(In theaters, September 2005) As a reluctant fan of the original TV series (love the characters; can’t stand some background SF elements), I was part of the film’s core audience: Please give me more of the characters, regardless of the story. The good news is that like Star Wars III, Serenity is satisfying to its audience: plot threads are picked up and tied together, the characters keep their appeal and the Special Effects budget is adjusted upward. What’s more, the writing quality is generally high and the dialogues have some classic moments. Some characters have have been given short thrift, but I’m generally a warm and happy fan. But as a more serious SF fan and movie critic, I’ve got my reservations: Once you’re past the fabulous first few minutes, the quality of the film’s structure devolves, falling apart in the last act. The fights go on for too long, the conclusion takes a few gratuitous shortcuts, one character changes his mind far too easily. (Truth will make you free, but spin locks up those who don’t want to escape, I’m tempted to say) For non-Firefly fans, this film is unlikely to make much of an impact: it’s just not that unique. The film is better than most of the science-fiction we’ve seen on-screen this year, but it never completely escapes its TV origin. (Reavers? Still dumb.) Too bad, because there are some uniquely visceral moments here and there (Atmospheric re-entry has seldom been best portrayed on-screen) and the Special Effects work is quite nice. Will the movie make enough money to justify a sequel? Don’t know. But let’s hope so.
(Second viewing, On DVD, April 2006) For fans of “Firefly”, watching this film in theatres was a mixture of expectations fulfilled and hope for more. Months later, watching the film on DVD has the warm bittersweet feeling of one last time with the whole gang. Oh, we do love the characters, the dialogue and writer/director Joss Whedon. Oh, the gang at Universal has done a superb and generous job at putting together a top-notch DVD. (Well, they could have added an all-Morena Baccarin special featurette, but that’s just me.) Oh, Joss Whedon’s audio commentary is everything we’d hoped for back in theatres. Are DVD sale going to be high enough to justify a sequel? Is this the end for the Firefly saga? Your guess is a good as mine, but the film is still a lot of fun, and it takes a well-deserved place on the shelves right next to the TV show box set.