Serenity (2005)


At Last, We Can Retire and Give Up This Life of Crime

Because Sam requested it, I busted my BluRay of today’s movie out.  I’m always more than happy to do it because I really liked this movie, and because Alan Tudyk being in it gives me another reason to plug Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.  Because I don’t watch very much television, I had no idea about this movie or the show it was based on until a friend of mine named Liz beat me over the head with how awesome it was.  I’m not sure if I saw the TV show or the movie first, but once I had seen one, I went out to buy the other.  So now I bring to you my review of Serenity, from the TV show Firefly, written and directed by Joss Whedon, and starring Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Maher, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Morena Baccarin, Ron Glass, and David Krumholtz.

A young girl with psychic abilities named River Tam (Summer Glau) is trapped in a facility, being physically and mentally conditioned by Alliance scientists to be a war machine until she is rescued by her brother, Simon (Sean Maher).  An assassin with no name (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is sent to find her.  Simon and River have joined the crew of a Firefly-class transport vessel called Serenity with Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), his second-in-command Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres), her husband, pilot Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Alan Tudyk), mercenary Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), and mechanic Kaywinnit “Kaylee” Frye (Jewel Staite).  After a bank robbery goes sour, Simon decides that Mal’s ship is too dangerous for River to stay on.  When they go to leave at the next port, River watches a very Japanese-looking commercial and starts beating the living shit out of everyone in the bar, until Simon shows up and uses a “safe word” to make her fall asleep.  I have the exact same reaction when watching those commercials.  They contact a reclusive hacker called Mr. Universe (David Krumholtz) who tells the crew that there was a hidden message in the broadcast, designed to make River go nuts and (apparently) say “Miranda”.  The crew of the Serenity must unravel the mystery of River and Miranda, while avoiding detection from the Alliance and the Operative.

I really like this movie.  Knowing that I was a big fan of the movie, I went in looking for things to make fun of, but kind of came up empty handed.  The closest thing to a complaint I had about this movie was that the Serenity (though well animated) looked a little goofy in it’s design for my taste.  Looked like a bird of some sort.  After that, pretty much everything about this movie works for me.  The story of the movie starts off interesting, but doesn’t really hit it’s stride until the real story is revealed towards the end.  At first it’s just about the Tams escaping from the Alliance and having some issues with the leadership on the vessel.  It slowly turns into a bit of a mystery about why River has such an adverse reaction to Japanese commercials.  Near the end, there’s a much bigger problem with a better message and a bigger cause.  I was already on board, but it got even better at that point.  I think what really sells the movie in the early part is how good the dialogue is and how great the characters are.  It’s easy to assume that they got a really good handle on who these characters were throughout the TV show and knew that, for the most part, the people that were already familiar with the characters from the show would be watching the movie, so they didn’t really waste a lot of time spelling out who the characters were for the movie.  It just put them in the situations and let us figure it out ourselves, without thinking the audience was too dumb to catch on without backstory.  And the dialogue is pretty crisp and smart throughout, while more often than not ranging from funny to downright hilarious.  They put in action evenly throughout the movie so that people with attention problems would be brought back in with regularity.  A couple of chases, a couple of brawls, a couple of spaceship battles, just so no one will get bored.  And the fights were pretty well choreographed as well.  River fighting was pretty elegant and always seemed to be a step ahead in the fight, as a good psychic should be.  Mal, on the other hand, did not make fighting looked pretty, but usually found a satisfying way to win.  The Reaver/Alliance spaceship battle was pretty epic and spectacular as well.  I don’t normally notice the music, but I really liked the music here.  Much as the settings and the language in the movie, the music was a mash up of Oriental and Western sounding music, performed by something that at least sounded like an orchestra, and really set the mood well.

The characters and the performances was what really sells this movie to me.  They’re all fantastic with no complaints beyond the fact that I can’t see more of them.  Nathan Fillion played Mal in equal parts charming and damaged.  He was mostly funny, goofy, and entertaining, but if you got on his wrong side, he was easily able to intimidate.  He also tried very hard to hide his morality, but when a cause big enough fell into his lap, he was quick to take it seriously.  Summer Glau was also very entertaining as River Tam.  She was generally cute, quirky, and funny, but also had a pretty big secret that you could see sitting just behind the facade.  I understand the reason for this, but she did not sell me on her first fight in the movie.  It was very elegant and smooth, but her mannerisms seemed more like a dancer that was more concerned about accidentally hitting someone.  From what I gather from her Wikipedia page, that’s because she was a dancer that was probably pretty concerned about hitting someone.  But her second big fight (near the end of the movie) was unequivocally awesome.  Chiwetel Ejiofor was a great character as well.  He was calculating and cold as ice, but had the badasslerly to back it up.  I never really liked Sean Maher as Simon Tam, but only because he seemed indifferent to the advances of the love of my life, Jewel Staite.  I fell in love with Jewel Staite way back in the day when I used to watch her as Catalina on Space Cases (a show I’m sure I’m the only one that remembers).  I remember being fascinated with her at the time and then, when I first saw Serenity, I instantly recognized her and remembered her name, even though I remember literally nothing else about my life.  And it was a good thing I found her in this movie too.  Even though I was a year younger than her while watching Space Cases, if I continued to be in love with her as Catalina when I was in my 20’s it would begin to get disturbing … about 10 years ago.  Now I can be in love with her as Kaylee, and who wouldn’t be.  She was adorable and hilarious, saying more than one thing you wouldn’t have expected to come out of her mouth to great comedic effect.  This movie made me a fan of everyone in the cast.  I love Alan Tudyk (go watch Tucker and Dale vs. Evil), and he was very funny in the parts he was in, but I felt like he could’ve been used a little more for my liking.  Movies are made specifically for my enjoyment, right?  Well he also had a part in the movie that I didn’t like because it bummed me out, but movies can’t all end with everything going right for our heroes.

I love this movie and that’s why this review probably isn’t all that interesting.  I cannot mock great movies!  What the hell am I supposed to say?  Oh, your dialogue is so funny, your characters are too good, to Hell with your beautiful actresses!  And why won’t Jewel Staite return my phone calls?!  If you want entertainment (and you aren’t finding it from my reviews of love to good movies), then maybe you should just go and get entertainment from the movie itself.  I guarantee it won’t be long until I’m relentlessly mocking another movie.  But I just can’t do it to Serenity.  And with that, Serenity gets “It’s love, in point of fact.  Something a good deal more dangerous” out of “Goin’ on a year now I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my nethers weren’t run on batteries!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

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