So I saw Serenity at the weekend (warning, some spoilerage ahead). And I thought it was quite a good film: the plot is coherent and keeps moving, the dialogue is well-written and rarely plods, the effects are nicely done and the actors are pretty good.

But I don’t think it quite gets the gushing plaudits everyone has been giving it (such as these). It is already #125 on IMDb’s top 250. Yes it’s good, but it has its flaws. The political allegory is simplistic and in-your-face. The romantic subplots are clich? from start to finish (X and Y each holding a torch for the other without realising the other’s own feelings; P and Q have split up but Q has been longing to get back with P, although she doesn’t know it).

And the characters…. well, it illustrates the problem with TV series spinoffs. While regular fans of Firefly will be more than happy with the film, an outsider who has hardly watched any of it (like me) will take the film will see it and find them quite lacking. There’s too many of them, it’s tricky to empathise with them, to get a handle on any sort of development through the film. The only character of real interest was the nameless assassin (played quite excellently by Chiwetel Ejiofor), the dark, amoral but also highly moral killer – which isn’t surprising, since he was not in the regular series and so the film has to work a bit more to paint his picture.

This is pretty much endemic to any TV series spin-off (e.g. the Star Trek movies), with so much characterisation covered by the original series, the films can take it as a given. Fine for fanboys, not so good for the rest of us. To Joss Whedon’s credit, he has remembered this and made the rest of the movie so good that the layman can still find plenty to enjoy – even though I found myself not caring whether Dr. Tam died or not at the end. Go see it and enjoy it, just don’t expect it to be a stand-alone classic.

3 thoughts on “Serenity

  1. I saw it last night, having never seen Firefly, and I’ll freely admit to doing so largely because of a Jonathan Ross recommendation – things I only accept from him with Sci-fi, usually.

    He said something about it being the film everybody wished the Star Wars prequels had been. I’m inclined to agree – especially as it managed to provide the entire backstory in a grand total of 5 minutes and didn’t feel the need to explain every last damn detail about what’s going on. (Wait, why did that lot in particular become Reavers? Oh! Midichlorians! I see…)

    So it was good stuff, I thought – perhaps a few too many crew members, but not excessively so (especially as they were all archetypes), and they seemed to work together well. Decent special effects, simple but fun story, top notch villain (that Ejiofor chap should go far).

    You’re right about it being in danger of being overrated – but that’s largely because there hasn’t been anything approaching a decent space-based Sci-fi in years. The shock of seeing it done properly after George Lucas’ recent megabudget cock-ups is enough to get anyone overexcited…

  2. Regarding The Operative (Chiwitel Ejiofor), I thought he was a poor rip-off of the bounty hunter who appeared in the very last episode of Firefly (“Objects in Space”). But they killed him off at the end of the episode, so that’s that.

  3. Have you seen the review? Well worth a look, even though it is excessively gushing, it does point out how you are well, wrong, on a number of points. I think we need to have a conversation about this so I can explain to you, in words of an appropriate number of syllables, all the things you missed out on.

    Question, though: were you able to translate any of the Chinese they used? All meant to be obvious (and from the series its generally swearing and completely evident) but it did pass me by from the film…

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