Review: Serenity (2005)



Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon
119 min.
Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Krumholtz
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, and some sexual references

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Source Material

Another film which I have not seen since its original theatrical run. At the time, I had very little knowledge about the show upon which the film was based, but was entertained heavily by it. Adapted from the short-lived, but cult Joss Whedon series Firefly, Serenity takes place a few years after the end of the show with two of the original cast spread to the wind, but little else having changed. The film’s plot centers around the government’s attempts to apprehend the escaped military human experiment River (Summer Glau) who currently lives aboard the Serenity, Captain Malcolm Reynolds’ (Nathan Fillion) ship. The assassin they send after her is a humorless Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) whose unwavering devotion to the government makes him a dangerous foe.

When Mal receives a call from the Companion (Morena Baccarin), something similar to a Japanese geisha or a French courtesan, who once rented the shuttle on their ship, he immediately suspects an ambush and is proven right, which sets him on a quest to get himself, his crew and River as far away from the Operative as possible while trying to figure out what kind of experiments have been performed on River.

Now that I have watched the entire series on which the movie was based, my opinion of the film has changed somewhat. I’m not as much in awe of the truncated story being presented. What could have been expounded over the course of multiple seasons is crammed into one two-hour film. In and of itself, that isn’t a very big issue, but when random new characters are inserted and others unceremoniously killed, it makes for a difficult comparison. Were it only that they were trying to draw in an audience unfamiliar with the source, it still makes little sense how they handle characters like Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) whose sudden life of stationary prophet doesn’t fit well with the original and makes for a seemingly unnecessary element. His inclusion seems important only to placate fans of the series by including all of the original, no matter how superfluous those scenes are. And without giving the characters much development over the course of the film, a lot of the events seem like inside jokes to the uninitiated.

Yet, the revelation on Miranda and the subsequent scenes make up for a lot of the more frustrating elements. The quiet and shocking scenes on Miranda are some of the most poignant in the film and the last stand brawls on Mr. Universe’s (David Krumholtz) planet are all effectively cut. However, I still feel like I’m seeing only a fraction of what I should have been shown on the small screen, but I have more to say about that in my review of the final episodes of Firefly below.
Review Written
September 13, 2010

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