Review: Serenity

Published 10 years ago by , Updated August 6th, 2010 at 11:04 pm,

In case you haven’t heard, the history of the TV show Firefly (upon which Serenity is based) harkens back to that of a little known television show from the 60’s. You may have heard of it… it was called Star Trek.

Like the original Star Trek back in the 60’s, Firefly gained a strong, hard-core following right from the outset. The problem was that the show (brainchild of Joss Whedon whose previous huge hit was Buffy the Vampire Slayer) aired on FOX network. It wasn’t the fact that it was FOX so much as the fact that they showed episodes out of the intended order and instead of giving the show a chance cancelled it after only 11 episodes had aired.

Almost immediately the call went out among the small but dedicated fanbase to try to get another network to pick up the show. Unfortunately none of the networks wanted to carry the torch, but with brisk sales of the DVD version of the series, Universal decided to get a big screen version into production, and if word of mouth ends up carrying Serenity into big numbers, all those networks may end up feeling like CBS after they decided to go with Lost in Space instead of Star Trek.

I would actually recommend that you pick up the series on DVD since you can find it as ridiculously low as $30. Take a couple of days over the weekend to watch it and then go see the movie. You’ll enjoy Serenity that much more.

Having made all the comparisons to Star Trek, the similarities end with the cancellation and popularity issues mentioned previously. Serenity is not about a grand mission to explore space, but is instead more of what would happen if a bunch of working class folks got a hold of a spaceship. Serenity is the name of the ship, a Firefly-class transport that Captain “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) purchased as a near-junker sometime after a solar system-wide civil war has taken place, and his side (the Browncoats) has lost. He has a rag-tag crew (sorry for the cliche, but it fits) and they spend most of their time doing small-time jobs along the “outer rim”, the outskirts of the solar system where the planets are more like the Old West than the gleaming spires of the inner, core planets. Included in the crew are a young doctor and a teenage girl who seems to be suffering from mental problems after having been a victim of experiments by the “Alliance”, the government entity that won the war and is not as benign as the core planet citizens believe it to be.

The crew of Serenity has always known that the Alliance wants the girl (River, played by newcomer Summer Glau), but the government has stepped things up by putting a master assassin on the trail. The story takes us through the twists and turns of discovering what is so special about River and why the Alliance is after her.

That’s all I’ll say about the story, because the real strength of Serenity/Firefly comes from the characters. Joss Whedon (creator/writer/director) has crafted a great cast of complex characters. As a whole they function like a dysfunctional family that fights and bickers, with personalities that are not clear-cut… sometimes pulling them towards the easy way out while at other times pulling them towards doing the right thing. Mal is fiercely loyal to his crew, but he will not hesitate to put them in harms way if the stakes are high enough. He is strong, but not infallible and when in doubt, well he’s still the captain and that’s the end of it.

Among the rest of the crew we have Zoe (Gina Torres), his first officer who served with him during the war. Calm and reasonable, but you wouldn’t want to be on the other side during a firefight with her. There’s Wash (Alan Tudyk), her husband and pilot of Serenity, and with her toughness and his sense of humour they make an odd but endearing couple. We have Kaylee (Jewel Staite) the “Scotty” of the show, a wide-eyed (but not innocent) young lady to whom ship maintenance comes naturally. And then we come to my personal favorite Jayne, played by Adam Baldwin… He’s the most “dirty” of the bunch as far as willingness to shoot someone or sell someone out for a reward, and he’s the least intelligent of the group, but he’s the most endearing character of the bunch. He’s almost like a big kid that doesn’t know any better and just follows his impulses. In the end, if he really considers you a friend he’ll lay it all on the line for you.

There’s also Ron Glass playing a small role as Shepherd Book, a minister whose mysterious backround contains more than meets the eye (his role was larger in the TV series). I don’t recall seeing him in anything since his days on Barney Miller but I’ve always liked him as an actor and it was great to see him back on the screen.

If you’re disappointed by the watered down, cardboard character sci-fi that Star Trek has become and by Star Wars’ CGI-is-everything-and-characters-are-secondary style, you owe it to yourself to get the DVD set of Firefly and then go see Serenity. Just be warned that this isn’t for the under-10 crowd as some of it (in both the TV show and the movie) is very intense and some of it pretty graphic.

Our Rating:

5 out of 5

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  1. Thank goodness there’s finally a movie out that is worth seeing! 😀 I had cautious optimism on this one based on the trailer…

    Thanks for giving the ‘all clear’!

  2. It’s on our list to go to this one. Then hunker down and wait for Harry Potter and Narnia.

    We have been watching the old episodes of Firefly on SciFi channel and are hooked!

  3. Just back from Serenity on a Monday night. We were two of four people in the theater! Got the best seats in the house!

    We really enjoyed it. You are right about the characters. Sorry to see Shepherd had such a minor part as he was MY favorite character in the series. I have never done role playing games, but if I did, he would be my character 😉

    Spoiler here…. don’t read any more if you haven’t seen the film!!!!

    I only have ONE beef with the story.

    Too many “mortal wounds” that turned out to not be so fatal in the end. One would have been enough, but when it got to the three and four level, I got a little annoyed. But that’s not bad considering all the other good stuff…

    Especially the last line of the movie!

    Hoo Hoo!

    We got our money’s worth this time…

    Silly Tilly

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I attributed the injuries to the fact that it’s a dangerous business they’re in, and the one (which I don’t want to spoil) did catch me by surprise.

    I feel bad that this movie isn’t doing better at the box office… I would have thought that word of mouth would have really kept it going stronger.


  5. Saw it last Sunday after a friend who is so addicted to the Firefly tv series “convinced” me that I will love it.

    Well, I didnt love it but enjoyed it. It felt just too Buffy for me, this time though its in space.

  6. Considering I’ve never seen a full episode of “Buffy” I can’t speak to that point. I do believe that to REALLY enjoy the movie you have to be familiar with (and a fan of) the TV series.


  7. I have not seen a full episode of Buffy either, but have seen enough bits of the show to compare the stunts as to the one used in Serenity.

    I guess youre right Vic, I didnt have that privilege you had of having seen the Firefly series. 😉

  8. Sorry Vic, but I have to throw down the gauntlet here…

    Serenity totally crushes Star Trek. Really, how could you compare the two? This is the best movie since the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy! I’m not just talking about the awesome FX, the empathetic characters, the edge-of-your-seat plot, and the incredible attention to detail in prop, costume, and scenery; but paramount is the ‘Clockwork Orange-esc’ theme!** Unlike, the sissified (prime directive this) sterilized future portrayed in Star Trek, the universe of Serenity is gritty and chaotic. It’s a blend of western with sci-fi, but not too much of the former so as to make it goofy. Face it, Serenity is the workin man’s geek-fest whereas Star Trek is just plain geeky.

    What do you say to that Rant-boy? 😉

    ** That would be, ‘Man was made with the capacity to choose between doing good or doing evil. Don’t mess with it!’

  9. I would say that I was referring to the ORIGINAL Star Trek TELEVISION series, not the hospital-clean Next Generation version or any of the movies.

    TOS Trek was not sterile, and Kirk’s hobby was finding creative ways to BREAK the prime directive. 😛

    Of course I may have a different perspective on orginal Trek since I’m old enough to be your MUCH older brother. 😉

    Glad you liked the movie, BTW.


  10. Thanks! I’m glad you took my verbal jabs at your favorite as intended; tongue in cheek. Frankly I was hoping to ignite one of your famous rants, but apparently the clean air and peaceful living of your new digs has waned your appetite for such! 😉 Come to think of it Kirk is pretty tough, especially for a guy that wears a whistle-clean spandex shirt. A yellow, long-sleeve, whistle-clean spandex shirt… :-)
    Seriously though, keep up the great reviews! -Mike

  11. I can not express how much I love this movie! I just began to watch the tv series re-runs on sci fi (which, btw, they had on at a totally inconvenient time..7:00 Fri.! gaah), and i was completely taken by surprise when the movie came out. Alas, the movie was pulled in the dumpy theater near my town within a week!
    I remained a fan, despite the lack of ‘patronage’ around here.
    I adore the characters, and it’s an excellent story. Your review definitely does justice, and I hope more people are enticed to see this movie.

  12. Thanks. I really hope that they make another one, although due to what transpired in this movie a sequel wouldn’t quite be the same.

    Perhaps Whedon should do the smart thing and quit while he’s ahead. :-)


  13. I agree, a sequel would be great. But the feeling I get from Whedon is that he kind of just wanted to show all of the critics that Firefly/Serenity could achieve much more than they all thought it could, and so he made the movie. I wish they would bring the series back, but I know it might be difficult for a show of the sci fi genre to compete with all of the reality shows and action dramas. If they did make a sequel though, do you think Zoe and Mal would have a fling? lol It kind of irks me that Mal never hooked up with Inara. :)

  14. I finally had a chance to see this movie. I liked it… it had the right balance of realism, entertainment and just a little slapstick.


  15. Has anyone out there that’s a fan of Serenity ever seen the sci-fi shows, LEXX, Red Dwarf or Farscape.
    If you liked Firefly then I would reccomend the above mentioned shows.
    And if you like your Prime Diective thrown out the airlock LEXX is for you!

  16. Im wont lie i liked the movie maybe 4 stars but not five it kinda messed with the tv show if you ask me. First thing they did terribly wrong was that they killed shepherd he was awesome and mysterious they kill him before you even get a glimpse of all his knowledge. Like why did he know so much about the assasin dude and his beliefs??? Anyway the only way they could restart the show or make a new movie is to 1. throw out the movie because it kinda ended the whole thing or 2.they’d have to leave the whole so into the characters thing and maybe widen the scale cause it talked about weakening the alliance maybe a new rebellion or 3. they could keep the characters indepth and maybe make them like lead the new rebellion or maybe just start it who nos the possibilities are pretty infinite or 4. last but not least a prequel getting some backstory on everyone (that would be better for a movie than a new tv series)

    Anyway just suggestions and ideas who nos if it will even come back

  17. Vic,

    It must make your head spin – looking at where this site was 4 years ago, and today!


    • MAKsys,

      You have NO idea… I would have never predicted that we’d get to where we are today. But now that we’re here, I’m aiming much higher. :)




    “He’s still alive, he’s still alive, he’s still alive…”