Past the Popcorn: Waterland Home Video Feature

Serenity reviewed by Greg Wright

Firefly fans were pretty pleased with Serenity. Plenty of ordinary people were, too. Writer-director Joss Whedon directed this film adaptation of his own sci-fi TV series with confidence and style, giving audiences more to cheer about in space since long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. A really good thing even today, when “reboots” of the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises leave folk like me crying, “No mas! No mas!”

Can it really have been almost ten years since this film’s theatrical release?

For those who don’t recall Firefly, Whedon’s genre-busting space dramedy, which blended Sci-Fi with a Western ethos, didn’t even survive a single season on Fox. But the radical fan base never gave up hope that the show would return. It didn’t, of course… but Whedon eventually convinced the studio to give his story the big-screen treatment.

serenity-insetThe movie Serenity is not, however, just a retread of Firefly. In fact, many of the signature elements of the TV series have disappeared: the cowpies and cattle, for instance, and those mysterious men with the blue gloves. More importantly,Serenity fleshes out the universe and storyline of Firefly—and takes its characters to places the series has never gone before.

Castle’s Nathan Fillion plays Malcolm Reynolds, owner and captain of the Firefly-class smuggling ship Serenity. Mal is on a journey of faith. He used to believe in a cause—until the leaders of the rebellion for which he volunteered abandoned his battalion to slaughter. Now that the Alliance has its boots firmly on the necks of the once-independent terraformed “border planets,” a burned-out rebel like Reynolds is left rudderless. He goes where the wind takes him, as he remarks to Inara Serra, the professional escort once based onSerenity. And when his crew members tell him to have faith, he replies, “Not today.” He has no use for the “fuzzy God” of Christians or the Buddha to whom Inara prays.

But when a trusted friend tells him, “I don’t care what you believe; just believe in it,” he steers a course directly into the wind that would sweep him away. At first, we wonder if he will merely become a cheap version of what he wants to destroy; but when he learns the truth, the truth sets him—and a whole host of others—free.

The Alliance Operative who hunts Serenity and its passenger, River Tam, is also on a journey of faith. In contrast to Reynolds, though, he starts as a True Believer—and as Shepherd Book tells Reynolds, believers of any sort are dangerous.

And there are different sorts of believers. Book believes in Christ. Dr. Simon Tam believes in his sister. River believes in God. Inara believes in Buddha.

The Operative, though, believes in engineered human potential, in building “better worlds”—even if it means slaughtering innocent children. And as his and Reynold’s paths cross, we see that the two men are not so dissimilar. But the Operative doesn’t need to learn the intrinsic value of belief; rather, he must learn that there are better things to believe in than human potential. And the truth of this new belief frees him from his dogged pursuit of Reynolds, his search for River Tam, and from the evil he does in service of the Alliance.

River Tam is also on a journey of faith; but she does not move toward faith, nor from one faith to another. Instead, she moves in faith. A literally tortured soul, she longs for deliverance from the damned voices that the Alliance has forced upon her memory. At the apogee of her journey, she nearly loses all hope and cries out, “Please, God, make me a stone!” But when River Tam learns the truth, the truth literally sets her free, too. When the time comes, she is no longer the protected but the protector.

Faith is dangerous, Serenity says, because True Believers of any sort—hijackers, abortion clinic bombers, Mother Teresa, Malcolm Reynolds—are those who change the world. The rest are just along for the ride.

But make no mistake. Serenity does not suggest that one belief is just as good another. It does, however, make a strong case for believing in something as the first step toward finding truth. Hope will sustain the journey, the film says. “I know,” says River Tam. “We’re going for a ride.” And what a ride!

But this film is not ultimately about faith. It’s about the end goal of faith. It’s about love. The film begins there and ends there. The Operative can see it in the eyes of Simon Tam to begin with; and whether Reynolds admits it or not, a love of Serenity has always driven him.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

If you haven’t seen it yet, the odds are you will love Serenity.

Serenity is available this week on Comcast’s XFinity On Demand. It’s also available to stream at Amazon.

Check it out tonight, and don’t forget to dine local first!


One Response to “Past the Popcorn: Waterland Home Video Feature”
  1. BirchCreek says:

    Amazingly enjoyable TV series and Movie. It is unconceivable why FOX cancelled the series.

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