Serenity: The Movie

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Serenity: The Movie   Overview

Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family–squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal. When Mal takes on two new passengers–a young doctor and his unstable, telepathic sister–he gets much more than he bargained for. The pair are fugitives from the coalition dominating the universe, who will stop at nothing to reclaim the girl. The crew that was once used to skimming the outskirts of the galaxy unnoticed find themselves caught between the unstoppable military force of the Universal Alliance and the horrific, cannibalistic fury of the Reavers, savages who roam the very edge of space. Hunted by vastly different enemies, they begin to discover that the greatest danger to them may be on board Serenity herself.

It’s about how much freedom you can take away from somebody before they either fold or fight. It’s about the right to be wrong and the nature of human beings, that they need the freedom to be wrong. That they cannot be made to be better or perfect.” — Joss Whedon on his new movie, Serenity.

    Serenity, in a nutshell

For audiences that have not seen the TV series Serenity, is a major motion picture focused on two character’s lives: Malcolm Reynolds and River Tam. It is a continuation of a failed television series, Firefly, that was cancelled after 11 episodes, after a cancellation insuring Friday night schedule, in which FOX insisted on showing episodes out of order and interrupted by baseball games.

Remarkably, fans wouldn’t allow the signal to be stopped. Neither would Firefly’s creator, Joss Whedon, best known as the creator of the TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The impossibility of a cancelled TV series getting $40 million to make a movie alone should tweak your interest.

Fortunately, you do not need to have seen the TV series to follow the movie, but viewing the delightful and best selling DVD set, Firefly, does help breathe more life into understanding the characters.   Serenity’s Director Whedon does a masterful job of introducing you to the ship’s crew at the beginning of the film, without requiring those who have not seen the TV show to previously learn anything about the characters.  But if you are curious ….

What is important for a person to know going into the movie is that 500 years in the future, Earth is used up.  A new solar system has been colonized by transforming the planets and moons into Earthlike environments.  Such terraforming is a hard, long and arduous process.  Those who move onto the planets first have first claim, but the hardest time of it, since the planet is still turning earthlike.

“There is no ‘news.’  There’s the truth of the signal, what I see, and there’s the puppet theater the parliament’s jesters foist on the somnambulant public.  Monkeys taught to say the word ‘monkey,’ lead story on thirty-two planets.”  — “Mr. Universe,” in Serenity

In many ways Serenity is a western shot in a science fiction motif.  There are pioneers eking out a living on the outer worlds.  The inner worlds were terraformed first, and have been around the longest.  It is the inner worlds that are “civilized.”  It is the inner worlds that formed the Alliance, who demand allegiance of all.

The outer planets resisted being incorporated into the Alliance, and fought a war to remain independent.  They lost.  Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), Mal for short, was a former sergeant in the army of the Independents (known as Browncoats), on the losing side of a civil war with the Alliance.


“So here is us, on the raggedy edge. Don’t push me, and I won’t push you.† — Mal




Six years later, ex-Sgt. Reynolds buys a Firefly class transport ship at a junk yard, and restores it.  He names it Serenity, after his last major battle of the war at Serenity Valley, where virtually all of his soldiers were forsaken by his commanders, and slaughtered by the Alliance.



    “Half of writing history is hiding the truth.”  Mal

The Corporal who fought with him at his side, Zoë (Gina Torres) is now his First Officer who follows the Captain, but stands for theJayne puts the Me in Mercenary crew. They have picked up a Ship’s Pilot, Wash (Alan Tudyk), who is now married to Zoë. And a Ship’s Mechanic, Kaylee (Jewel Straite) who longs to be in the ships doctor’s arms. And a “public relations officer.† Well more of a mercenary actually, named Jayne (Adam Baldwin), who really puts the Me in Mercenary.



They had a Registered Companion onboard, Inara (Morena Baccarin), who had rented one of Serenity’s two shuttles for her business, prostitution, which lends respectability to Mal’s operation.  She now runs a Companion training house on one of the outer worlds.

Mal’s trade is operating a cargo transport, and guns for hire on the outer rim of the solar system.  Whenever civilization begins to show up, he moves his ship a little further from the Alliance’s grasp. 

Serenity’s crew are the bad guys.  To supplement their honest labor they smuggle untaxed cargo, and pull off petty robberies, pillaging Alliance supported assets.  And these are the good guys in the movie.  This is one of the great, twisted plots that makes Serenity and Firefly so darned good.  The characters have great three dimensional background, and a lot of flaws, quirks and quips.  The actors are really committed to their roles, have great chemistry and it shows.  [The cussing is in Chinese.]


“Why is it that the greater scheme     always makes everything not that great?”     — Mal


Along the way they had picked up a passenger, Sheppard Book (Ron Glass), a preacher on a ship where the captain wasn’t overly fond of God, having lost his spirituality when the Battle for Serenity Valley was lost.  Book now has a flock on an outer world.



And taking on a Ship’s Doctor, Simon Tam (Sean Maher) fleeing with his barely sane 17 year old sister, River Tam (Summer Glau), whom he rescued from years spent in an secret Alliance human experimentation laboratory.  The two are being relentlessly hunted by the Alliance, who fear the secret of what they have created will be exposed, and are willing to go to any length to prevent that.  Thus a extraordinary game of cat-and-mouse begins when the Alliance sends one of its most dangerous enforcers, known only as The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) after the ship.


“Weren’t River that did it, you know that.  Somebody decided her brain was just another piece of property to take – fenced it right up.” — Mal


As the wanted crew of Serenity seeks to evade the dangerous Alliance, they have to also steer clear of another menace existing in the outer worlds, the mysterious Reavers:  Humans who have turned savage and live recklessly as nomadic pirates in ships upon the black of space;  murdering and pillaging settlements and spaceships when the opportunity strikes.   


“A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people— better.  And I do not hold to that.  So no more running.  I aim to misbehave.” — Mal


Finding themselves hunted by vastly different enemies, the ship’s crew begin to discover that the greatest danger to them may be on board Serenity herself.


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