I went to see Serenity in Dundrum this weekend. I thought it was a very good movie. Its not a big budget sci-fi epic but all the better for that.
First of all lets get the issue of the Firefly series out of the way. I have never seen it. Not for any particular reason, I just don't remember it being on TV so I don't know if it was even shown on any of the channels I have. However you don't have to have seen the show to understand the movie, all the characters are introduced and their roles are clear from the very beginning.
I watched Star Trek, but I was more a fan of shows like Babylon 5 and Buffy The Vampire slayer. The main reason was that I liked the story arcs that made up both shows. Many sci-fi series claim to have a story arc but in reality they are just a loose collection of episodes that you could watch in any order. Babylon 5 and Buffy were different, each episode followed the other closely and missing an episode could leave you scratching your head in the next episode. The arc wasn't the only thing that I liked about them, the stories and the writing tended to be very good and the characters were more complex than usual.
Those elements are present in Serenity. Joss Whedon who created Buffy is the writer director behind this so the writing and conversation style is as good as it was in Buffy. It is obvious that you are watching a crew with a background story, who are a team and make smart comments to each other with the relaxed tone of a group of friends. While everything is explained for the new viewer you still know that there is more to the characters than what you have just seen.
The film is a sci-fi western, with everyone putting on a Wild West drawl. Mal, the captain of the ship, is a gunslinger and is a real Han Solo type character. River the young girl is quite odd looking. Joss Whedon seems to like his female super heroes as River has a certain Buffy quality to her while at the same time being a little insane. The other charters are fairly standard sci-fi fare. Though Simon, Rivers brother and the ships doctor, is an annoying ass whose total obsession with protecting his sister actually comes across as a little incestuous. The Operative, who is the bad guy, is very lethal while being very spiritual and calm. These are not big time movie actors, they are little known TV actors, but still pull off their roles better than any A list celebrity actor could have.
Strangely the climax of the movie is a little weak, the whole point of the adventure was flimsy in my opinion. I couldn't help but feel 'so what?'. That said the ending wasn't a standard happy ending. Whedons characters tend to suffer losses and not just victories, if you've seen the last episode of Buffy and Angel then you know he doesn't do endings where everyone walks happily into the sunset.
Compared to big budget Hollywood releases such as Minority Report, War of the Worlds, and Fantastic Four this is a much better movie, especially when you consider it was made for $45 million, which by Hollywood standards is next to nothing. If you liked Babylon 5, Buffy and/or have ever read the Dan Simmons Hyperion/Endymion books you will enjoy this movie.
P.S. If you would like to see the first 9 minutes of the movie, it is available online.