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Serenity - Originally Aired: 2005-9-30

My Rating - 9

Fan Rating Average - 6.08

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Synopsis
A passenger with a deadly secret. Six rebels on the run. An assassin in pursuit. When the renegade crew of Serenity agrees to hide a fugitive on their ship, they find themselves in an action-packed battle between the relentless military might of a totalitarian regime who will destroy anything - or anyone - to get the girl back and the bloodthirsty creatures who roam the uncharted areas of space. But, the greatest danger of all may be on their ship. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- The idea that there are hundreds of habitable, livable worlds in one planetary system, even with terraforming, stretches realism.
- The space battle at the end has sound, which contrasts with earlier space shots clearly lacking sound in space. Most other sci-fi productions do depict sound in space, but strictly speaking it's unrealistic and Firefly's earlier material was praised for lacking this unrealistic dramatic concession. But Firefly should only be praised for this if it remains consistent. And with this movie it became inconsistent.

Factoids
- The planetary system in Firefly has dozens of planets and hundreds of moons, each terraformed to support human life.
- The terraforming process takes decades.
- River is 17 years old in this film.
- Malcolm Reynolds was born on September 20th, 2468. "Son of a rancher, born on the planet Shadow. Bound by law five times: smuggling, tariff dodging, transporting illegal cargo; no convictions."
- According to dialog in the film Simon and River have been on the ship eight months.
- This film won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.

Remarkable Scenes
- The opening montage.
- The flashback to Simon rescuing River.
- An operative of the Parliament observing the records of Simon and River's escape.
- The operative pointing out to the scientist that he had placed "key members of Parliament" in the same room with a psychic, giving her access to classified information.
- The operative killing everyone in the room with a sword, except "young miss."
- Mal, regarding the rough landing: "We might experience some slight turbulence and then explode."
- River using her psychic abilities to assist in the heist.
- The reaver attack.
- River, after the harrowing escape: "I swallowed a bug."
- Kaylee bitching about Mal driving away Simon: "Goin' on a year now, I ain't had nothin' twixt my nethers weren't run on batteries!" Mal: "Oh god, I can't know that!" Jayne: "I could stand to hear a little more."
- River freaking out and starting a fight, and then Simon putting her to sleep with a phrase.
- Wash: "Start with the part where Jayne gets knocked out by a 90 pound girl, because I don't think that's ever gettin' old."
- Mal's awkward conversation with Inara.
- Mal meeting the operative.
- Mal picking a fight with the operative and losing hard.
- Inara escaping with Mal using a flash bomb.
- Mal: "You wanna run this ship?" Jayne: "Yeah!" Mal, not quite expecting that answer: "Well... you can't!"
- River identifying that Miranda is an unlisted planet.
- Haven attacked and Book's death.
- The operative destroying every hideout Mal's crew has ever had.
- The operative calling himself a monster, acknowledging that what he does is evil, but claiming that it must be done so the Alliance can have a better society.
- Mal decking out Serenity to look like a reaver ship.
- Mal and crew watching the beacon on Miranda and realizing that an experimental drug's side effect created the reavers.
- Mal deciding to broadcast the fact that the Alliance created the reavers to the rest of the planetary system.
- Mal shooting down a reaver ship.
- Mal starting a space battle between the Alliance ships and the reaver ships.
- Wash barely managing to land the ship just before being suddenly killed.
- Wash's last words: "I'm a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar..."
- Simon: "My one regret in all of this is never being with you." Kaylee: "With me? You mean to say as... sex?" Simon nods: "I mean to say." Kaylee: "To hell with this! I'm gonna live!"
- Mal's crew engaging the reavers while Mal engages the operative.
- After the crew is all but defeated, River retrieving Simon's medkit and engaging the reavers alone.
- Mal defeating, but purposely not killing the operative.
- River fighting off the reavers all by herself.
- The operative ending hostilities and assisting in restoring and repairing Serenity.

My Review
This action packed and thrilling movie feels like Firefly season two crammed into a two hour event. And with only a few minor flaws, Firefly makes the transition to the big screen quite well. While this film is easily enjoyable for both the initiated or the uninitiated viewer alike, I strongly advise anyone intending to see this film to watch the fifteen episode series first, as it will greatly enhance the experience of the movie, if rendering the opening montage somewhat redundant.

With respect to series continuity, this film resolves most of the important ongoing plot threads with one glaring exception: Book. Poor Book never got a chance to shine, but I think after the events of the film there is enough evidence to conclude that Book used to be one of those "operatives" or perhaps someone with a position very much like one and turned to the life of a preacher to makes amends for a history of immoral actions, much like how the operative in this film decides to abandon this particular quest once it ceased to be relevant.

Evidence supporting this conclusion includes Book's high profile Alliance connection, his in-depth knowledge of crime, his proficiency with weapons and the martial arts, River's direct mind-read of him, and his intimate knowledge of how these sorts of "operatives" operate within the Alliance when he warns Mal of things to come at Haven. There are other, more subtle details throughout the series and film that point in this direction too. It's nice that they've given us enough information to draw some kind of well reasoned conclusion, but it is unfortunate that it's not made more explicit.

In any case, I suppose we may never know for sure, which is a shame, but luckily the rest of the plot threads are left decidedly less ambiguous and are quite satisfying. This film surprisingly kills off two main characters, the aforementioned Book but also Wash, whose death is among the most shocking things I've seen in a science fiction production. Very sad too, as he is one of the more entertaining characters. If Firefly is ever revived, it will never be the same again without these two characters.

But moving onto actual arc significance, the most interesting thing that happens here is the revelation that Simon hasn't exactly been honest with the crew of the Serenity over the last eight months. He's been withholding key information about River all this time. In particular, that he executed her rescue personally, rather than simply pay people to smuggle her out, that he had personally spoken with someone who was experimenting on her, who had made reference to her telepathic abilities, and that she was designed to be a living weapon.

This would all be a continuity error were it not for the plot point made of Simon withholding this information deliberately. Also interesting is the pickup from the series about Mal having a tendency to drive people off his ship. Inara first, then Book (possibly), and now Simon and River (almost). A subplot of the film is reversing this trend; Mal manages to reunite his crew. Well, at least those that didn't die in the process. But at the very least, seeing Mal and Inara make real progress with their relationship is quite satisfying. Same with Kaylee and Simon. I feel bad for Zoe though. Real bad.

Another satisfying detail is finally seeing the reavers again, who we hadn't seen since early in Firefly's episodic run. Each time the reavers appeared until now has been decidedly unsatisfying, due to their murky and unexplained origins. Well now we finally get an explanation, and a pretty good one too! On top of that, we get a ridiculously epic space battle along with a mission of similar scale for Serenity's crew. Mal feels it is his moral imperative to let the rest of the planetary system know what evils the Alliance had wrought.

The plot leading up to this is well crafted with the one glaring exception of "Mr. Universe." That man is a plot device; a deus ex machina manifested into a character. Where and when did our heroes meet this guy? Why does he have access to everything? Why hasn't the Alliance shut him down before if he's so easily located? Why does he live on a planet/moon surrounded by a big glowing ion cloud? The whole thing is like a bad hacker movie. It was all fairly unnecessary too. His only purpose in the plot was to help Mal determine what set River off, which he already deduced half on his own, and to provide equipment to let Mal broadcast a message to the whole planetary system. Both of these plot devices could have been provided by less lame things.

In any case, the rest of the movie is spectacular. River fighting off the reavers all by herself and the space battle in the ion cloud are easily the two most bad ass moments ever seen in the Firefly franchise and the operative as an antagonist is every bit as compelling as Early was in Objects in Space. I found it fascinating how Mal and the operative were essentially mirrors of one another. Both strong willed in their belief in their cause and operating under a strict code of honor and both fighting with valor. It's also nice to see that the operative, while quite twisted, may not be evil after all. Again, once his purpose had been rendered irrelevant, he saw no need to continue the fight. I have a lot of respect for his character for that.

In the end, this film is a great and much appreciated continuation of and conclusion to the Firefly franchise. I say conclusion because even if Firefly is ever continued in some way, as I noted above, it will never be the same again with two main characters dead. However, I would love to see a continuation despite it not being quite the same, as the Firefly universe is compelling and well written and deserves to be continued.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Lennier on 2009-07-07 at 3:45am:
    I love practically every second of this movie, but the strange thing is, I saw it in a theater when it came out and hated it. I can attribute any number of reasons to this: I had zero context, I had a preconceived notion that it was just another zombie movie-isn't that ridiculous? ;-) I also wasn't paying attention to any of the nuances, for whatever reason. Anyway, whatever the case, I'm eternally grateful for the second chance I gave this movie. I was cheering for River towards the end there.

    Best space battle ever? That would be a resounding yes.

    Also, I'm in 100% agreement with your last paragraph.
  • From elim on 2009-07-07 at 7:42pm:
    I absolutely loved the non-Mr.-Universe-related parts of this movie when I first saw it, but the more I think about it, the more irritating I find the explanation of the Miranda/Reaver stuff. It was unnecessarily stretching the bounds of plausibility to promote a lame neo-Panglossian message.

    It’s like the standard mad scientist cliché. Some crazy person with good intentions tries to benefit mankind with technology. Then because of how incompetently it’s executed unspeakable horrors ensue and everybody learns a valuable lesson about why you shouldn’t try to change the world. Only instead of learning that trying to master nature with technology will inevitably result in everybody being killed by dinosaurs, we learn that trying to create world peace will inevitably result in everybody being killed by zombies.

    It’s still one of the better science fiction movies this decade, and the rest of the non-Mr.-Universe-related parts of the movie are still totally awesome. I just wish he had come up with a better explanation for everything.
  • From elim on 2009-07-07 at 8:46pm:
    On the more awesome side of things, in the commentary tracks for Firefly, they really like to point out that the entire ship consisted of two sets, one for the top floor and one for the bottom floor. In the movie, the first scene set on Serenity itself features Mal going through every room on the entire ship and it’s all done in one take. That was pretty badass.
  • From Pemmer Harge on 2010-12-06 at 12:24pm:
    This is a pretty good film. The early scenes are enjoyable, then I found it lagged a bit in the middle, but after they got to Miranda things cannoned along nicely to the end. I guess the big talking point is the two deaths - I thought Wash's was well executed, Shepherd Book's not so much. As soon as they got to that devastated camp I knew exactly how it was going to play out. If this were a TV episode, I'd probably rate it an 8 or 9, but as a film, considering I have to compare it to sci-fi classics like Blade Runner, Alien and Brazil, I'll give it a 7.
  • From tigertooth on 2012-01-20 at 2:23pm:
    You asked "Why didn't the alliance clean up Miranda and settle it?"

    Isn't the answer that it's surrounded by Reavers?

    Anyway, I never was that wild about the explanation for the Reavers that we got during the show. The movie wrapped that up quite nicely for me.

    The history of Book never gets explained, which is a bummer. I understand why they felt they couldn't tackle that along with the other stuff they wanted to do. But Book always felt like an enigma to me -- not only his character's history and his motives for being aboard Firefly, but also in a "why did Whedon put this character on the show?" way. I never totally got what he added to the mix.

    Overall, quite an enjoyable finale to the show.
  • From Alex on 2012-05-22 at 10:37am:
    The Allience can't clean up Miranda because Miranda is behind Reaver space. This is supported by Zoe saying "even the Allience doesn't go there." in reference to the Reaver space between Haven and Miranda.
  • From akzfowl on 2014-09-21 at 3:08am:
    Firstly, the existence of the Reavers itself is suppressed by the Alliance to prevent any questions about them arising from the general public. From the mentions on the show you could clearly see that the Empire had kept enough of a lid on it for Reavers to be mentioned as mythical creatures that are just tales from the rim. It is only the rim worlds that actually know about them from chance (possibly gruesome) encounters.

    Not only was the Alliance wary of the Reavers, they needed the entire Miranda debacle to remain in the dark since it might otherwise cause uprisings like it did here

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