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Non-Review Review: Serenity (2019)

Serenity is the story of a grizzled middle aged man and a tuna fish. A tuna fish named “Justice.”

There are many, many problems with Serenity. Indeed, fixing the most obvious problems with Serenity would just reveal a whole new set of problems. It is all recursive. Serenity does not work in either broad stroke or finer detail. It is flawed from the foundation through to the finishing touches. The basic concept of the movie is spectacularly ill-judged, but this impulse towards poor-decision-making branches out to smaller and more intimate moments of dialogue. It is hard to think of a major cinematic release that has been this obviously and fundamentally broken since Book of Henry. Indeed, like Book of Henry, there is a sense that Serenity might possibly live on as a cult bad movie, the kind of film so committed and thoroughly wrong that it becomes a source of pleasure.

The most obvious thing to criticise about Serenity is the central twist, because that is the hinge upon which the movie turns and central point from which so many bad decisions flow. It is big and glaring, flashing like a beacon. Indeed, one of the characters in the film who identifies himself as “the Rules” might describe it as a lighthouse. However, the central twist often feels like a distraction. There have been successful movies that have pulled off bigger twists than Serenity, and which have worked. There are beloved movies that are built around nominally insane plotting developments, but which have managed to walk that finest of lines; The Sixth Sense, Memento, The Usual Suspects.

The issue with Serenity is not so much its admittedly endearingly insane central revelation. The issue is absolutely everything else, including what it does with that major plot twist.

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Non-Review Review: Serenity

“Love,” someone suggests at a key moment in Joss Whedon’s big screen sequel to his cult television show Firefly, is what keeps a ship afloat, “Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells ya she’s hurtin’ ‘fore she keens. Makes her a home.” In a way, it’s hard not to feel that he could just as easily be talking about this particular movie adaptation. Serenity is a movie which by all rights shouldn’t exist. Based on a television show unfairly cancelled by a network which couldn’t bring itself to offer it a fighting chance, it seems odd to see the series transitioned to the big screen in search of closure. The movie is itself an act of love – an act early in the film confused (understandably) with madness – love for the show, for its concepts and for those who gave it the benefit of the doubt that its own producers couldn’t.

Thank god there's a master at the helm...

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Firefly

Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.

We live in a spaceship, dear.

So?

– Wash and Zoe, Objects in Space

Joss Whedon writing a science fiction show – a science fiction western, to be precise. Doesn’t that excite you? Just a bit? Well, it should, because they’re just so… very… pretty. Huh? Look at that chiselled jaw!

And yes, I am already quoting it. It’s going to be a fun review.

Male bonding... Or bondage, I'm not sure...

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TV Movies…

It surfaces every now again. Talk of a Sopranos movie. It’s the same deal-io with the oft-requested Veronica Mars movie or a sequel to Serenity. It seems that the big screen has become the desired home for any number of TV shows – whether they ended before their time (as Firefly did) or as planned (per the Sopranos). I’m a little surprised, though, that everyone seems to think this is a good idea.

Seeing red...

Seeing red...

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