"Serenity" the movie gives us a season's worth of story arc regarding traumatized River Tam (Summer Glau) and her brother, Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher). In what initially seems to be a flashback, we see how Simon rescued his sister from what is now explicitly shown to be a Alliance brain-washing program, where she is being "enhanced" to become a psychic assassin. We then see that the escape sequence is being reviewed on security camera records by The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who has been assigned to track the pair down--at any cost. This is because she may unwittingly have plucked even more important state secrets from the minds of officials who viewed her progress.
Cut to Serenity: Inara (Morena Baccarin) and Book (Ron Glass) are not with the ship, having gone to separate retreats. Mal (Nathan Fillion) and Simon are at odds over Mal's insistence on using River as psychic cover on a bank robbery, and the arguement blows up when a badly timed Reavers raid nearly overtakes the crew. Mal won't brook Simon challenging his authority on shipboard and is determined to set the Tams on shore. He paradoxically rescinds his decision whan an implanted psychic trigger causes River to demonstrate her abilities as a killing machine. From that point on, it is a race to keep ahead of the ruthless Operative to discover and release the secret held in River's mind.
The movie has all of the series' witty dialog (which, oddly enough, includes times when Mal is lost for words--*) and clever characterizations, including girly-man pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk), competent/innocent engineer Kaylee (Jewel Straite) and agressive coward Jayne (Adam Baldwin).
Everyone who was there thouroughly enjoyed the movie. It was well written and well-paced, and had some interesting philosophical things to say about the power of belief for good and evil, and the road to hell that is paved by good intention.
The thing that interests me is, if this film is successful, what does it bode for any return to televison? I think perhaps there will be none. The movie has given us much of River's secret, although not all, and, although it is likely that Alliance agents will continue to hunt her, we've reached an endpoint in that story arc, and a new ongoing plot will need to be started. We've also seen the secret of the Reavers, and, although they continue to be a potential danger, they've lost their mystery. Given what happened in this picture, notably the destruction of a sizable Alliance space fleet and the release of a very embarassing state secret, Malcolm Reynolds and crew ought to be numbers 1 through 7 on the Alliance Most Wanted List, and I wonder if that level of tension could be sustained. Also, there are the shocking deaths of continuing characters Wash and Book to consider. Wash and Zoe's relationship was charming and unique to TV. Book had a lot of stories left untold, something teasingly hinted at in the story. If the TV show recommenced, would Wash and Book be dead? Is the movie part of "real" continuity, or, if the TV series recommenced, would none of this have happened? I think that by dealing honestly with his fans and giving us a story that dealt seriously with real and important elements of the Serenity universe instead of doing as some "Star Trek" films have done and just giving us an extended TV episode, Joss Whedon may hav shot his bolt and snookered himself out of the chance for another ongoing series. Only time will tell.
Very well done film, with intense "fantasy violence" as one critic put it. "Fantasy violence" in this context means that although River ends up standing Kali-like literally knee-deep in dead Reavers, there's minimal blood and gore--.
*Mal:Do you want to run this ship?
Jayne: Yeah, I do.
Mal: Well, you can't!