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SERENITY - THE REPORT

19 November 2005

Hi. I watched Serenity yesterday, and today I'm writing this. This will be chock full of spoilers, so if you haven't seen the movie yet, bookmark this and read it after you have, or you'll regret it.

I'm not kidding. I will spoil it. Turn back now.

Good, with the rest of you I'd like to share my ambiguous feeling. Before all else, I have to say I need to see the movie again before I can properly judge its merit, because only then expectations won't play a role. And yet, expectations are exactly what made me feel uneasy about Serenity.

I hadn't expected the world. Really, my anticipations were high, but fair. All I was expecting was to see a really long and well-produced episode. If that was delivered, I would have been happy, really. According to Joss himself, Serenity would be a tribute to the fans; something that would really be engineered to please. Reading reports and interviews beforehand, I read that the crew was having a blast and that they were all really enjoying it. I mistook this, apparently. See, I thought that the crew in the movie itself would be enjoying themselves as well. As a continuation of the series -thinking I knew the characters- I thought it would be a fun sci-fi blast where that mischievous Mal and company would go through wild adventures and always came out unscathed.

So I was really surprised by the level of drama. Key members of the crew died, Malcolm seemed to have lost all spirit, and in the end there was a feeling that it would never be the same; that the remaining crew could never return to those dangerous but always jolly adventures of yore. I got a feeling that they must be so embittered now that they'd never find joy again. Had Whedon pushed it too far?

The drama was good, no doubt. I was shocked by the discovery of the Reavers' origin. It landed a blow. And it was all very heavy and poignant. But at the same time it felt like a different universe. It wasn't a fairytale any longer. Happily ever after was always a dubious point in the series, but they all stuck together and it all ended well, every time. But here... things were grim. People died in flashes, roughly, without saying goodbye. The fairytale was traded for something more realistic. It'll take time to adjust, but I don't even know if I want it.

This is evidently the biggest point that didn't stick well. There were tiny other things that I had expected in the movie but weren't there, such as an appearance of the blue-handed government men who were introduced in the series as the main evildoers and a representation of all that was wrong with the Alliance. The nemesis in the movie was undoubtedly very cool and impressive, but had less to do with the series. Another little thing was that the writing seemed to be still lingering in TV-terms at times. In the end, the badguy tells us our heroes have won and that the Alliance is 'finished'. But what really would have brought the point home was showing us riots, revolts and uprisings across the universe. Starwarsian, perhaps, but only appropriate in a movie that's supposed to be epic. Now we just have to take it on that one sentence of the villain and are left without a real 'YEAH! We've WON!' feeling that only happens through images of revolution.

Will there be a second and third movie? Would I even want it without Wash and Shepherd Book? Is the magic of the series and precarious balance of the characters broken? Naught but time will tell. I'll be preparing for it.

Roderick.