Serenity Advance Preview Review 

(Spoiler-free, but with some comparisons to the series)

Got to see the Big Damn Movie, and I enjoyed it.  It definitely deserves the Big Damn designation - it compares in scope to Revenge of the Sith.  It's also comparable on the juggling-lots-and-lots-of-scenes front, which I'm not convinced is a good thing.

The movies very dense:  it moves along very quickly, jumping between dialogue-rich scenes (although I couldn't make out all of the dialogue) and action-rich scenes.  The action is very well delivered, easy to follow while still being impressive in breadth.  The dialogue scenes are very Whedonesque, but the dialogue feels overworked, like every single line had to have the cleverness pumped up - entertaining in an exhausting kind of way.  The action, especially the action toward the end, is also kind of overwhelming - one of our teenaged guests literally couldn't get out of her seat for a few minutes when the lights came up - but felt right, not the unnecessary overkill that is so common in action flicks.  We were against the back wall in a stadium-seating venue, which for me is the best vantage point to follow broad action, and everything was clear.

The only characters that feel complete are Mal and Guests, including Chiwetel Ejiofor as the main antagonist as a great villain (only a great villain can admit to being evil without being cheesy), David Krumholtz is a good (Angel-level) supporting character, and Sarah Paulson in a brief-but-critical bit of what could have been thankless exposition.  The rest of the group are Cliffs Notes versions, archetypes, which is mostly okay under the circumstances.  The major problem, I think, is with the pivotal River character, who never comes together here - insight into her childhood doesn't really jive with the character that emerged from the Alliance labs (a lot of the flashback stuff is exposition, and it builds a bit of insight into how her mind works, but I'm not sure its needed), and that character is more a thing than a person (amazingly, most of the human underneath is conveyed with a couple of great facial expressions, which is not enough there there), and the emotional resonance of a lot of plot needs her to be more of a person.

I can't watch this movie and understand what the experience is for a neophyte - the first act seems like it sets the stage and characters adequately;  however, much of the first third of the film does so much set-up that it feels more like a tv pilot than a movie, though, and I'm not sure that there's any way around that.  Overall, though, Serenity feels like a movie that all sorts of folks would like, and the friends we took who were not familiar with the series didn't seem confused by it.  It may even be the type of movie that overwhelms newbies in a way that brings them in for repeat showings, but I can't really predict that kind of behavior.  I do think that the film has a broad appeal, and I'm planning on seeing the finished product.  I'm really curious to see how a score affects it.

The spoiler-filled version


Michael McDarby