I have just completed reviewing Firefly at the Eye of Polyphemus, so it is only natural to review the film based on the series. By all accounts, Serenity serves as the de facto final episode of the short lived, but much loved series. That may be the film’s most significant issue. It clearly exists for the purpose of wrapping up loose ends from the show’s dangling story arcs without much to justify a big screen venue to do it. That is not a huge detriment to the fans of the series, but it does not offer much to movie goers who were not.
Serenity does wrap up the two major mysteries left unresolved by the series cancellation. One is the mystery surrounding what the alliance had planned for the troubled genius river and two, what are the Reavers? These are completely opinionated film reviews, so I should note the arc involving River’s suffering medical tests at the hands of the alliance was not one of the more compelling questions the series dealt with as far as I am concerned, so while it is good to have that wrapped up, I am far more pleased to have a more satisfying answer to the origins of the reavers than the series explanation they came to the edge of the universe, found nothing, and became feral rapists out of despair. All that to say the two revelations are not created equal.
Since the series ended, River has apparently gained enough status to join on heists. Against her brother Simon’s wishes, she joins Mal on a bank job. They are attacked by Reavers and barely escape with their lives. Simon decides it would be best to leave Serenity, so he requests to be let off at the next port with his sister. However, River becomes mesmerized by a television commercial and savagely attacks everyone until Simon utters a safe word to pacify her. A hacker named Mr. Universe reveals the Alliance has attached a subliminal message to the commercial broadcast specifically to trigger River.
River whispered the word Miranda before flipping out. Miranda is the name of a planet upon which the alliance used a chemical agent meant to suppress aggressive behavior. Instead it killed off all but a tiny portion of the population. Those who survived became the savage reavers. Only bigwig politicians knew about the outcome, and they are afraid river read their minds when they visited her in the institution in which she was hospitalized, so they want her dead. Forthat job, they sent the film’s antagonist--the operative.
Have you got all that? It ties up all loose ends, but it is really just an excuse to set up a scenario in which mal can revisit old friends. The Operative is hunting down his former associates so that he has no refuge other than to give up River. The reavers attack as Serenity discovers the truth abourt Miranda. River goes crazy one final time to kill them all. Mal wants mr. Universe to broadcast the story of Miranda across the universe. Once The Operative learns the truth himself, he lets river go. The Serenity crew buries their dead, but otherwise live happily ever after. Unless there is a sequel.
Serenity is not a bad film, especially if you are a Firefly fan seeking closure. I am certain fans felt the tug on ye old heartstrings at the deaths of two main characters, too. The problerm is there is not an epic feel to it. Serenity could have easily been a television movie or a straight to DVD sort of deal. It is a family reunion, not a major event for anyone who is not already part of the family. None of this makes the film bad, mind you. Just uneventful for a big screen outing. If you are a Firefly fan, you will love it. If you are not, you will probably like it, but wonder what all the fuss is about. Truth be told< I just reviewed the entire series and am still wondering that myself.
Rating: *** (out of 5)