Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Serenity Review


I saw Serenity last night, courtesy of the kind (if slightly pushy) folks at Grace Hill Media, and it was everything I (a Firefly fan) was hoping for and more: tense, exhilarating, smart, heartbreaking, and hilarious.

More importantly, it wasn't just another Firefly episode (or even merely Best Firefly Episode Ever); it was a movie. A Big Damn Movie. The effects are bigger, the cinematography is more fluid, the stakes are higher, and the actors (especially Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau) effortlessly inhabit their new roles as Movie Stars.

An immensely enjoyable opening scene does a great job of bringing non-fans up to speed while avoiding (and poking fun at) the clumsy exposition used in lesser films. This pre-credit sequence also introduces the coolest villain to come along in a long time: The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiafor), an Alliance assassin who believes
absolutely in advancing noble ends through means he acknowledges to be evil. ("I am a monster," he says at one point; "there is no place for me" in the better world he hopes to create.)

Then it's on to Serenity to (re-)introduce the crew. Fans will be happy to settle in with the characters they have grown to love; non-fans will get a brief snapshot of each character, just enough to make them care, before the first of a half-dozen tense and exciting action sequences. About these, no specifics, except to say that when his characters are in danger, Joss makes you believe they're in
danger. Also, River kicks ass--but then you knew that from the trailers.

The rest of the movie is the escalating struggle between Mal and The Operative; beyond that, I won't go into any details. Suffice it to say that it entails enormous stakes, and goes from tense to exhilarating to creepy to terrifying and back again. All of this is leavened with Whedon's trademarked wisecracks--the desperate hilarity of people "out on the raggedy edge" (as Mal puts it)--humor best typified by an exchange between Mal and Wash during a difficult landing:

Wash: This is going to get pretty interesting.
Mal: Define interesting.
Wash: 'Oh god, oh god, we're all going to die?'

If you're a fan, I don't need to convince you; you've died and gone to heaven. If you aren't, then go see the most purely entertaining movie to come out of Hollywood in a long time.

And then buy the DVDs.