. That season six death stayed with me for days.

Jolyn said...

I laughed, I cried, I may have hugged myself. I loved Firefly & Serenity. I could never get myself to watch the whole Firefly season, because I knew there was only one, but in the last 2 days I watched everything at once. It was wonderfull.

The review above is terrific, it made me laugh again, several times. If there was ever a series cancelled too soon, this is it.

And, YES, why why whyyyy indeed!! After very well played tension in the Mal/Inara nomance from episode 1.1, all we got was a 'I don't know' and 'Good answer'? This series aired in 2002 and people are still photoshopping these two together. (Did Photoshop even exist in 2002? Maybe that is the point)

Thank you for this great review. After watching everything, I had to come visit.

Billie Doux said...

You're welcome, and thanks for the lovely comment, Jolyn. We never did get enough Firefly, even with such a spectacular movie to close it out. *sigh*

Scott Riggan said...

Just finished re-watching the series and the movie (great treadmill viewing) and I'm experiencing that kind of grief you feel when you've just finished a great book and you know you'll never get to have the pleasure of first acquaintance with those characters again.

Maybe after everyone's careers slow down in a couple of decades we can have "Firefly: The Retirement Adventures" or something. That's probably the most we can hope for.

Marianna said...

I just rewatched all of Firefly and Serenity. I was actually somewhat disappointed in Serenity as compared to the amazingness of the series. A lot of the dialogue seemed forced and sometimes not in character. One thing that especially bothered me was Mal telling Simon he was a guest on the ship in contrast to his crew when in Firefly it was established that he considered Simon to be part of the crew, which is an important distinction for Mal. I suppose the change in Mal can be justified by the idea that he forgot himself after Inara left, but it was an extreme change considering Mal's personality is heavily based on his own moral code.

There were also some inconsistencies with the series. Most blatant was that Simon was able to question the person at River's "academy," learning key information about the kind of things they did to her and what their intent was, which he said he was completely ignorant of during the series.

I am, however, going to defend Mal and Inara's ending. I thought it was perfect. For them to actually get together they would have many issues to resolve, and neither are the type to jump into a relationship without resolving those issues first. It probably would have taken a whole other movie for them to figure everything out (how they're going to deal with Mal's hatred of Inara's work, the complications it would create for both their careers, etc.). Inara has an tendency to calculate everything she says. During the series she frequently did this when talking to Mal. He seemed aware that she was doing this and hated it. Her saying "I don't know" was her being completely honest and for the first time showing Mal that she has complicated feelings and doesn't have everything figured out. Mal said "good answer" because he loved that she was finally being totally honest and real with him.