Monday, March 20, 2006

“You know what the definition of a hero is?”

Last year I sadly missed “Serenity” in the theater. Just as sadly, I have only seen hatcheted ‘full screen’ copies for sale (all the Joss Whedon infatuates must have devoured the good copies instantly) in the local stores.
Then last week, when an unfortunate series of events took me to Northerly Texas, I found my silver lining in the opportunity to view the long-anticipated vision.

For the uninitiated, “Serenity” is the big-screen climax to a prematurely-canceled FOX show called “Firefly,” set five centuries onward of us.

Back in ‘02 when “Firefly” aired, its setting and premise were abnormal enough to rate front-coverage by various TV publications, but just unorthodox enough to preclude many serious recommendations to anyone but heavy-duty nerds. But heck, I have a nerd’s taste.
I also distinctly remember that the show’s timeslot clashed with my schedule. In fact, the day that I managed to weasel in an hour for the program was the day that cancellation went into effect.

Did I use the words ‘abnormal’ and ‘unorthodox’? Oh my. It is, you see, a sort of space opera western. Cool, huh?
(O.K, so purists would probably criticize my use of the term space opera, but it gets the idea across well enough.)

I have yet to see the TV show (now long-available on DVD), so I can only comment on the film portion. Which, it could be said, ‘blew me away.’

The crew of Serenity, a Firefly-class transport vessel, are a motley bunch of bandits (pirates?) whose arsenal stretches the range from an H&K smg to a severed lever-action Winchester “mare’s leg” ala Steve McQueen.
Ship’s Captain Malcolm Reynolds, defeated hero of a long-gone civil war against the totalitarian Alliance, seems to be scratching to find his place between resistance fighter and outright rogue. His first-mate, veteran of the same platoon, is struggling to keep her skipper from disappearing into the dark-side due to their mutual violence.

There are others worried about Mal Reynolds’ soul, including an almost-family preacher-man and a professional buddhist beauty. In fact, everyone’s primary concern seems to be that Reynolds isn’t quite sure anymore what he believes in, if anything.
And this is one weakness that a very scary enemy does not share.

In the end, the only thing keeping the Captain from losing himself to the crime he lives is a 90-pound passenger of 17 who is more of a danger to Serenity than her crew knows. She, and the very serene villain dispatched to recover her secrets.

In the end, “Serenity” was everything I had hoped and more. A powerful tale about the power of ideology, convictions, and love (though it goes overboard on the love part at the end) with a truly frightening bad guy (they don’t make many of those anymore), it is a film not to be missed.

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