“Serenity” Review

By David B. Grelck
May 06, 2005

I’ve been threatened. With drawn and quartering and all sorts of miscellaneous other horrors that Reavers would enjoy quite a bit. Threatened bodily harm if I so much as come close to something someone would term a spoiler about Serenity, Joss Whedon’s film directorial debut, which also happens to be a film version of his beloved, yet cancelled show Firefly. So, below there is no spoiler space because there will be no spoilers. Because I can’t spoil it for you. It’s too amazing. I can’t even bring myself to type the myriad things I want to tell you and talk about.

So, I’ll be uncharacteristically brief. Serenity is what Star Wars should be. Interesting. Serenity is the antithesis of every big budgeted sci-fi picture I’ve ever seen. Something different and unique and moving. There’s emotion here. And yes, much of that emotion probably does have to do with the fact that I had fifteen hours of back-story feeding my enjoyment of the film. And that brings to mind the question of whether or not people who don’t have that same knowledge will enjoy Serenity. I think they will. Because when you suit up to get on board a Whedon show, the characters are rich with meaning, but it’s not hidden meaning. You can suss out the relationships and the feelings and the true depth and emotion. Which should allow newbies to slide in right alongside us browncoats.

Which brings me to something I can spoil, as likely, none of you will see it. Joss’s video intro to the film spoke volumes of himself and who he is. He thanked us, the fans for giving him a movie. And he’s right. Never has such a thing happened before. Where the fans were so intent on seeing more of their big damned heroes that they kept fighting even after the show was “long gone.” The movie shouldn’t exist. But it does. Because of us. Because of the browncoats.

I’m reminded of my pondering about the end of The Dark Tower series. How we’ve been lead here and where does this leave us. Do I hope for the trilogy? Absolutely. Was I terrified going in that Joss wouldn’t be able to hold it all together. He did, after all make Alien: Resurrection but aren’t none of us perfect. Terrified. Was I skeptical? Or was I the kind of horridly biased reviewer that no one wants to hear from? Hmm. Well, I turned on Buffy at times. Angel too. I don’t believe Joss can do no wrong. (For the record, I disliked his Angel episode in Season 4 intensely.) What I do believe about him, though, is he allows characters to breathe. He lets them find their ways. He surprises us. He challenges us. From the moment Mal stepped back onto that ship in Serenity (the pilot, not the movie) and shot the alliance mercenary in the head without flinching, without bargaining, without remorse. He knew what had to be done and he did it.

There’s a lot of that in the film. People who do what needs to be done regardless of the consequences. And there are consequences. And they do hurt us. But that has been Joss’ MO since the beginning, hasn’t it? Since he turned Angel evil and killed Jenny Calendar he has been that real world father who shows us how things REALLY are without sugar coating it. Serenity lives up to the promise of everything that came before it. Of the abbreviated show that refused to lay down and die and clawed itself back out of the grave.

So here I sit. Having been, well, SLIGHTLY brief. Having talked almost none about the film. The film that I will see again in five months, on opening day and be just as joyful about the opportunity. The film that took characters I already loved and gave me more reasons to love them, to understand them, to sympathize with them and to mourn.

Serenity is better than we deserve, out here in the wastelands of the internet where everybody spouts off and condemns sight unseen. This is a film to rally behind. For these are the geeks of the sky. They are us and we are them. It’s time we had a movie like that.

And there’s nary a galactic senate hearing or commission to be found.