Firefly was a decent show.
It was pretty
neat, a space western with a sense of humor and the brain of Joss Whedon
fueling it, something people weaned on Angel
and Buffy are quite familiar with. It
wasn’t great. In fact, it was his third best television show out of what I
believe is a possible three but it still had plenty of merit and a nice little
ensemble of actors. I got more hate mail for a mixed review of the show than
when I did for assassinating everyone people have loved since 1982. That, my
friends, is the power of Whedon.
Good for him too, it’s nice to
have your own Browncoats in a time of struggle.
Serenity is the feature film continuation
of the Firefly saga and I’m proud to say that it’s a good bit better
than the show. It’s been polished around the edges a little and given a little
of that big screen dough, but it retains enough of the small screen attitude
that fans won’t be dispelled. There’s something about it that feels more
confident and genuine to me as if perhaps this saga was always more suited for
the big screen. It also is a product of a confidence and appreciation for the new lease on life the show has been given.
There’s a certain swagger to Serenity that is infectious. It has no fear of relying on convention and tosses caution to the wind in its approach and as a result the film is a breath of fresh air amidst the overblown vacant spectacles we’ve been fed these past few years.
It’s by no means a slam dunk of a film, but it does everything right in regards to its characters and its intentions.
The film operates under the idea
that if people aren’t aware of the plot of the show, that they’re willing to be
dropped into the universe without too much exposition. There’s a little bit of
uncomfortable introductory stuff, but the cast and crew of Mal Reynolds’
(Nathan Fillion) Serenity arrive on the scene without too much extraneous
fanfare. One of the biggest faults in adaptations or films that make the
transition across mediums is a wink and a nudge to signify the grand arrival of
popular characters and locales [think of how Fonzie is introduced in Happy Days episodes] and Whedon doesn’t
go there. The characters are brought on in a way that newcomers and old-timers
can both accept and the threat is established right away in a terrific opening
sequence that showcases the ever-growing powers of actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Ejiofor is “The Operative”, an
assassin of the highest order hired by the villainous Alliance to hunt down one
of the passengers on Serenity [it’s a
ship, see], freaky young girl named River Tam who somehow might be the secret
ingredient the Alliance needs in executing their goals. I’m a little sketchy on
that, because aside from being a very efficient ass kicker, she doesn’t have
much to offer. Especially against a spaceship. That being said, that quest sets
the stage for a solid science fiction story whose best moments are the quieter
ones, the sign of an enduring film. The effects are mostly quite good, with the
space battles representing the high water mark and an odd land based chase
sequence coming across slightly low rent. As is the case with most Joss Whedon
enterprises, it’s all about character and if Serenity has one legacy
it will be in delivering Adam Baldwin and Nathan Fillion to the fore of truly
entertaining genre duos. Long designated to bad guy roles, Baldwin shows a
better grasp for comedy than most fulltime comedians and Fillion is a nice modern
day Han Solo but with better hair. I felt he didn’t have the leading man capabilities when I saw the television show, and I enjoyed the nourishment as I ate my words while watching him here.
The rest of the cast is a mixed
bag, though Gina Torres and Alan Tudyk make for a nice couple and the latter is
one of those people who we never get to see enough of. The rest of the
shipmates come across decent but no one really registers above whatever
residual impact they may have made on the television show. I still cannot get
behind the fan appreciation for Summer Glau as the dangerous young fighter, but
under Whedon’s assured direction [a skill of his which didn’t get enough
attention in his fine directorial efforts on his shows], it all works out.
This is a small film, but one
loaded with those little moments that its creator is known for and because of
those it succeeds. There’s nothing in the visual presentation that will grab the
eye of people weaned on big budget science fiction flicks, but it’s a rewarding
venture for the moments where Fillion, Baldwin, and Ejiofor are allowed to
do their thing.
I fear that the mass audience won’t
give this a chance but if they, like Fillion’s Mal Reynolds, aim to misbehave,
they could do a lot worse.
7.5 out of 10