After its regrettable cancellation, Firefly became a huge cult hit, selling millions of DVD’s, convincing Fox that there was money still to be made with the series. And in 2005, as what can only be called a miracle, Joss Whedon and his entire cast and crew were given the budget to create a feature film to finish off the stories they started two years earlier.
It was nothing short of an impossible feat, but somehow their movie, titled Serenity, not only tied off the majority of the important plot threads left over for the show, but also managed to make it appeal to old and new fans alike. It doesn’t quite reach the heights the show did, but in its entirety Serenity is a fitting conclusion to one of the greatest shows of television.
The film reunites us with our favorite band of misfits, Captain Malcolm Reynolds, his second mate Zoe Washbourne, her pilot husband Wash, mechanic Kaylee, armed brute Jayne, registered ‘companion’ Inara and the runaway siblings with their own story to tell, Simon and River. The whole cast is back and better than ever, and it feels so good to see these characters back in the game.
Everything is bigger in this movie, and for the most part it’s great seeing Whedon really being able to try things he never would’ve been able to in the TV show. The plot itself is what impresses in its scale the most though. Focusing on River and the reason for her ‘psychic’ abilities, the narrative weaves itself over numerous themes and motifs but at its core stays true to what made Firefly so great.
While Firefly was equal parts western and sci-fi, Serenity is almost entirely a science fiction action movie, a choice that was almost necessary for something of this scale. There’s more action, more space battles, and more explosions than there ever could’ve been on Firefly.
The only thing that sticks out in terms of Serenity’s plot is just how dark it is. As someone who’s probably used to the wit of the show, the film can come across as especially grim. While probably necessary in order to give the ambitious plot its desired weight, I would’ve preferred if there was more of that signature Whedon humor spread out here.
One of the primary reasons for the weight of Serenity comes from its antagonist, a brutally dedicated government agent known only as the Operative. He’s cold, calculating, and, worst of all, completely committed to his cause.
Brilliantly played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the Operative eats up every scene he’s in, especially when he’s with Captain Mal himself Nathan Fillion, and from his very first appearance you know this man means business. He provides a great, classic villain for the crew of the Serenity to battle against, and really does enhance the movie in almost every possible way.
As great as the villain is however, Serenity is still about the crew we fell in love with on Firefly. While not everyone gets as much attention as I’m sure we all would’ve liked (especially Shepherd Book), we get answers and satisfactory closure to most of their individual story lines.
However, the fee complaints I really have toward the movie itself is that there isn’t enough of the characters. Once again though, in order to tie up the major plot points this was kind of a necessary sacrifice, but I really wish we could’ve seen even more of how far these characters have come. What we got is more than enough, but it’s hard not to wish for more.
With that said, Serenity is still one of the most impressively paced movies out there. Whedon proves again and again that he is a master of his craft, and carries the viewer through the plot with incredible skill, giving them exactly what they want when they want it. There’s more than a little of fan-service in here, but what really wows is the film’s climax.
It’s already gone down in infamy for its nail-biting intensity, and there’s reason for that. A true ‘last stand’ in every meaning of the word, Serenity’s explosive climax will floor you in ways you didn’t expect it to, and break your heart in ways it never has. It’s a very special piece of cinema that still manages to tear me apart every time I see it.
It’s not entirely perfect, but the ending really does manage to close the story of the Serenity in a very satisfactory way. It leaves the door open for possible, but entirely unlikely, sequels, but more importantly it brings closure when fans thought there wouldn’t be any. And that’s good enough for me.
Serenity really is something special, it appeals to old and new fans alike while simultaneously telling a powerful, relevant story that has to be seen to be believed. It’s not flawless, and doesn’t quite reach the heights the show did, but Serenity has shown that nothing can take the skies from us, and I wholly expect it to only grow more popular as time goes on.