Monday, August 8, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #95: "Serenity" (2005)

Movie Stats:
Released 2005 (UK)
American, in English (some non-translated Mandarin)
Director - Joss Whedon
Stars - Nathan Fillion, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Summer Glau, and many others

Plot Summary:
A ragtag band of outlaws, led by Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Fillion), find themselves in the hot seat when the government sends an assassin (Ejiofor) to kill crew member River (Glau), who holds a dark secret.

Violence; gore; blue language (but most of it’s in non-translated Mandarin).

Bad Stuff:
If you haven’t seen the show, I feel that the movie doesn’t do the best job of explaining Shepherd Book’s (Ron Glass) importance to the rest of the crew.

The “big secret” treads a fine line. I'm willing to accept it, but can see where some might find it silly or absurd.

Good Stuff:
I love the universe that Whedon (who wrote as well as directed) created. IMO, it’s one of the most realistic portrayals of the potential future I’ve seen. He’s also excellent at creating complex, flawed characters who you can’t help but adore.

I’ve always been deeply touched by the sibling relationship between River and Simon (Sean Maher). The idea that Simon gave up everything to protect/save his little sister simply moves me.

Everything else: costuming, score, dialogue, cinematography, and acting. It’s all spot on.

It’s funny.

The Verdict:
I’ve seen this movie numerous times*, but it had been at least six years since the last. My biggest fear was that it wouldn’t play well as a standalone film, i.e. that it wouldn’t make sense outside the context of the show, so I tried to watch it with an eye to that. To my surprise, I found that it does a great job at setting the stage and explaining the characters with very little exposition. The only point where it failed in this, I feel, is with Shepherd Book. Other than that, I think it’s a really excellent film, much better than I remembered. Whedon always does a great job of blending humor, action, and gravitas with a good story. With “Serenity,” I think he got close to perfection.

I give it 4.5 stars.

* The first time I saw it was at a special screening in Portland, OR, before the film was fully edited. It was a test audience sort of situation. In that edit, it was missing most of the sound effects. That was a bit surreal.


Patricia said...

I watched Serenity before I watched Firefly. It worked well for me. The only thing that really surprised me when I then went back and watched Firefly was how fragile River was. She ends up so bad-assed in the movie that it took me several episodes to realize that the bad-assed was the evolution, not the status quo.

Good observation about creation of futuristic world.

Did we see this together?

balyien said...

I'm pretty sure I saw the partial-edit version with E (post break-up, probably shortly before he went to New Orleans). But I think I saw it again in the theater for its actual release. It could have been with you, but I don't recall!