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.