What up, Buttercups?
Again we’re back to one of my favourite films. I love it so much and not just because it has Nathan Fillion (it does and he’s awesome). I’ve watched it so many times I can quote it by heart.
You can’t really talk about this film without mentioning the background behind it. Firefly was another Joss Whedon TV series but this one wasn’t as well-received as Buffy or the spin-off show Angel. Now, I could write an entire blog about the problems Firefly had. I will say that there were problems with the network re-ordering episodes and never giving Firefly a set airing time, which made it hard to judge whether the show had developed a fan base.
Right, now the Fox in the room has been dealt with on to the movie which gives us something very few cancelled television shows rarely do. Closure.
Serenity first and foremost is the end of the story that was set forth in the series. Now, with that being said you don’t actually to have watched the TV series to understand the film. There is enough backstory covered so you can watch this film on its own.
The premise, simply put or as simply put as I can make it, is justice. The Alliance of planets, created a scourge in the form of the nightmarish Reavers whether knowingly or unknowingly. River (Summer Glau) is a psychic who knows this secret. Her brother Simon (Sean Maher) rescued her and smuggled her on to the ship Serenity.
Captained by Malcolm Reynolds (the above mentioned awesomeness that is Nathan Fillion) and crewed with what could be a rough version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The strong warrior Zoe (Gina Torres), the thugish Jayne (Adam Baldwin), the genius mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite) and the ace pilot Wash (AlanTudyck).
It is a masterclass of storytelling and subversion of the usual cinema tropes (as is Wheddon’s way look at Avengers Age of Ultron and how everything about Hawkeye in that film told you he was going to die). In this film the trope dodge comes in many forms but non so overt and in your face as that of Shepard Book (The late great Ron Glass) who knows much more about the alliance then he is letting on. Book has a shadowy past; in every other film would mean that he will spill all he knows and everything that happened to him. But Serenity leaves us guessing.
Whedon, as always, is a master of dialogue. It’s witty and fired like a bullet. There’s dialogue happening off-screen that serves to build relationships and connections between characters and the events of the film. Tying everything into one big, self-contained universe.
This film makes a point of being so beautifully feminist. It is an amazingly brilliant show of feminism in its many forms. All of the female characters are strong in their own ways.
Zoe is an ex-soldier, she is hard, efficient and loyal but with a softer side that you only see when she is with her husband.
Inara (Morena Baccarin) is a companion – this universe’s version of a high end call-girl – she is in control of her sexuality and is the most respectable member of Serenity’s crew.
River is a psychic and military trained bad ass. In an early scene we see her fighting prowess in a bar, up to an including overpowering and incapacitating Jayne who has the drop on her.
Kaylee is the most ostensibly feminine member of the crew and even she is an empowering feminist force in her own right. She is made out to be pretty, naive and ditzy at times – she is the heart of the crew, a little sister in many ways to them all – she is a genius mechanic, a field that is seen as a man’s world but she still retains her femininity, she’s not a stereotypical tomboy.
Malcolm Reynolds might be the best hero ever created. He’s a faceted and flawed character with a complex moral code. In this film we see him shoot three unarmed men but never lose our faith or liking for the man. He is, essentially, thrown into a situation he didn’t ask for or want and is struggling to do what’s right by the people in his life while playing a role in a much bigger game that he doesn’t understand.
The Antagonist in this film is the government, working through a singular Operative (an impressive, charismatic and powerful performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor – another man who can seemingly do no wrong).
It’s a simple plot but filled out with complex characters and big concepts and themes. It touches on freedom, authoritarianism, the right to choose for ourselves, accountability, belief and the evils done in the name of a “Greater Good.”
It provides closure to the firefly story while leaving us with an image of hope that the crew will go on to do more capers, even if we aren’t around to see them.
*Note: I won’t usually do this, but considering while I was writing this post the Joss Whedon divorce fallout broke and I felt it was best to address it as a dedicated fan of his work.
While I don’t condone the actions he took (I’m not a cheater by nature and have never understood the mindset needed to be a cheater) I’m confused by the assumption that him cheating makes him a hypocrite to the feminist ideals put forth in his work.
It makes him a bad husband, certainly.
It makes him a human being with all the flaws inherent with that.
While this will certainly tarnish his reputation, it shouldn’t destroy work that he has done for feminism.