Reviewed by Galen Strickland
This review was originally uploaded on August 30, 2005, one month prior to the U. S. release of Serenity.
This is intended to be a spoiler-free review of Serenity, although I realize others might argue that point. I will post a full review no sooner than September 30, maybe a few days later, as I will endeavor to critique it as thorougly as possible. That review will only be linked to from this page so as to avoid anyone accidentally stumbling upon it.
Please bear in mind that this is being written by someone who considers himself to be as big a Firefly fan as it is possible to be. I am a longtime science fiction fan, of books and films and television (and a tv/movie buff in general), but this is the first time I have become totally obsessed with a television show, and thus I have been looking forward to this film more than any other I can recall.
NOTE: If you have already seen Serenity, or if you don't care if you are spoiled for a film, click here to read my full review - otherwise just continue on with this page.
My expectations were high to say the least, and that is probably the reason my first viewing of Serenity left me a bit disappointed. Not that I disliked it, rather it was not what I was expecting. I had forgotten what Joss Whedon had said previously; this is not Firefly, but more epic in scope. Firefly had many smaller moments, character-driven story arcs that work well on the small screen, where you can devote one episode to certain characters then focus on others in future shows. With a major motion picture you do not have that luxury, with perhaps two hours to tell a story that might have taken a full season on tv.
I have seen Serenity twice now (both in pre-release screenings), and I enjoyed the second viewing much more. Either there had been some minor edits, or else there were certain scenes and lines that I missed the first time around. I left the first screening with the feeling that Wash and Zoe's relationship was given short shrift, but now I feel it should be very obvious to movie-goers that they have a great deal of affection for each other. I wish Kaylee had been given more screentime and that Inara's profession was made more obvious to those who have never seen Firefly, but those were some of the sacrifices Joss had to make. He even left all filmed scenes with award-winning actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog, tv's "24") on the cutting room floor.
It has been well discussed that Whedon had wanted the character of Mal Reynolds to be dark and brooding (and for very good reasons), but that also caused the most contention with FOX television. Serenity is obviously closer to his original vision. Even though it seems to be mostly about River and what the Alliance did to her, it really is more about Mal's capacity for compassion and conscience, along with his regaining of faith (in himself and humanity, not God). There has been quite a bit of talk comparing Mal to Han Solo, but I don't agree. Mal is a much more complex character, braver and with a better defined code of ethics, and I would argue that Nathan Fillion is also the better actor.
For anyone who is less than thrilled with the movie the first time they see it, I can only suggest you give it another chance, and as soon as possible afterwards. Just as Firefly has proven to hold up to multiple viewings, I know there are nuances and subtleties in Serenity that will reveal themselves if given the chance. It is a miracle we have this movie at all, and since there are no guarantees of success and sequels, Joss had to tell a story that was as dramatic as he could make it. While I will not argue that it is totally original in concept and execution, it is far superior to standard Hollywood fare, and it is sure to surprise and shock most movie-goers, with the greatest emotional impact being felt by Firefly fans.
I plan to see it opening day, perhaps more than once, certainly several times while it is in theaters, and I can't wait for the dvd with deleted and extended scenes and Joss' commentary.
My Firefly Review
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