You can’t take the sky from me

I went to see Serenity the other day. Here’s a spoilerific review, in which I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but I will mention stuff which people who’d like to see it totally fresh probably don’t want to know. It’s cut for those on LJ, and there’s a bit of spoiler space for my literally 1’s of readers using RSS.

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I liked it. I liked Firefly, as I’ve mentioned before. In some ways I liked Firefly better than Buffy, as I somehow found it a more convincing world.

According to the couple of members of our party who hadn’t seen the series, Serenity does stand up well on its own, but I suspect a lot of the geekier viewers will be going because they’ve seen Firefly and want more. As a continuation of Firefly, it’s satisfying: we finally find out what exactly it is about River that makes the Alliance want her so badly (hint: it’s not that she’s made of chocolate), and the backstory of the Reavers is revealed as well.

The film is darker than most of the episodes (with the possible exception of the pilot, also entitled Serenity). Mal’s ruthless and more obviously damaged by the war. Major characters die without much warning. The villain is a total sociopath. Luckily, there is still the by-play between the characters which made the series funny, but it’s much more graveyard humour than it was before.

The special effects work well without being intrusive. Whedon finally gets his huge space battle, which is worth seeing on the big screen. Serenity (the ship) has lost some of her friendly lighting in favour of cooler blues, in keeping with a more high tech, less Old West feel to the film as a whole: you can see it in the costumes too.

My only complaint about the film is that it’s rushed (actually, that’s not my only complaint: the crew’s inability to get the Super Secret Info off the ship using a marvelous technology we call radio was slightly grating, but necessary for the plot, I suppose). We get what in TV land would be at least a season’s worth of exposition about River, and the resolution of the Alliance’s hunt for her, in a couple of hours. There’s not a lot of time for anything else. Characters other than Mal and River don’t see much development; and River herself magically transforms from Bipolar Girl into Buffy (that silhouetted shot with the axe, eh?) with barely a pause for breath.

That said, I write as someone who’d seen the original series. Totally satisfying the existing fans might have meant making an over-long film which would be of no interest to people who didn’t already care about these characters. I think Whedon’s done the best he could with the constraints that the evil Fox TV executives handed him, curse them.

In summary, it’s a good action adventure for people who’ve not seen the series, and it’s finally some more Firefly for people who have.

By the way, anyone who wants to be throughly spoiled might enjoy Serenity in 2000 Words or Less.

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