Someone should hire Joss Whedon to write and direct the next Star Trek movie. The man understands how to take a TV show and bring it to the big screen without alienating either the fans of the program or total newcomers. Serenity is the perfect mix of big movie thrills and in-depth characterization. It's more than followers of the show could have ever hoped for, and it turns out to be one of the best action-adventures of 2005.
Fans of the TV show Firefly know the history of the characters, but the movie smartly re-introduces us to them without boring the die-hard "browncoaters" out there by opening the picture with a flashback showing how Simon (Sean Maher) rescued his sister River (Summer Glau) from Alliance scientists that were experimenting on her. We also get introduced to a threatening new villain (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is an assassin/operative working for the Alliance and with orders to hunt down and return Summer to them. It is often said that the measure of any good action picture is how good the villain is, and Serenity gives us a darn good one. He's calm, cool, collective and extremely deadly.
The story of Serenity takes place some months after the TV series ended, with Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) about to set out on another one of his famous heists on a local planet. Both Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) and Inara (Morena Baccarin) are no longer aboard Serenity, but they both will cross paths again with Mal and his crew before the movie is over. Aware of River's psychic abilities, Mal wants her to join him on the heist, so she'll be able to sense any impending trouble. But things don't go as planned when during the heist they are attacked by "Reavers" (zombie like creatures) and Mal and the others must make a high-speed escape on land aboard a floating landspeeder-like transport.
When Mal arrives on another planet to sell the materials gained during the heist, a commercial playing in a bar triggers something in River and she starts attacking everyone. Simon is able to stop her, but the crew soon finds out that the Alliance has used the commercial in the hopes of triggering a response in River and finding out where in the solar system she is…which they now do. Mal must now decide whether it's worth it keeping River and Simon aboard as part of his crew any longer, or if the rest of them would be safer without River around.
While Universal and no doubt the cast and crew of Serenity would love for this film to be the beginning of a franchise, loyal fans need not worry about having their questions unanswered. Before all is said and done, Serenity tells us what River has been hiding in her head all this time and why the Alliance wants to stop her before that information gets out. Some other more minor stories from the TV show are dealt with as well – most notably the feelings Simon and Kaylee (Jewel Staite) have for each other. Other characters' story arcs come to a more definitive end in the movie, but to say any more would spoil things.
Serenity is a movie with some real depth. It has three-dimensional characters, an intelligent and interesting story, and its special effects are always used as a method of enhancing the tale – rather than making them the tale itself. I left the theater wondering why all science-fiction films can't be this good, and hoping this won't be the last adventure I share with Mal and his crew.