A review of Joss Whedon’s “Serenity”…

08/25/2005

Last night – eight hours after landing back in the UK – I went to see a very special movie. In fact I went to see a very special preview of a very special movie. I went to see Serenity. And if you like adventure films, character-driven drama, sci-fi or just have any desire to watch something intelligent, exciting and funny, then I thoroughly recommend that you watch it too. It’s as good a film as the Lord of the Rings films at their best. All the recent Star Wars movies put together aren’t fit to clean its boots. I can’t think of a sci-fi film in my recent memory that can touch it, frankly. It’s out in a month. You will go and see this movie

Now I have to be honest with you, I – like many many other people – was a fan before I got in the room – although my love for the show was far from immediate. I’d loved some of Joss Whedon’s earlier stuff on Buffy and Angel – smart shows with vivid characters that burst out of the genre fiction ghetto – but the premise of Firefly hadn’t really immediately grabbed my attention. In the end I won the DVD in some ludicrous competition and after ignoring it for a few weeks, I started to watch the show that had been cancelled before the end even of its first season.

DVD Disc One was pretty good, but it took until the end of the second disc for me to start realising that I was loving every minute of it, and from there I just started devouring episode after episode. And it started getting more and more entertaining until suddenly… Nothing. The end. Cut down in its pride. I bought the DVD for a few friends, and watched them fall in love the same way I had. And then we heard about the film…

So the story goes a bit like this – 20th Century Fox cut the show down before it was finished. No one was watching it. Who can blame them. But the DVD sales – fueled by word of mouth and an almost insane love of the show from its fans – were enormous. Based on this and the strength of the premise and characters, Universal decided to fund a film. This never happens. This is really really strange.

And what’s the film like? It’s big and its funny and it scary and it’s unafraid to talk about big stuff. I do not think that having seen the TV series is necessary to enjoying this film, but I can’t say for certain. The set-up is strong and introduces as many of the large group of character as you could possibly expect. There’s enough here to carry anyone into the universe and to care about what happens to the people in it. It’s an action-adventure but it’s not plotless or trivial, and so it’s possible that fresh audiences dealing with multiple backstories might find it a little confusing the first time through. But even if they are, I think they’ll get enough from it to want to see it again. It is a very. good. film.

And if you have watched the show – you’re in for a treat. There is nothing here for a fan to quibble about, and their added familiarity with the characters and investment in their lives will make the whole experience that much sweeter, more painful and more engaging. I totally agree with Londonist on pretty much all of that stuff. And what happens? I can’t spoil it for people – except to say that the battles are huge, the characters true and you could not expect such a battle to be fought without cost.

And you’ll get your ending if that’s all you want. You’ll be happy. Those fans who felt the show was left to die in its infancy will see it get the send-off it deserves. But I want more. After the screening, Joss Whedon himself and Summer Glau participated in a little Q&A session. Joss is funny in person. He’s personable and pleasant and a bit geeky. He’s put his heart and soul into this movie and it shows. He took a considerable amount of time to answer people’s questions and talked about an enormous range of subjects. He clearly wants to get the fans motivated and out in the world proselytising.

And for once, I don’t begrudge it. For once, I’m not suspicious. I don’t feel manipulated by marketeers. This film is worth celebrating. It’s worth shouting about. It deserves a sequel. If ever a fan favourite deserved to succeed its this one, and it deserves to succeed now, not on DVD in decades to come. So stir up the family, get your friends to watch the series and realise what they’ve been missing, and get yourself down to the cinema with about a dozen other people when this film is released. The word is out. You won’t regret it. This film is shit-hot. And if you don’t believe me, then check out its IMDB Rating of 9.1 from 1358 users. It’s a classic in the making…