Movie Review: Serenity (2005)
Serenity is definitely a deserving addition to the Firefly franchise -- but, it lacks a couple things that really made the TV series great. That said, this is still my favorite sci-fi movie ever made.
For those of you who don’t know, Firefly is one of those TV shows that has a small but extremely loyal fanbase. After the show was canceled in 2002, the fans basically pressured Universal into making a movie for the show. Serenity is that movie. Here’s my review for Firefly; I’ll be comparing the movie to the show pretty often in this review.
Throughout the first half of Serenity, the movie basically just feels like an extended episode of Firefly. But, the second half of the movie basically turns into a summer blockbuster-type action movie. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but action scenes just aren’t what Firefly does best. Going to a Joss Whedon film for action scenes is like going to a Michael Bay movie for the dialogue — you just don’t do it. Thankfully the budget here seems to be a lot higher than the budget that the TV show had, so the special effects and action sequences still look really well done.
Even though it was probably done with a smaller budget, one advantage the TV show had is that it had time to properly flesh out the characters. People who watch this movie without seeing the TV show will probably think, “Who the heck is the shepherd? And who is Inara?” because it’s not really explained in the film. This was obviously a movie made for the fans and not really for newcomers so this makes sense to leave explanations for those characters out — this is really something where you should watch the whole series beforehand so you get to know the characters. It makes you able to appreciate the movie a lot more.
Another gripe involving the characters — the TV show had 10-ish hours to work with, so each character received a decent amount of screentime. Since this is two hours, some characters felt a little left out. Specifically Jayne, Kaylee, and the Shepherd all didn’t get as much time on screen as the others. Since Jayne and Kaylee were probably two of my three favorite characters on the show, this was a little disappointing.
Despite those problems, I still would have given this a 10/10 but something else just really bugged me. Throughout the TV show, it was hinted at that the Shepherd (a Shepherd basically being a priest) was more than just a shepherd. Actually to say it was hinted at is an understatement — the show flat out told you that. He was a priest, yet somehow knew all the inner-workings of crime organizations and he did a great job with an assault rifle in his hands. Some enemies even remarked that “he isn’t a shepherd”. The show gets a pass for this; it was canceled before they could really explain the Shepherd’s backstory. But, the movie would be the perfect opportunity to explain it. It’s not even mentioned. That really annoyed me.
There are two types of people in this world — people who love Firefly, and those who just haven’t seen it yet. If you’re in that first group, definitely check out Serenity. It’s a worthy addition to the series. If you’re in that second group, you have two options:
1. Watch Firefly first, then watch Serenity. You’ll be able to appreciate the movie a lot more if you go this route.
2. Watch Serenity first, then watch Firefly if you like it. This movie can stand on its own as good sci-fi, but I’d really recommend doing option #1 instead.