Much has been made of the back story of Serenity. It has been discussed in great length how Joss Whedon’s creation, originally a short-lived television program called Firefly, gained such an enormous cult fan base that Whedon was able to bankroll into a major motion picture.
Everyone who follows sci-fi films will also know that Serenity has been screening for fans of the series for months before it actually came out, gauging their opinions on what worked and what didn’t.
In many ways, the only movie franchise that has walked even a remotely similar path is Star Trek. It is worth noting that this review is being written from the perspective of a person who, while having never seen an episode of Firefly, enjoys Star Trek and has an appreciation for sci-fi in general.
It is safe to say that for people unfamiliar with the series, it will be real easy to get lost watching this movie. It is entirely probable that fans of the series will be enthralled with what is offered here, but to a non-fan, there is little to no accessibility or fun to be had from this overly long, cheap-looking sci-fi movie.
Apparently in the future, the galaxy has been more or less overtaken by an evil group known as The Alliance. There are, however, those who choose to live outside of The Alliance’s rule (sound familiar?). Among these free thinkers are Malcolm (Nathan Fillion), and the various caricatures that make up the crew of his smuggling ship, The Firefly. There is the tough, beautiful second in command (Gina Torres), her husband, the nondescript pilot, (Alan Tudyk), the brash tough guy (Adam Baldwin) and the fussy engineer (Jewel Staite).
Everything goes haywire for the crew when they pick up Simon (Sean Maher) and his sister River (Summer Glau). It turns out there’s a lot more to River than meets the eye.
Specifically she had been trained to be a killing machine by The Alliance before her brother came to her rescue. Now a brutal nameless operative from The Alliance (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is hot on their tail trying to retrieve her.
This is where the movie starts to drift away from the attention of a non-Firefly fanatic.
Frankly, not much in the movie makes a bit of sense, it is at the very least challenging to make heads or tails of it. The characters also speak in some sort of antiquated dialect that mixes current English with (perhaps) old Western terms. This is tremendously annoying, because there is a lot of talking in this movie, and no one seems to want to talk like an actual human being.
Also, for a $40 million production, Serenity has absurdly cheesy effects. The sets are plastic looking and the lighting is obvious and phony. It looks like what it essentially is: a feature length episode of a television show.
The only actors that escape from the movie unscathed are Fillion and Ejiofor. Fillion adds dimensions to Malcom that are completely out of place in this movie, and Ejiofor’s character is utterly fascinating, mostly because you don’t find out a whole lot about him.
Maybe catching a couple episodes of Firefly and then going back to this movie could be a worthwhile endeavor. That might help one appreciate it a bit more.
Chuck Delross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.