06 October 2005

Serenity (Fox 2005)

Are you sick of Star Trek? The noble future fully of sappy altruism? The captain at the center of it all, sending red shirts to the surface to die? How about the regrettable Star Wars franchise with its senate chamber full of boredom? Well, hello Firefly! The short lived TV series (14 episodes—- 11 aired) is set in 2540’s in a future that looks more like Blade Runner set on fast forward. Earth was ruined by some unspecified catastrophe (knowing humans, it was probably a self-inflicted wound). The people fled to another star system rich in habitable planets where they terraformed many of these worlds. Some are beacons of technology and sophistication. Some are desolate outposts. The crew of the cargo ship Serenity ply those lonely, lawless outer worlds.

The crux of the Serenity movie is the mystery of River Tam (Summer Glau): a teenager who was surgically altered and conditioned to become a psychic and a super weapon. Her brother, a brilliant surgeon rescued her from the government forces who were altering River and used the Serenity for passage. From that moment on, the Serenity was the target of bounty hunters, government forces and elite special agents. River starts to exhibit some very peculiar talents and Serenity’s captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), starts to dig to get to the answers: What did they do to River? What is she hiding?

To satisfy fans with questions and novices who have sat down to munch popcorn and watch the movie, Serenity answers a lot of questions. The fate of Earth. How did River’s brother spring her from captivity. How the Reavers came about. And, what happened to the crew after the final episode of the TV series. In many ways, this is episode 15 with a big boost in budget and a lack of standards-and-practices weasels censoring good TV. Just as the TV series had a strong vibe from Joss Whedon (Toy Story, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), this movie is the same. After such a choking diet of political correctness from the Star Trek franchise, Serenity is very welcome. The crew talk about offing River. They shoot people who they don’t like (and do so with little angst). Sometimes they don’t listen to the captain. Sometimes the captain acts like a coward. It feels like a real ship that had to fit into a real future. Best of all—and I cannot believe I am saying this—is the Western feel of the show. Holsters, six-shooters, dusty towns ripe for holdups. All of the stuff that seem incongruous with spaceships and high tech, but it actually works. We can’t predict the future. Every time I’ve seen Star Trek and others shows set in the future, I’ve said, “I don’t know what the future will look like but it won’t look like this.” Will it look like the Wild West? Probably not. Nevertheless, it looks good and it has an internal consistency.

To sum up: Serenity is a great movie. Unlike many movies, it actually put me on a roller coaster. It was tense. I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. This was all because, for the first time in a long time, I couldn’t outguess the plot. Based on the tradition of the Western, Whedon did telegraph doom for the crew but like so many things, the plot takes an unpredictable course that makes this movie worthwhile—even if you’re not a Firefly fan.

Buy the Firefly Series on DVD


Tim said...

In your opinion, would this be an appropriate film to take a 14 year old girl to see, might I ask?

Cheryl said...

Yes, most likely. It is rated 14A, and there is some gore, but while it's graphic, I think it's largely brief. No sex that I can remember; maybe some innuendo.