by Billie Doux
[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.
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?"
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?"
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,
(This is one of Billie's favorite movies.)