A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 269 – Serenity

Serenity – November 24th, 2010

Sadly, we’ve had to give up on the bad-movies-in-sympathy-for-the-Desert-Bus-crew, what with Andy being ill and my need to bake tonight. And oh, I have baked. Pie is a wonderful thing. And so I have pie and an excellent movie and hopefully tomorrow we’ll have a Thanksgiving miracle and Andy will not be sick. In the meantime, we watched this movie while my pie baked (it looks so good and is in my fridge right now) and I found myself actually paying attention to it instead of paying attention to Desert Bus. I know it fairly well. Well enough that I could have easily let it run on the television while I paid attention to other stuff. And yet I found myself getting sucked back into it rather quickly whenever my attention wandered. It’s just not a movie I can let go in the background.

This movie had a hard job. For one, because it was a theatrical film following up a much-beloved and widely-believed-to-be-prematurely-canceled television show, it had to live up to that show for the fans. This is a difficult task for any film. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s got to hit all the right notes and refer back to the show without making it feel like everything is just an inside reference or callback. It has to add something to the world and characters and appease the fans. And seeing as the fans of Firefly were and are particularly vocal, and rather internet-savvy, this was very important. And then on the other side of things, it being a theatrical release of a show that was canceled after a single season, there has to be the assumption that some people who might come to see it wouldn’t have necessarily seen all of the show. So it had to present the world and the characters – both rich and detailed – in a clear and concise manner for any potential new viewers in the audience. Granted, I don’t know if that was a real priority, and having seen all the existing episodes of the show myself before seeing the movie I can’t speak to how successful it was on that front.

If I’m going to be totally honest, I don’t really care how successful the movie is in introducing its content to new viewers. Chances were always slim to none that the show would come back, so this was sort of a capper on the world. Joss Whedon has stated that had the show gone to a second season the crew of the Serenity would have discovered part of this movie’s plot near the end of the season. So really, this movie is taking a season’s worth of backstory, another unwritten season’s worth of mid-story, and then condensing what would likely have been a large chunk of another season and pressing it into the compact space of two hours. It’s resulted in a remarkably tight movie full of action and twists and Joss Whedon messing with his fans, but it also means there’s a lot that happens. Enough so that I’m honestly not sure how well I’m going to do when it comes to summarizing. In order to summarize I feel like I need to go through the series too. And I really don’t have time or space for that, so let’s just assume anyone reading knows the setup.

The crew of the Serenity are a bit of a rag-tag group, which is much of their appeal as a group. And if the show appealed to you on their basis then the movie will too, because they’re all there. The movie starts out about six months after the end of the series, with Inara and Book off the ship and Simon threatening to take River off as well, thanks to Captain Mal’s insistence that she help them out on jobs. The opening bit with the ship making a rough entry and landing while Mal walks through the ship talking to each of his crewmembers in turn. The introductions are short and sweet, establishing characteristics and relationships within a line or two. And everything seems to be rather tame at first, with a heist and all, but soon the stakes get raised quite high with the introduction of the Reavers, a group of berserker types who eat people alive. They are wonderfully menacing, and are a key plot point for the whole movie.

The larger plot of the movie involves the good intentions of the Alliance (the big government-type organization of inner planets) and their desperate need to regain control of River Tam. River, being psychic and conditioned by the government to be a killer, is a risk the Alliance just can’t have running loose. She knows things. And so the Operative shows up, determined to find her and either recover her or kill her for the greater good. And we all know how things done For The Greater Good tend to turn out, right? The crew uncovers secrets the Alliance doesn’t want known and so doom is rained down upon the crew and those they count as friends.

It’s a brutal movie in places. People die. Joss Whedon doesn’t pull punches when it comes to killing off characters and he likes to twist that knife in. There’s a lot of effort made towards making it clear just how bad things have gotten. Bleak does not begin to describe things. Going into the climax of the movie it definitely feels as though anyone else could go down at any moment. I can’t say I like what happens and who dies. I don’t like it at all. But at the same time, I understand the point. I get it. And the mood it creates at the end is excellent. It’s grim and desperate and stark. The humor that marks the show as a Whedon production is much pared down and the characters all know there’s only a slim chance that they’re going to live through the final fight.

I’m not doing this movie justice, really, and I apologize for that. It’s the sort of movie I wish I had more time to work on a review for, because there’s a lot to it that makes it really fantastic. Sure, some people who aren’t big on Joss Whedon’s style won’t like it, but I happen to like his style. His writing is snappy and his characters are interesting and he came up with a heck of a world here, so I’m thrilled that he got a chance to present more of the story he had planned on before the show was canceled, and I’m thrilled it came out so amazingly well.

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November 24, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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