Firefly – Serenity

Hey, this isn’t an episode of the science fiction show Firefly! It’s a movie! Who let that in here? Well, it would’ve felt incomplete for me not to finish my watch with the movie, so I watched that too.

Obviously one of the big benefits of becoming a big deal motion picture is you get better special effects (though I’ll admit I had more instances of noting the CGI here than in the show), so I obviously get to enjoy some big city scene. They’re not massive or anything, they don’t revel in it the way Star Trek revels in it when they get to film something that takes place on contemporary Earth, but we still get some good planetside stuff and action scenes and all that.

Like many episodes, this one starts with a crime (though this a more simple holdup than a heist) only for it to be interrupted by Reavers. Yes, we finally see the Reavers who have only been hinted at on the show and, as I said then, I was impressed with how well they built up the mystique there. They tear down that mystique in this one, fully explaining who they are and where they came from, but I don’t think it ruins them. Even the fact that really they’re just spacefaring rage zombies doesn’t bother me too much. I know it brings them down to the level of… well, rage zombie like I said, but that’s fine. And it means we don’t have to have any moral questions about mowing them down en masse or logical questions about why some of them are just running around like idiots while River balletmurders them. Overall, I think this was probably the best outcome for the Reavers we could’ve got based on what they built up on the show, and I don’t know that it would have gone as well had they done it on the show.

There’s another bad guy in here too. An Alliance operative who gets to be a foil for Mal. In the bigger picture, he’s the kind of “this is serious” foe who gets to actually kill off members of the cast (though I guess the Reavers managed one of those too, didn’t they?). When dealt with face to face the operative is, at first, built perfectly to undercut the kind of roguish bravado that Mal is all about, all while challenging Mal’s philosophy. All of which makes it very satisfying when he is defeated at the end. Good job movie.

But what I like about the movie most is that it builds to a climax where you really, really can believe that characters are going to die. They do that, as I mentioned, by actually killing off two of the cast. I sometimes feel like I’m in the minority on this one, but I like it in fiction when I can genuinely believe that the heroes can lose. This may be why I like horror so much, because that’s a genre where you can start a movie and genuinely not know if it’ll end with everyone dead or everyone fine. Those and everything in between are possible. When was the last time we saw a regular action movie where the super spy hero fails and gets gunned down and the villain launches his missiles at Paris or whatever. There’s no reason they couldn’t make movies like that.

I know there are people who argue that fiction like this should act as escapism and give us a place where the good guys win, as an antidote to the world we actually live in. But I argue that the stories we take in are what we use to measure our own life against. If we only see stories where the good guys always win, you might start to wonder what that says about you in your real life, not always winning. If victory always comes to the good, what does that make you? I’ve seen it said that one of the most important uses of art is to make us feel less alone, to make us know that other people have felt feelings and had experiences that we’ve had. We as a people, living our lives, are going to lose a lot of the time. Let’s have stories that acknowledge that. And it only makes the actual victories feel that much better.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve gotten a little off track here. To sum up, good movie. I’ll come back with my final thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.