Nothin’ here but a good-old fashioned space Western
A bit of a difficult task, here: objectively judge whether Joss Whedon’s Serenity is, in fact, a great movie.
Certainly, I loved it. But I loved Firefly, Whedon’s short-lived Fox series that this film follows. So while I may certainly be its target audience, I don’t know that I’m exactly the right person to say whether it does anything good – or even sensible – to a newbie.
I think it does, though. I could tell where the writing was meant to exposit for the benefit of the uninitiated, and it seemed pretty organic and inoffensive to me, the Firefly faithful. So in terms of raw plot, I think it succeeds; and it’s certainly a barnburner of a plot. It involves an evil space empire, a plucky band of rebels, the secret held in the mind of a crazy young psychic, and plenty of massive setpieces. Sure, you’ve heard some of the notes before, but it’s a genre film, and goddamn if it isn’t out to be the best genre film it can manage. This is the film that the recent entries in the Star Wars series longed to be: lots of action, great dialogue, heroes and villains both larger than life. Like the series before it, it’s a near-perfect fusion of sci-fi and western, and not since the original Star Trek has that fusion been so exhilirating. Not that there’s been much competion, but this has to be the most thrilling sci-fi film of the last couple years.
The show transitions to the big screen with remarkable agility, especially given that Whedon’s never made a feature before. Some shots seem consciously designed to call attention to how fucking awesome it is that you get to see these people and this ship on the big screen, but they are few and far between, and can’t clutter up the adventure.
I question how much emotional investment the blind audience member might have in the goings-on, many of which seem very much pitched at someone who’s already lived with these people for 15 hours. In particular, there’s a couple incidents of high emotion towards the end that seem the require a knowledge of the characters that the film simply doesn’t provide. But I guess if the worst you can say is that non-fans are just going to get a great sci-fi action film and not Great Drama, you can’t complain too loudly.
8/10 (with a little bit taken away because it’s sorta exclusionary)