directed by Joss WhedonPreviously on Firefly, a whole lot more happened than could be summed up in this paragraph. After the series was prematurely axed it left a lot of loose ends for Serenity to tie together.
If you haven't yet seen Firefly, try to do so as soon as possible. It's an excellent science fiction series, and Serenity will be easier to follow if you've seen it. Although this movie begins with an introduction to the Firefly universe, including River's conditioning and the aftermath of the Alliance war, it's very compressed. If you don't concentrate and you're new to Firefly it won't make a lot of sense.
Serenity opens with River Tam as she undergoes painful mental conditioning, until her brother Simon arrives to rescue her. It's all very dramatic until the characters freeze, and we realise that we're watching the events being replayed in an archive record. The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is studying his targets. He's a secret member of parliament, an Alliance assassin sent to retrieve River. A ruthless fanatic, it's soon pretty clear that he has no concept of mercy or half-measures.
Things are going the usual way for Malcolm Reynolds, which is to say badly. The presence of fugitives on his ship has forced him out of Alliance territory and into riskier jobs. Far from the civilised parts of space the crew risk attack by Reavers as well as the usual hazards of a life of crime.
Reavers are people living outside civilised space, driven to unimaginable acts of violence and cannibalism by who-knows-what. They attack without mercy and can't be reasoned with, but nobody seems to know what makes them this way.
River is clearly mentally unstable, wavering from a fragile girl to a psychotic super-weapon from one moment to the next. There are those in the crew who would rather leave her at the nearest port, for their own safety. In Serenity River gets the chance to show what she can do, with some stylish martial arts sequences and poses.
The look of the film has been toned down for the big screen. It's far more science fiction than western, and much more conventional. There is less of a sense that these are cowboys, living in a world that has gone as far back in time as it has gone forwards.
Fortunately Serenity is as funny as anything else Joss Whedon has created. What the film loses in distinctive atmosphere it makes up in strong characterisation. Fans will enjoy this movie a lot. For anyone new to Firefly it's still a decent film, if a little bit baffling. The ending answers a lot of the questions that the first series brought up. There's closure, but not so much that a new season or a second film is entirely out of the question. After Serenity, plenty of fans will be hoping for more of the same.
Review © Ros Jackson