Top 365 Films – #057 – Serenity (2005)

Top 365 Films - SerenityDIRECTED BY: Joss Whedon

STARRING: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, David Krumholtz and Chiwetel Ejiofor

BUDGET: $39m

EARNED (Worldwide): $38.8m




The crew of the ship Serenity tries to evade an assassin sent to recapture one of their number who is telepathic.


In the future, mankind has left ‘Earth-that-was’ and moved out into the galaxy to other planets. A new order was established with by central planets forming the Alliance, which won a war against the Independents, who refused to join them. We arrive on the transport spaceship Serenity where Dr. Simon Tam is in hiding along with his telepathic sister River, after breaking her out from Alliance control. Giving them sanctuary is Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds, who fought for the Independents in the war, and his crew. Unfortunately for them the Alliance have sent an assassin to bring River Tam back due to her having a horrible secret about the Alliance hidden in her fragile mind.


Everyone loves a good underdog story. Back in 2002 a television series from Buffy/Angel creator Joss Whedon came out that was mashup of sci-fi and western genre, with interesting characters and an interesting storyline involving that of River Tam. Unfortunately it was short-lived, lasting eleven episodes before being pulled off air. After a very vocal online campaigns via various petitions and websites, Joss Whedon managed to find a way to bring the continuation of the story to the big screen in 2005. It’s very rare for such a thing to happen but yet Serenity manages to make itself openly available to film viewers by giving them subtle introductions to the crew members in an almost single tracked style shot onboard the Serenity, you get the purpose and drive of each one. Mal and the crew become concerned of River Tam’s mental well being after a subliminal message sends her into berserk mode at a bar, the Alliance advancing their attempts to track the ‘asset’ and River has one word, Miranda, stuck on her mind. Worse still, The Alliance have unleashed their agent only known as The Operative to find River, by any means necessary. Serenity does a great job in a feature film giving us essentially what made the series so good to watch – well rounded characters. We have the married couple onboard the ship, war veteran and second-in-command Zoe alongside side Wash who is the pilot of the ship, there’s Jayne Cobb, the mercenary who has issues with River being onboard the ship and at times questions Mal’s leadership, there’s the ship mechanic Kaylee who manages to see the positivity in almost everything and has a thing for Simon, while Simon serves as a doctor to the crew when they attempt bank robberies etc. and River just….remains the unhinged genius that she is. There’s other characters from the television series such as Inara, a companion that used to rent one of Serenity’s shuttles, and Shephard Book,  a preacher with a mysterious past and seems to know an awful lot about Alliance methods, appear in the big screen outing also. The screenplay is well written with some terrific dialogue in the back and forth exchanges between the characters and finds the right balance between the humour and the films dark moments and the chemistry amongst the crew remains a delight to see on screen. The plot of an assassin on the hunt to find River is engrossing to watch just as much as the crew coming to learn of what it is River Tam knows that the Alliance wants to keep from ever being revealed is both shocking and satisfying. The inclusion also of bringing in the television series most feared and, back then, unseeable threat the Reavers, to the big screen adds the tension and increases the danger factor to another level. Nathan Fillion is just great as Mal Reynolds, a role that he’ll forever be known for, as the captain with a rough streak to do whatever is necessary whilst having a caring loyal heart within in relation to his crew and the rest of the crew, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau and Ron Glass, slip back perfectly into their roles and capturing the essence of their characters for us to enjoy their chemistry together. It’s Chiwetel Ejiofor, even back then, that stands out from this film as the man only known as The Operative, a man willing to do horrible acts in the form of making a better world and even then it was clear to see that Ejiofor was going to be a star. An enjoyable small budgeted sci-fi affair with rich characters and one of the best space battles captured on the big screen.


FAVOURITE SCENE: The Operative and a fleet of Alliance ships await Serenity’s arrival coming towards Mr. Universe’s planet. Unbeknownst to him, Mal suspects a trap and lures a Reaver fleet with him and an epic space battle ensues.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘Y’all got on this boat for different reasons, but y’all come to the same place. So now I’m asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this – they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people… better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin’. I aim to misbehave.’ –  Captain Malcolm Reynolds

DID YOU KNOW?: The apparently seamless long single take during the film’s opening titles actually does contain one cut, albeit an invisible one: there is a quick pan as Mal and Simon descend a stairwell into the lower decks, which contains a CGI wipe (using the background of the wall) that seamlessly blends the shots together. This was needed since the actors are actually walking onto another set at this point

One response to “Top 365 Films – #057 – Serenity (2005)

  1. I love this film,
    I’ve watched it many times, always after I’ve watched Firefly. Big question. In the scene when the blast doors open and River is standing surrounded by dead reevers. Who opened the doors???

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