Monday, 11 October 2010

Serenity

There used to be a time when Joss Whedon could do no wrong. Obviously many (me included) think that he was doing pretty damn good when he wrote Firefly. TV networks thought otherwise. Despite the fact that it was funny, clever, exciting, had a small number of characters who played off each other very well, had some very interesting character arcs set up, had a back story/had history, had several subtle touches that made the universe in which they lived more real/have more depth, and despite the amount of SHIT TV that runs to several seasons; Firefly was cancelled before even the first series had finished. We didn't even get to see one maybe two character arcs completed. Oh, and it had a great intro/song that Whedon wrote:



(Rant over). So to complete some arcs, give something that the fans were hankering for, Joss Whedon made Serenity.

Simon (genius doctor) and his sister River (even more of a genius, but was taken by the Alliance (intergalactic governmental body) to be studied/experimented on because she is so clever) were picked up as passengers by the crew of Serenity in the pilot episode of Firefly. Simon had recently rescued River from the Alliance, and so travelling "off the radar" with the crew of Serenity allowed them to escape their attention (mostly) for a while. This was obviously the main story arc of the first series, but due to cancellation was never finished. So the film Serenity (the name of the ship, and also the name of a battle (with horrific losses) in the fight between Alliance and Independents many years ago (told you there was back story!)) focusses on tying up this story to explain why the Alliance is so keen to hunt River down.

Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is captain of Serenity, who along with his second in command Zoe (Gina Torres) fought for the Independents (Browncoats) in the war. Mal is your all round Han Solo kinda character I guess. Rough around the edges, heart in the right place, generally does the right thing but blunders along while doing it, you know. It's mostly this attitude in Mal that makes a lot of Serenity funny, along with his relationship with Jayne (Adam Baldwin) and Inara (Morena Baccarin).

The film is very nicely made, and that's no surprise as it had a bigger budget than any of the episodes. The first scene is great. The name Serenity appears on screen (looks like a screensaver, papyrus font!), but then this becomes part of the logo on the side of the ship, which we then pan around. The ship begins to land on a planet, and we see Mal through the cockpit. There is a bang, and suddenly the camera is inside the ship with Mal asking pilot Wash (Adam Tudyk) if something fell off! We follow Mal around the ship as we are introduced to the rest of the the crew, and for the first 5 minutes or so, apart from the bang when the camera is suddenly in the cockpit, the whole intro is one shot. Which looks very cool, and I always think is very impressive and takes a lot of skill. Maybe I should do a blog post in the future just about cool single shot scenes.

Anyway, back to the film. The plot of the film is explaining why the Alliance are so desperate to find River, as deep down somewhere she knows a secret that the Alliance have been keeping for many years. Of course the danger is she might suddenly remember and try to find out about this secret; and then the galaxy would know the Alliance can't be trusted, and would all come tumbling down. The suspense/danger is increased in the film by The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a very calm, calculated mercenary, employed by the Alliance to hunt River down. Of course, it makes far more sense and has more meaning if you've already watched Firefly. However, the film is still great (though I guess I could be biased because I love Firefly), but even my wife's Godmother thought Serenity was great and she hasn't seen Firefly! Of course I've lent it to her now!