Serenity – Film Review

I finally caught up on the short-lived but much-loved Firefly TV series a couple of months ago, which made me want to visit an alternate universe where the show was allowed to run for as long as its creator Joss Whedon had intended. In the absence of a working interdimensional portal, I had to do with this 2005 feature film, which is a much better farewell than the dizzyingly abrupt ending of the TV series.

I’ve honestly no idea how the film would come off to someone who watched it without the deep affection developed for this world and its characters in the course of the series, but Serenity tries bravely to make sense as its own thing. Long story short, in the 26th century humanity spread far beyond our solar system, and is governed by the Alliance formed by the central planets. The Alliance is not exactly an evil empire, but it’s an authoritarian regime that doesn’t care whether people on different planets want to belong to the centralised government or not. It also deals ruthlessly with whoever it considers a threat, such as a young girl named River Tam, conditioned to be an assassin and psychic before she’s rescued by her devoted brother Simon.

River and Simon find refuge with a free-roaming crew of mercenaries onboard the good ship Serenity, with a top Alliance sword-wielding agent on their trail (played rather unexpectedly by Chiwetel Ejiofor). Dealing with River’s scrambled mind and increasingly erratic and dangerous behaviour was a source of tension among the crew throughout the TV series, and now in the movie they reach a boiling point.

For most of its running time, the film exists somewhere in between an extended TV episode and a proper big-screen movie, only breaking from its small-screen roots way past half mark. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing and the energetic mix of sci-fi, western, humour and action continues to be delightful. The original TV cast look like they’re happy to be back together and still share the same strong chemistry; the film resolves some of the series’ long-running will-they-won’t-they relationships and *sniff Joss Whedon you cruel man* says a final goodbye to some of the characters. The terrifying Reavers, a cannibalistic and savage group of space nomads who mostly lurked around the edges in the TV show, have a more central and surprising part to play in the film. Without spoiling anything, the main mystery was some solid dystopian social commentary with a shade of Clockwork Orange.

The only downside is that now I’m officially out of Firefly stuff to watch.

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