L. Neil Smith's
Number 340, October 9, 2005

 Tenth Anniversary Edition, Part 2 

Not So Shiny Serenity
by Michael Brightbill

Exclusive to TLE

After much waiting and a pushed back opening date, the movie continuation of Joss Whedon's great TV show, Firefly was released into theaters. If you haven't seen the TV show, where have you been? Go out immediately and purchase a copy of the DVD set. I had eagerly awaited this movie for some time, and attended the opening showing with glee.

Allow me a breakdown of the generic synopsis of the show and movie.

Man has exfiltrated from earth and settled hundreds of terraformed planets and moons in the galaxy. When the Alliance began to institute a centralized government on all the worlds and planetoids, the outer planets kindly declined their offer of "civilized" life. There was a great war between the Alliance and the Independents, AkA, The Browncoats. The Independents eventually lost the war, and were forced to kowtow to the Alliance.

The TV series takes place several years after the war, and stars Nathan Fillion as Mal Reynolds, captain of a firefly class cargo ship, christened "Serenity," ex-browncoat, and one of the few surviving Independents of The Battle of Serenity Valley.

With him is his first mate: Zoe, played by Gina Torres, and her husband and pilot of the space transport Serenity, Wash, who is played by Alan Tudyk. Also there is the hired muscle, Jayne, played by Adam Baldwin, registered "companion" Inara, played by Morena Baccarin, the "brilliant" mechanic, Kaylee, played by Jewel Staite, Shepherd Book, played by Ron Glass, and the previously mentioned brother and sister Simon and River Tam, played by Sean Mahr and Summer Glau.

With this crew, Mal travels around the galaxy, moving illicit and sometimes stolen cargo, and generally snubbing his nose at the Alliance.

The TV show was brilliant.

The movie... not so much.

The movie starts with the escape of River and Simon from the government instillation that has kept River prisoner and used her as an experiment in psy-ops.

This leads to the introduction of Parliament's Man's, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. A highly trained, nameless and rank-less assassin that kills without question, but does state that this is an "honorable" and "good" death... as he shoves his foot long sword into your chest. His job? To hunt down and eliminate the threat that River Tam poses.

After killing a few guys, we finally get to the namesake of the movie, Serenity, as she enters "atmo" on an outer planet to rob a security firm's Alliance payout.

Things go well on planet until Reevers, cannibalistic, self desecrating savages that live in space and raid planets for food and sexual release; read "people."

The team gets out by the skin of their teeth, and head off planet to meet up with their fencer.

There is a major dust up between River's brother, Simon, and Mal, which seems to be a major step backward from the TV series when Mal finally accepted that River and Simon were part of his crew, and thus, part of the family.

When they reach their contact in a bar, River goes crazy and starts beating the crap out of everyone in the room. Mal and friends are able to subdue River and skedaddle back to the ship and get offworld. Now River's handcuffed and locked in the pantry. Everyone shouts about how "she'll kill us all" and "we need to get rid of them as fast as possible." This is another step backward from the trust and care that had grown in the crew at the end of the TV series.

From something River said at the bar, the crew begin a hunt for a mysterious "Miranda" that take them all over space.

The fight in the bar comes to the attention of the Parliament's Operative. He at one point uses Inara to flush out Mal, only to have them escape in the end.

When Mal tries to head for safe land to hide out, he finds it razed to the ground. For reasons I will not go into, this steels his resolve to find out what the Parliament's secret is, and then make sure everyone in the galaxy knows as well.

I'm not going to go much further into details; due to the likelihood I'd ruin it for everyone.

Needless to say, the good guys win, the bad guys are vanquished, and love and happiness reign across the land.

The movie, on a whole, was enjoyable. I'm sure that people that have never seen the TV show would like the shiny lights, and gun battles. The movie though, for me was disappointing.

There are several questions that were raised in the TV show that this movie could have answered. The movie though, decided to answer the question that, at least I, never asked.

The writing was well done, though sometimes, when compared to Whedon's other work, seemed to be clunky and unnecessary. When just a look or a gesture would have worked well, he gave us long dispositions.

The acting was ok, but seemed to be short that spark, that lighthearted whimsy the actors had during the TV series.

Humor was one of the greatest facets of the TV series, but was in short supply in the movie. In the TV show, even when under heavy fire, and fellow solders were dying left and right, Mal had some of the funniest lines. Not so in this movie. It seems that getting his show to the big screen didn't make Whedon happy enough to write the snappy, wisecracking dialogue that we have all grown to love from the TV series.

Yes, the funny dialogue is there, it's just in short supply, and makes you chuckle, as opposed to roar with laughter.

The cinematography was excellent, though. The space battle scenes were a rollercoaster ride. The swooping and barrel rolls were great fun. The only thing that I missed from the TV show was the shaky, sometimes jerky "handheld" effect of zooms and pans that were prevalent in the show.

The very end is the thing that bothers me the most. After revealing this huge secret of the Parliament's activities, everyone pats themselves on the back and agrees that the Parliament is going to fall and die with a whimper.

I'm sorry, but after hundreds upon hundreds of years of experience of making sure it's "someone else's fault" and ensuring that everyone else is to blame but them, the likelihood that Parliament will feel any fallout from this revelation is going to be negligible.

Likely, what will happen is the Parliament will create a massive inquiry panel that will investigate itself, and then maybe fire two or three secretaries and adjuncts.

Then, the panel will recess for coffee and golf, and it will be business as usual the following Monday, right after they announce that it was a fake, and blame Mal and his consorts for perpetrating such a lie. The worst part? Everyone will buy it.

The overripe naiveté of the characters at the end made me want to throw something at the screen. That was the greatest problem I had with the entire show.

What ever happened to the Mal that said,

"That's what governments are for, [to] get in a man's way."

I give it 2 Reever raped and eaten government officials out of 5 Reever raped and eaten government officials.

See it, enjoy it, and then leave realizing how much better the TV show is.

[Additional reviews of Serenity are in the works.—Editor]


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