A World Without Sin: Short review of Serenity

When Firefly first appeared on TV, I just wasn’t won over. I was a huge fan of anime space westerns (like Trigun and Cowboy Bebop), and Firefly just seemed like a pale imitation. Thus, I suppose I’m partially at fault that the series was canceled. (Please forgive me, browncoats.)

That would be the end of it, until my brother urged me to see Serenity. My brother shares similar tastes as me, so I asked him if I’d enjoy the movie even if I wasn’t bowled over by the TV show. And he assured me that I didn’t even need to see the show to enjoy the movie.

You know what? He was right.

Serenity isn’t a wall-to-wall action movie, nor does it have the world’s special effects. What it is, though, is what I expect in a sci-fi movie: it was as if Asimov’s Foundation or a Mike Resnick novel were brought to life. In other words, Serenity is a movie that feels like a true sci-fi novel.

The movie is about River Tam (Summer Glau), the future’s equivalent of Supergirl, and the future government’s mission to find her before her powers reveal one of the government’s most clandestine secrets. It’s also about the crew of the the starship Serenity, who surround her and have different motivations. They all feel like real human beings, each with their own ambitions. They’re outlaws, former soldiers on the losing side of the war, and they’ve resorted to bank robbery to survive.

Mal (Nathan Fillion) isn’t always easy to understand — his language a garbled mix of old-timey American homesteader and Chinese. Yet, like Brad Pitt’s character in “Snatch,” the only thing you need to know is how he reacts to situations. Over the course of the movie, he transforms from a man on the edge of amorality to a decisive leader that wins the crew’s respect. Jayne (Adam Baldwin) steals several of the scenes with his badassery and provides a moral counterpoint.

Things get complex when they’re pursued by two sets of villians: the Reavers, who are mindless zombies that know how to pilot spacecraft; and an Alliance assassin, an unrepentant killer who carries around a huge sword. (The shades of space western anime are still here, I see.) Yet, this is the kind of movie where you can sympathize with the killer. This is especially true when Joss Whedon has his trademark “villian-who-suddenly-finds-out-he’s-in-way-over-his-head” moment.

But the movie boils down to choices and what it means to do the right thing, even if means losing your life. The finale is a tense face-off, mainly because in only a short amount of time, I came to like these characters and feared their fates during the inevitable zombie attack. (You know, where everyone’s holed up in a building and the zombies start knocking down windows.) The martial arts scenes are also quite good: they were very realistic, and each move looked like it could hurt legit.

So I’m speaking to all the sci-fi, non-Browncoat fans out there: check out Serenity. It’s totally worth your while.


9 thoughts on “A World Without Sin: Short review of Serenity

  1. I’m glad you liked Serenity. It is a fun movie.

    You might try watching Firefly in the order it was intended. Most people enjoy it better that way. The way it was aired was out of order.

  2. Life long Trekkie but love “Firefly/Serenity”. Would like some more but looks like it’s not going to happen. Oh yeah, have the whole series on DVD and oddly enough two copies of “Serenity”. Anybody know where I can get complete plans for Serenity the ship? When I get rich (yeah, right) I want to build a full sized model…and live in it…maybe somewhere in Oklahoma to really freak people out.

  3. I loved Firefly the series and loved the movie becasue it gave us some kind of closure to the River Tam storyline. I still would like to see what happens with Mal and Inara. I dont think she is done completely with “Whoring” and I dont think Mal will accept her otherwise and there would be great stories written.
    Also I will miss Wash and Zoe’s romance. I really will. Them two were made for each other in this script and it was a pleasure to see them two actors so opposite of each other work together and make them so honestly in love with each other. Wonderful work! Id also like to see the relationship with Kaylee and the good Doctor Simon! What happens there and how they grow and materialize under the pressure of being smugglers. With Doctor Simon does he go back to being a doctor because now they arent being chased or does he embrace his life on the edge as a smuggler/Doctor?
    I own the series and movie and still crave for more!

    And for the record, Hansolo is a great smuggler, but Malcom Renolds has to maintain a crew moral, fly a ship strait on the edges of space with little or no “gas” <– (one of my favorite episoeds) and has a dozen great cast of Villans he contends with. For instance Nishka is outright one of the best Villans he could have ever had the pleasure of encountering. Nishka tortures his enemies, not freeze them in carbonite and stick em on the wall. He flat out cuts ears off and just looks to "Meet the REAL you"
    Villans shape the Hero and Firefly has an incredible abondance of them. Oh and cant forget the HOT wife too… LOL.
    Brown Coat forever!

    Moone Shadow

  4. I’m watching Serenity, for the umpteenth time, on the SyFy Channel as I write this. It’s one of the few movies I just can’t help watching whenever it comes on. I’d never even heard of Firefly before seeing the movie and that’s too bad, because I might have enjoyed it more had I not already known how the story ends.

    I ran across your post while doing some research for a possible post of my own. I like what you had to say. And I absolutely love the River Tam image!

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