Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Serenity - The Movie Review
Last night, the VOLConWife and I participated in the blogger premier of the new movie from Universal Pictures, Serenity, in West Knoxville. All I had heard about the film going into the theater was that it was a sci-fi effort based on a failed FOX television show. However, I think it does this movie a disservice to pigeonhole it as a “sci-fi” movie (which has been the kiss of death for many a recent movie at the box office), because it is probably the most rounded movie I have seen this year.
I’ll provide some basic plot without giving too much away. Humans have outgrown Earth and moved to another solar system thanks to the process of terraforming (which I may not have understood completely without discussions of the theoretical process in Professor Reynolds' “Space Law” course at UT). An overbearing government creates resistance (ala Star Wars) in the form of the Browncoats, and it is from those conflicts that the crew of the spaceship Serenity is born. The “wild card” character is River Tam (played by Summer Glau), a psychic who – unbeknownst to her - has acquired an important secret and sought refuge on the Serenity with her brother, Simon. It is this secret around which the entire movie turns.
With regards to the acting, the ensemble cast is quite good. Nathan Fillion, who many people may remember from his role in the series “Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place,” has the most camera time as the Serenity’s commander. Fillion has a difficult role to play due to the complexity of his character, but he pulls it off. Adam Baldwin (Full Metal Jacket, The Patriot, Independence Day) provides humor as the brutish Jayne, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Love, Actually) gives an extremely strong performance as “The Operative” (he really has no name, as he is an assassin for the ruling government known as “The Alliance”). While some of the other cast members have impressive resumes – Gina Torres (The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions), Alan Tudyk (Dodgeball, A Knight’s Tale, Into the West), Ron Glass (“Barney Miller”), David Krumholtz (“NUMB3RS,” Ray) – their parts are somewhat minor. Perhaps due to the strong performances of others, Sean Maher (as Simon Tam) and Jewel Staite (as the ship’s engineer, Kaylee) seem a bit overwhelmed throughout the film. Overall, though, this is a very strong ensemble cast that portrays the challenging elements of a diverse script quite well.
I can’t rave too much on the plot of this movie because it has a bit of everything in it. Lots of humor (this movie is funnier than most comedies released this year), action, plot twists, elements of government corruption, disobedience, Huxley’s “Brave New World,” tech geek worship, cannibalism, betrayal, spirituality, romance – this movie has something for everyone. The VOLConWife – no fan of sci-fi – loved Serenity, and she mentioned the variety of themes in the plot as one of the principal reasons for the high marks. She also remarked on how the two hours flew by and that she couldn't remember a movie where she was so engrossed with the action that she almost forgot she was in a theater. Trust me when I say that is high praise from her, indeed.
Overall, I – surprisingly – would have to rate Serenity as one of my favorite movies of 2005, challenging Batman Begins as my favorite movie of the year. On my traditional 1-10 scale, I would have to give Serenity a 9. That is really a high mark from me, as the complaint I most often received when reviewing movies “back in the day” was that I was too harsh. My only real complaints about this movie are that the special effects in the first twenty minutes of the movie are pretty bad. For some reason, any special effects deficiencies that may have existed were not as noticeable after the first segment of the movie. Other than that, I loved the twisting plot that was in no way obvious, the strong acting, the laugh-out-loud humor, and the societal issues explored throughout the film. This film has something for everybody, and, in these days of monumentally poor efforts by the Hollywood establishment, that is a rarity.
For other reviews, see Instapundit, GA Mongrel (who quotes some of the humorous lines), Beth's Contradictory Brain, G. Bob's House of Blog, Booklore, Rubinium, Combs Spouts Off, LiveJournal, Misplaced Keys, and Resurrection Song. In reading through the Blogosphere's reviews, it doesn't look like I was the only one to enjoy the movie.
I'm a leaf on the wind...
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