Movie Review
Serenity poster
By Scott Sycamore     Published October 3, 2005
US Release: September 30, 2005

Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Nathan Fillion , Gina Torres , Alan Tudyk , Morena Baccarin

Running Time: 119 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $25,335,935
Non-fans {of Firefly} are not going to be captivated at all by this lame and lightweight tripe.
Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. I can?t even begin to express my annoyance at this film, let alone the frantic hyenas who line up to proclaim it the greatest work of art since the Sistine Chapel. All you regular moviegoers out there should be warned: this is not the exciting experience that you may think or hope it's going to be. All the Browncoats (aptly named fans of Firefly, sounding suspiciously like the old Nazi secret thought-police) are wrong: non-fans are not going to be captivated at all by this lame and lightweight tripe.

There has been a whole ongoing "saga" based off Lee's early review of this movie. He gave it a D+ as well, and hit all the major points of why it's such a hack piece. Immediately, Browncoats - who had not even seen the film - began attacking him and saying his review is worthless. They mentioned everything from the fact that he's not a fan of the TV show, to the unfinished special effects present in the advance screening. I read a lot of the venomous e-mails that Lee received (and I may receive some too, now), and they were quite amusing. How can humanity be worthy when shit like this gets praised as art? Have these people never seen a real movie; one that has wit, humor, drama, tension, craftsmanship, etc.?

It's emblematic of a wider problem, and intensely captured by the Browncoats: people make the decision beforehand that they are going to enjoy something, and then stretch and strain throughout the whole movie to make sure their anticipation is fulfilled. God forbid someone might actually not enjoy something or be disappointed in the outcome. America is becoming the land of forced happiness where anyone who's not chirpy and "optimistic" is seen as a non-mainstream weirdo who should be shunned. As George Carlin has said, "When fascism comes to America, it will be in Nikes and smiley shirts."

Sorry to get so high-minded in talking about this crappy movie, but I really do think it's emblematic of larger problems in our society. It's not like Joss Whedon's fans have political power, but they do have the power to get nonsense like Serenity put on the screen, which in turn erodes the overall sophistication of our culture. I'm not even sure how this movie got made, as Fox television had the good sense to cancel the original TV show after only eleven episodes. What made the studio (Universal) think that a movie version would fare much better with all the potential risks involved? It's like on a test at school in which the teachers always tell you to stick with your first answer; what's different about this cheeseball "space western?"

So that's the hook of the show/movie: a Western transplanted into a futuristic space setting. That's a nice way to get the gullible to believe that it's "unique." Also, haven't I seen the same thing on a Japanese animation show called Cowboy Bebop? That show has a very similar premise to Firefly and hit the airwaves well before. But since it's a cartoon I guess thievery is okay. And this movie is basically a long TV episode with slightly higher production values; it's the series finale put on the big screen. So what we go to the movies to get away from is shoved right back into our face. This movie has that TV distance to it, as if the production is afraid it might actually engage you. The sense of staginess is pretty overwhelming too, with people uttering funny bone-tickling one-liners during a pitched battle. There's a strong disconnect between what's supposedly going on in the larger universe of this movie and what we actually see transpire. Actors spitting dialogue at each other on barely-convincing-spaceship-sets hardly gives the impression of a grand galactic opera.

It would be one thing if the movie was simply cutesy and unconvincing, but it's actually a thudding bore as well. After about the 30-minute mark, everything becomes so muddy plot-wise that it feels pointless to watch any more. Only the most hardcore fans will be enthralled by these passages. You can take the longest bathroom break of your life, come back, and you still will have basically missed nothing. It has that TV quality of someone being able to pop in and out at random and still keep abreast of what's going on. I was on the verge of being lulled to sleep by this thing, which last happened during The Brothers Grimm (C-/D+). I was sitting there wishing I could go to the next theater and watch Lord of War (B) again instead.

So, to reiterate, don't see this movie unless you're in the mood for a large helping of disappointment. The characters are undeveloped and completely forgettable; the writing shows minor hints of cleverness, but is mostly airless drivel that explains the plot as it goes; the action is nothing you haven't seen before; the direction and production values are iffy to say the least; and the whole story is just dumb. There are no big ideas or themes to keep you going. Apathy is what's in store if you choose to check this one out.
Scott's Grade: D+
Scott's Overall Grading: 417 graded movies
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'Serenity' Articles
  • Serenity Fails at the Box Office
    October 12, 2005    Most cult movies and TV shows don?t last long or do very well at the box office. Mainstream audiences don?t want ?niche? programming; all they desire are paintings in very broad strokes. -- Scott Sycamore
  • Friday Box Office Analysis (9/30)
    October 1, 2005    It seems {Serenity} mostly attracted the diehards of the series, which doesn?t boast well for its durability; its Saturday holdup will say quite a bit about its appeal. -- Lee Tistaert
  • Serenity B.O. Forecast / Crowd Report
    September 30, 2005    This is one of those rare movies in which my predictions are all over the map; I?m not confidently locked on $4.5, 6 - 7, or 8 million for opening day (I?m ready for anything). -- Lee Tistaert
  • Not so Serene: The Review That Burst a Beehive
    September 29, 2005    After the review was posted, links to his review started showing up all over the internet, and Lee was bombarded with hate mail, most of which was so vulgar and confused that it was hard to take seriously. -- Stephen Lucas
  • Lee's review D+
    April 25, 2005    If you took the sci-fi element of Pluto Nash, mixed it with the outrageousness of Steel, and added in the really bad dialogue from Paycheck, Serenity would be the result. -- Lee Tistaert