Richard reviews Serenity

Serenity_Poster5.jpgFor me the biggest movie to go and see at the Edinburgh International Film Festival was Serenity. Not just because of two of the most gorgeous looking women on the screen just now, Gina Torres or Morena Baccarin, but because of the excellent writing I had heard while watching the TV series from which the movie continues, Firefly.

I am not quite through the entire TV series, but I am enjoying it, yet I’m not totally hooked. The thing is for me the series is still too episodic and the big story line that runs throughout the movie, River Tam, is far too frustrating to hang in with for a long period of time. I mean her lines really are nonsensical, and I couldn’t see connections except on a few episodes where she would mumble something and later in the episode you would see what she was referring to and you realised, she’s not just mad. So the series didn’t really hook me in enough, but still, I wanted to see the movie because it was big, a premiere, two stunning ladies are in it, and Joss Whedon‘s clever scripting.

The movie kicks off straight into the action in a very strong way. You’re hooked from the opening moment, and not having seen the ending of the series, the opening is a bit of a shock too. Oh, before I go too far I will let you know that I’m going to write this totally spoiler free.

This is a running theme with the movie, it’s got some really good action sequences. Actually, no, it’s got some excellent action sequences. Something I often notice about movies with set pieces of action is that they stand out, and the gaps between them can often highten your awareness of the sequences and they stick out from the movie. Not here. In this film although there are sequences of action, they don’t stand out from the rest of the movie, and the action actually feels constant throughout. I don’t think Whedon let’s up much throughout the movie.

It’s Whedon that does some excellent work here, bringing the movie from the realms of an early evening TV series to a harder hitting, darker and slightly more complex tale. The clever scripting of dialogue and character interplay is still here from the series, and it’s been ramped up a bit more too. It’s this dialogue and interplay that make the characters so alluring to the audience, making them so different but running with common beliefs keeping them together. Whedon really has to be applauded for that. It bodes extremely well for his coming movies, and hopefully another Serenity or two.

He’s added some to the characters too. Making the Captain more complex and revealing a bit more of his darker element, which during the second act seems to hint at a huge group split, this is not the happy band as in the series. Taking this dialogue and the interplay and turning it into a believable performance that the audience can connect with is a big job for the actors, and for the most part they pull it off really well. I’d say that some of the roles do rely on previous knowledge, as does some of the dialogue between them, but it won’t spoil the movie if you haven’t seen the series, just lessen the experience.

Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburn: This is gonna get pretty interesting.
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Define “interesting”.
Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburn: Oh, God, oh, God, we’re all gonna die.

There are some great moments, and really funny ones too. The Press audience I was with (and the mad row behind me of cinema staff) did laugh out loud quite a few times, and all down to the dialogue and most often from the Captain or Jayne. There’s a nice little scene early on discussing grenades which tails off into a conversation behind the main dialogue, I liked that and thought it was cleverly done. It was also still keeping the same level of the writing even though you probably wouldn’t hear it.

The whole character introduction sequence is very well put together now that I think about it. It wasn’t until late on into it I realised I was being taken on a quick tour of introduction, with the camera constantly moving around the ship and talking to each character on board. It was a nice scene for those that have come from the series, and I would think the new audience too.

It’s not all great though, looking back on the series the movie story is huge, and continues to build as it progresses. I couldn’t help but feel that Whedon was writing this as the last outing of the Universe and that the plot had to be much, much bigger than the series and that it had to have a feeling of completeness, rounding everything nicely at the end. I’m not sure it needed to go so big, and so complete. It feels now that there is nowhere for another film to go.

The ending was also a little bit of a let down, there is a crucial moment at the end which is just too neat for me, and a couple of twee scenes throughout. The before-attack-“I love you” speech was a bit too stock and I shook my head in disbelief at how much it stuck out, but then Whedon managed to pull it back just enough with some of his clever dialogue.

That is indeed the key to this movie, Whedon’s writing, it’s superb. The dialogue is sharp, witty, quickfire and sarcasm filled. He’s also got a great understanding of how to pull the audience’s strings. Tension, suspense and impending danger often twist around in a shocking or explosive moment delivering a good deal of the entertainment value. He’s without a doubt a great writer and director and he shows it here, he’s a great entertainer.

I really liked this movie, it was great fun. However I faltered a little at the end with the storyline, and wished it could have been a little less mammoth, and a little less complete. Firefly fans will positively adore this movie, and those new to the story should love it and be interested enough to return to the series. I think it’s a really safe bet to say we’ll be seeing more of this crew in the future.

Original review on my site
IMDB UK movie details
My voting history on UK IMDB

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37 thoughts on “Richard reviews Serenity

  1. Interesting comments, but I have to disagree with Steve.

    I thought the movie was very good, but that it is likely to be quite underrated by many. It lacks much of th flash that we have become so accustomed to, but more than makes up with substance.

    It tells a story and develops characters rather than focussing on expensive and unbelievable special effects. This was for me the difference between the original star wars movies and the modern ones.

    I thought the characters were rich and interesting, the storyline and plot were ok too. The girls haunting flahbacks were ultimately explained and tied in nicely with our understanding of what the reavers were and how they were created.

    The lead character has a good old fashioned screen presence that it not far off Harrison Ford. He is an adventurous, bumbling, flawed tough, intense and likeable. He also has a dark side, which makes a nice change from Hollywood’s sterile antiheros.

    I also thought the reavers (bad guys) were really frightening, and you just wanted to see what River (the heroine) could actually do when she had worked through her pschoses to a point where she function normally as part of the team. You kinda just wanted her to kick ass and she did.

    I thought it was very good, and could develop into a small cult classic.

    I certainly will go to the sequel.

  2. In my opinion a great film catches the audience from the first second to the last. It shouldnt waste an hour of your time wondering just where on earth the story line is going (a different galaxy in terms of serenity!!) Therefore i put it to you if a film fails to achieve this then it is not a GREAT film. To suggest serenity is great is a film is a mistake.The last film to do this for me was the Lord of the rings trilogy and that lasted around 9 hours!! Before that though Gladiator and Shawshank Redemption were the kings of film.

    Hello Simone, ive been away celebrating my 21st birthday recently in Manchester. Im sure you can appreciate the amount of toxic liquid in my bloodstream recently so i thought it were best to stay away from the computer!!

  3. I knew Star Wars prequels will be brought up in here. And as much as I have hung my Jedi robe, well, bring it on then. It’s such a broing Monday and I have been dying to pick a fight on anybody to start my week right.

    To Morbius, I know you didnt like the prequels very much, but tell me, if you found it so appalling as you keep saying to me, did you walk out on “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones”? You didnt did you? Can’t do it can you? I am quite sure you also bought the DVDs, and how many times have you seen it since? Maybe not as much as you ve seen the OT but you have seen it more than once, correct? So dont wind me up becuase you know I have ammunition to get back at you.

    No, I am not a big Sci-Fi fan, I said in a separate discussion I loved Stargate, that says a lot about what I know. So fry me.

    I am calm now. Whew! I love venting off steam. How are you btw Morbius? Stop grinning! Dont forget my Umberto Eco book when I see you next okay? *winks*

  4. Well Simone I am actually quite interested to know where Michael is coming from on this?

    For example does he (like yourself) consider the Star Wars prequels to be some of the greatest films of the last 10 years or were any of them the film/s he previously walked out on!

    After all if he thought Serenity had bad acting and characterisation then what on earth did he think of that awful actor playing Annakin Skywalker in the last two SW movies or Jake Lloyd in TPM? Surely that was worth walking out on?


    Seriously, winding you up aside. If Michael is a Science Fiction fan (unlike yourself and I assume Steve) then I would like some kind of perspective of his viewpoint. What does he consider good science fiction?

    (We’ll use the term “Science Fiction” in the broad sense as there is little science in films like Serenity or Star Wars.)

  5. Morbius, what will you hope to accomplish by finding out what Michael’s fave SF films are? To compare it to your own? Now that would be silly right?

    One’s taste in films be it any genre is ALWAYS subjective. If they both walked out on the film, (whether in the middle or heck, even the beginning of it) they have their own reasons why they did just so, reasons entirely their own in the same way that you are over the moon with Serenity is entirely yours. And assuming they both stayed toiwards the end, how certain are you it will change their mind about the film? Not even.

    Steve, nice to see you again here. What have you been up to? *winks* Morbius worn out? I doubt that. LOL

  6. Well again Steve there is little point in discussing a film with someone who has not actually seen it!

    Yesterday for example I watched Hitchcock’s “The Birds” which is arguebly his last great film. Virtually nothing happened (birdwise)in the first 30-40 minutes of the film. If people had walked out at that point they could easily have said the film was boring and unexciting! But would they be right?

    Anyway in the interest of furthering conversation perhaps Michael as a lifelong science fiction fan could tell us what SF films he actually does like?

  7. i thought id drop by simone!

    im alittle dissapointed though that morbius hasnt laid into michael. He seems to share my opinions of the film and i had rather hoped a hot discussion between the two of them.

    maybe i wore out our good friend!

  8. hmmmm, seems as though im not the only one with these wild opinions! It reasures me to know that someone else in the world disliked this film as much as i did. Bravo for your comments michael.

  9. That was what I initially felt about the film Michael, the need to walk out (which I have only done like once!) but I stuck with it to the end. Although I enjoyed it, I didnt leave the cinema with a sense of awe. “Serenity” whilst probably appealing to everybody else, just didnt to much to me.

  10. I have been a science fiction fan all my life. We lasted forty minutes before walking out and wondered why we waited that long. This is the 2nd or third film I’ve walked out of in my life (and I’m quite tolerant).

    Bad acting, Poor, if any characterisation, poor modulation of soundtrack, added up to a complete failure to engage. Smart posturing seems more important than acting.

    I can’t imagine how money was spent on this project in the first place. Simply awful. Wasted the price of a babysitter and an evening out with my wife on it and I find this hard to forgive.

  11. ok ok morbius, i get the picture….you like this film!

    Simone – i walked out of the film as those two guys were arguing about who should lead the serenity ship. Me and my mate couldnt bare anymore of it so we left. I guess i should have stayed, and if i did maybe morbius would respect my opinions more! (joke)

    if i think about it there are worse films around these days, i do applaud the slating of batman and robin. Also, films like alexander and oceans 12 were more painful, though i stuck with them till the end.

    Its not that im not a sci-fi fan. I enjoy star wars, loved star ship troopers (though the second film was a flop) and i was really looking forward to serenity.

    Maybe i should have watched the series before i went to see the film. In fact until i read the comments posted on this site i was unaware the film was based around a series.

    My type of film is more the epic or historic film. Braveheart, Gladiator and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are my favourites, while a good comedy like dumb and dumber, anchor man, wedding crashers and the longest yard are classics.

    still, im afraid to say, Serenity is in my bottom three worst movies EVER made!!

    I think i’ll leave you with that! :-)


    Sorry, Steve if you want to know how the film ends then go and see it again! You might feel differently about the film if you stick with it. All I will say is the reason that the Alliance is after the girl River is that she has knowledge of a big dark secret hidden inside her mind and the crew do get to find out what this secret is. Of course the crew of the Serenity cannot be allowed to live after they have discovered this secret…

    It is very rare these days that I walk out of a cinema totally satisfied with a film. I get more enjoyment watching old westerns and Hitchcock films (Simone can vouch for this) than most of the predictable films (SciFi or otherwise) that Hollywood churn out these days. This film though had me hooked, I really cared about the outcome and that is rare.

    Perhaps the reason I reacted so strongly to your post is that there are many, many other people who feel exactly the same way about this movie. Did you not read the review above from MJ Zimm above and he had not seen the series before. I only watched the series last week myself. I have read many more like it across other boards.

    Check out this review…

    Can that many people feel so strongly about a film if it is as bad as you think it is? (On the other hand of course millions of people thought the Spice Girls were a good group!)

    And sorry Simone you know you never get around to watching any DVD’s I lend you! And besides the friend who saw (and enjoyed) the film with me has borrowed them never having seen the series.

  13. Oh look at that, all’s well that ends well.

    Hi there Steve, I am Simone and Morbius is my friend, and we’re both UK based. We also OFTENTIMES disagree on many things and I like that you mentioned that in your post, about just agreeing to disagree, that’s really how its supposed to be and only recently have I come to terms with that too.

    May I ask which part of the film you left Steve? And why did you decide to walk out? Were you expecting something and didnt see it happening? I watched Serenity upon TMB’s review & Morbius recommendation and I’m glad that I did, I enjoyed it, & might even watch the series if Morbius lends me his DVD set! LOL

  14. ok, maybe i was being a little harsh with the stereotypes and i do apologize for taking the biscuit about your name. I think were going to have to agree to disagree when it comes to this film. I would like to hear other reviews of those who have also seen Serenity. It amazes me that one person enjoyed this film but if there is others out there, please tell me….WHY!!

    if you still pass these parts morbius would you care to tell me how the film actually ends? Im beguining to regret walking about as my curiosity is getting the better of me! No hard feelings! :-)

  15. You cause me no personal offence Steve. Other than the suggestion that Morbius is not my real name. It’s not as if I took it from an old Doctor Who villian as a disguise so I could wind my friend Simone up about Star Wars or anything like that!

    Seriously, I have no problem with anyone not liking any film. I can understand why you might have been a bit bored in the middle of the film. But to basically suggest that this film is a turkey of “Batman and Robin” proportions is quite another matter and clearly does not refect the very postive reactions most people who have actually seen the film have conveyed.

    The suggestion that sci-fi fans will sugar coat a films faults is quite insulting too. Do you think that SF fans blindly think that all SF Films are brilliant? (Ok you may get the odd Trekie or Star Wars fan like that but most of us are a lot harder to please.) If Serenity is a bad film then I really hope they make some more like it.

  16. i didnt mean to cause any offence by giving my review but it seems as though ‘morbius’ took it personally.

    of course this film will apeal to some kind of audience (especially people with names like morbius)but generally i think it will flop. The story was too slow and there just didnt seem to be much of a plot. The story was set with an imaginitive back drop but what was actually happening within the story was vey weak.

  17. People have different tastes in films, we can not love the same film all at the same time, good for you if you loved the film, that’s the pure beauty of it, as film is always subjective, or else there wont be a need for varying opinions.

  18. Saw it last night and really, really loved the film. Without a doubt the most enjoyable film I have seen this year. I would comment on it’s failings but I could not find any?

    I have read a few altogtether cr*p reviews of the film and many other very positive ones. It’s hard to understand how opinions on this movie are so disparate? I have heard so many people saying how much they loved the movie, including people who have not seen “Firefly”, yet others claim it is awful?

    There are so many predictable action films where everybody is just “going through the motions” including the audience. This was not one of those films. It was genuinely exciting and without spoiling it, kept you interested in the story.

    If Serenity is the only movie bad enough for Steve to have walked out on then I can only presume he has not seen many movies? In any case since he has only seen half the film he is not in a position to give us a fair review of the film.

    Simone, the film is actually set 500 years in the future. I think their society has digressed somewhat.

  19. I did feel that way too steve, checking my mobile phone several times whilst watching the film. I wouldnt say its terrible though but it just didnt do anything for me.

    Funny you mentioned that, isnt the setting set 100 years into the future? It just looked so way behind, what happened there?

    Nice try though Whedon. Taking your ala-Buffy moves and putting it in space.

    *Simone all excited anticipating the Sith release on 31 October.*

  20. this movie is terrible. its the only film ive ever walked out on half way through. Im dissapointed at everything to do with this film. The humour fell flat on its face and the special effects were well behind those from other movies. If your a huge sci-fi fan then you will probably watch this movie and suger coat its failings. An all-together cr*p film.

  21. the movie was fantastic. i got to see it opening night for free, because i work at a movie theater. i am sure that the rest of you have seen it already and loved it. that’s just my two cents.

  22. I’m very very jealous…

    I tried desperately to get tickets to see the screening in Edinburgh (bearing in mind that I live hundreds of miles away and partially over the English Channel). I’ll just have to wait like everyone else until it is on general release.

    Firefly is by far one of my favourite television series and I was delighted to find out about Serenity. I just hope that it reached a broader audience and makes enough money for a sequel to be considered.

    Here’s hoping.

  23. Can’t wait for this movie! Most of the reviews I have read have been really positive!

    That Being said, there have been some recent interviews with Joss Whedon that bothered me alot and I really feel sorry for him.

    Still to this day, Whedon is STILL angry about the whole Firefly situation with FOX. After getting the box set and seeing how Fox screwed him, I can see why. They aired the pilot last?!!! and aired the whole series completely out of order?!!! Was the scheduling person at FOX Blind? I have never even heard of a show screwed over as badly as Firefly except JMS’s CRUSADE with TNT. and at least TNT had some sense and told JMS they were cancelling it before the pilot even aired!

    Back to Whedon:according to an interview I read the other day: As much work and attention as they put into Serenity and as greatful as he is to have it made, Whedon does NOT consider Serenity as the continuation of Firely. He had detailed ideas about where Firefly would have gone had it continued and it was always planned as a long series. He never thought that a movie could have accurately portrayed his story. Serenity is its own entity and more of a off-shoot or spin-off to Whedon. I think this is why some of the fans who have seen it have some problems with the ending. As far as I can tell from interviews, Whedon has no plans to continue Firefly as a series of movies and really doesn’t WANT to translate his original epic story to movie form.

    Now if Serenity comes out and does gangbusters at the box office I’m sure the movie company will throw massive amounts of money at him for a long term sequel deal and I am sure he is not stupid and will do it, but In his heart FOX ruined his baby and any followups will not be the same.

    Saying this however, I love Whedon, love his work, and i beleive that even when his whole heart isn’t into a project…It is still better than the majority of the crap that Hollywood puts out.

  24. I’m thrilled you liked the movie! I’m so excited about seeing this film and your review has eased the concerns I had about the TV series hopping to a big movie. Glad to know it worked!

  25. Richard you lucky dog. I love the series and am really looking forward to the movie. You should watch the last episode, maybe it will mollify some of your concerns about the movie.

    Great review and warms my cockles to know that Whedon’s writing is evident in the silver screen version.

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