The plot of Serenity takes us 500 years into the future in a universe ruled by the all-powerful Alliance. Captain Reynolds, the veteran of the Unification War, and the diverse crew of the Serenity spaceship scamper from planet to planet, harboring two known fugitives. Constantly on the run, broke and hounded by the Alliance, they got nothing to resort to but their wit, loyalty, and a sense of humor.
Following the cancelation of the cult TV show Firefly, this movie picks up where the last episode of Firefly left off. This is also Joss Whedon's farewell to the show, who, making a virtue of necessity, tied up loose ends and brought the story of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Firefly to a worthy ending.
Review by SAndman
August 19, 2008
Writer and Director: Joss Whedon
Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm Reynolds
Gina Torres as Zoe Washburn
Alan Tudyk as Hoban 'Wash' Washburne
Morena Baccarin as Inara Serra
Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb
Jewel Staite as Kailee
Sean Maher as Dr. Simon Tam
Summer Glau as River Tam
Ron Glass as Shepherd Book
Captain Malcolm Reynolds: You had a gorram time bomb living with us! Who we gonna find in there when she wakes up? The girl? Or the weapon?
For those of you unfamiliar with Firefly here is a list of the main characters:
Captain Malcolm Reynolds - fought for Independents at the Unification War; following the surrender of the Independents in the Battle of Serenity Valley turned to a life of wandering and occasional crime-doing;
Zoe Washburn - Malcolm's closest associate; she fought with him in the war; her loyalty to the captain can only be matched by her love for her husband; good with fire-arms, indispensable in combat; she successfully juggles her job with her family although the odd argument seems inevitable;
Wash -Zoe's husband; his is a difficult role of being a loving husband of a tough woman; he does it with lots of humor and provides a necessary comic relief in many difficult situations; he signed on with Serenity as a pilot and earned his stripes on many dangerous missions;
Kailee - the best mechanic this side of the Verse; the girl next door with a genuine enthusiasm for people; pet of the crew; her love for Doctor Tam costs her a lot of heartbreak and some unsavory jokes from Jayne;
Inara Serra - a companion with connections in high circles; beautiful and highly educated; her interest in Captain Malcolm, though unspoken, is a source of constant tension between the two;
Shepherd Book - a Christian priest with a mysterious past; seems to know a lot about the Alliance, battle tactics and weapons; he could have been an Alliance agent or a some kind of a special-op soldier before he turned to religion; Malcolm's open scorn for religion and Shepherd's zeal often clash;
Jayne Cobb - a hired gun; has no code or any specific goal in life except to get rich fast and inflict as much damage as possible in the process; untrustworthy though useful in action;
Dr. Simon Tam - a highly-trained doctor; brother of River Tam; he can be pretty uptight, which often gets misconstrued as aloofness; very devoted to his sister;
River Tam - a mysterious girl and child prodigy; the Alliance experimented on her possibly with a view of turning her into a human killing machine; psychic and borderline psychotic on account of her merciless conditioning at the hands of the Alliance.
At the beginning of Serenity we get a short account of River Tam's incarceration and her subsequent escape. We also learn that the Alliance has sent yet another mercenary after the Tams. He goes by the name of "The Operative". Martial arts expert, he is intelligent, utterly ruthless, and is fanatically convinced he fights for the right cause.
In the meanwhile, Captain Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Serenity are doing what they do best - thieving. They are planning a bank robbery. Things are going smooth when suddenly the backwood town whose bank they targeted gets hit by Reavers. There were lots of references to the elusive space renegades known as Reavers in Firefly, or in the words of Captain Reynolds, "Reavers ain't men. They forgot how to be and they're just nothing. They got up to the edge of the galaxy, to that place of nothing, and that's what they became.", but in Serenity they take center stage.
Captain Reynolds and the crew manage to escape thanks to River Tam, who was with them during the robbery. Being psychic she warned them of the Reavers' oncoming raid and they fled in a dizzying chase of space ships. Once aboard Serenity, Simon Tam, River's brother, furious that Malcolm was willing to jeopardize his sister's life by taking her to the heist on account of her ability to "sense things", confronts Captain. They come to words, and Simon punches Captain.
Malcolm restrains himself but icily suggests to Simon that they best find themselves another means of refuge at the next stop. Simon agrees and as soon as Serenity makes port the Tams leave. What neither he nor Captain Malcolm knows is that their paths will cross again before long.
As in Firefly, friendship and loyalty are the main themes. Very prominent is also the theme of betrayal. The characters experience betrayal at the hands of others or they themselves betray the ideas they believed in. Simon and River Tam's betrayal by Malcolm at the beginning of the movie reflects what the other characters perceive as the captain's betrayal of Inara Serra; although unaware of it, Malcolm will be betrayed by one of his friends, just as he will blame himself for what he believes to be his betrayal of Shepherd Book through seeking shelter at his colony and consequently leading the Alliance on their track.
Perhaps the most intriguing part is the relationship between Malcolm and the Operative. Both are men of honor - at least that is what the Operative would like to believe - both set out on a personal crusade, though from radically different motives, but as one of the two will regain his faith the other will lose his in the end.
Like Firefly, which is also character-driven, Serenity too is basically about people and their relations, though Serenity does have a very linear high-stakes plot with the riveting grand finale. But where Serenity really excels are the well-drawn, utterly convincing and loveable characters. This is perhaps the greatest strength of the movie.
The only problem with Serenity, as much as with Firefly, is how addictive it is. Before long you catch yourself watching it over and over again, falling in love with the characters, talking with them - in your mind only - and wishing their stories would go on forever.
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