Advance.
Retreat.
She moved in and out of my life like waves.
Worked her way in, shared life then it's pack-up, pull-out, recede.
She was my justice. She justified everything simply by being.

Her possession was a My Little Pony. Light shade of purple, sparkling. It wasn't prized. She didn't win it. It was hers. She said it brought her calm in everything she did. When she left, the Pony sat on my bathroom sink. I didn't guess anything.

Sometimes in the mornings she'd get up early and scare me up, or if we both got up we would sing songs while she ran a comb through my hair or against the dresser. It made a nice sound either way.

I wanted to name our Pony Justice at first but she came up with Serenity and I thought that sounded better.
Days slipped by until a month was over, and she said good-bye. Serenity stood on the bathroom sink, waiting.

At first, the silence was unbearable. I'd sit and think, think about how I should've asked her out this time, asked her to stay. But I knew that wouldn't work because if we were going out I'd want to hold hands with her while we walked or talked. She didn't like holding hands, she said it made her feel dependent, attached. Besides, we had an understanding, and that understanding included Serenity.

I felt a need for release, an opening. I felt unhealthy, unbalanced. But the anguish didn't come. Serenity sat at the bathroom sink. We weren't really separated.

I felt a ticking as I sat and waited. The first few hours were always the worst. At first I felt it, but then I began to hear it as well. I rummaged through my belongings and found a watch, counting the seconds. I brought it to my ear and felt it ticking.

The anxiousness is the worst part. I had to do something about the tense feeling I got everytime I got up to move. I looked up at Serenity. She looked back.

And then I realized it. The ocean had left something behind for me, something very important. Something that made the days until July seem like seconds. I brushed my hair, exchanging wary looks with the Pony. I took the pony and looked at her and for a moment, brought my attention off myself and my glaring insecurities. As I looked deeper, they died down to a glow, a flicker, nothing. I felt the calm wash over me in soothing, monotonous waves. We had an understanding.

Joss Whedon created a promising SF show which first saw air in 2002. Though assembled from disparate parts of genres and leftover pieces of sets, Firefly proved an original mix, a space western about a group of troubled but complex characters who live life on the frontier edge of an interplanetary Alliance. Whedon insisted on high production values and strong visual effects, even needlessly complicating shots with less-than-ideal weather and other bits of messiness. Effects, however, were never the focus of Firefly. The show emphasized characters and story, and rounded up a sizeable cult following before Fox killed it. That following only grew in the months that followed and, three years after cancellation, the story continued in Serenity.

Nathan Fillion as Malcolm Reynolds
Gina Torres as Zoe
Alan Tudyk as Wash
Jewel Staite as Kaylee
Morena Baccarin as Inara
Adam Baldwin as Jayne
Sean Maher as Simon Tam
Summer Glau as River Tam
Ron Glass as Book
Chiwetel Ejiofor as the Operative
David Krumholtz as Mr. Universe
Yan Feldman as Mingo
Rafael Feldman as Fanty

The movie faced a challenge: sell the universe of a short-lived cult show to a broad audience, without alienating the original fans. This raised the likelihood that the film would begin with the Grand Crawl of Infodump that has cursed SF and fantasy films since the original Star Wars (which at least had the excuse that it was imitating the old serials). Whedon rises to the challenge, and begins Serenity with a clever sequence that draws us further into his world. An infodump voice-over becomes a classroom teacher speaking over a holographic projection. Her debate with the young River Tam becomes a memory of the teenaged River's, who is the subject of experiments that resemble an SF-amplified MKULTRA. We then see Simon Tam's rescue of his sister, referenced but never seen in the original series. Their escape becomes, in turn, a security record examined by a sinister character called the Operative. The Operative, played with disturbing calm by Ciwetel Ejiofor, finally answers a question from the original series; why did the Alliance so desperately want the Tams? His answer creates another mystery, which forms the basis of Serenity's plot. As Mal Reynolds and his crew learn more about their young passenger, they find themselves entangled in her life. Ultimately, they must decide whether or not they want to take a stand, against overwhelming odds, for the truth.

It's a tall order for a gang who start the film robbing a bank.

Serenity maintains the show's sense of fun; the crew continue to bicker like siblings. The writing remains sharp, but the best lines work even better than they might because we get to know the characters delivering them. Mal forbids Jayne to take grenades on the bank job, only to be sarcastically reminded of his decision when they find they desperately need some. Earthy Kaylee makes a reference to masturbation. Mal complains that no one needs quite so much information; Jayne suggests he wouldn't mind hearing more.

The movie also maintains the wild west feel of the original Firefly, but it's not as literally realized as it was in the series. Whedon spends his budget wisely, creating something less dependent on leftover sets and costumes.1

While much remains familiar, the movie heads into territory uncharted by the television show. Serenity develops into a horror movie/thriller, with violence, blood, and death.

Once the storyline puts the crew between the powerful Alliance, who are desperate to conceal official misdoings, and the cannibalistic Reavers, who are eager for dinner, it becomes clear that not everyone will survive. When one principal character died, I wasn't too surprised; when the second fell, I found myself wondering if this would be a last stand for the entire crew. We're not in suspense over how how the protagonists will escape, but whether any of them will live.

The secret the crew uncovers and their tragic heroism take the movie in directions that will not please every fan of the show, but these elements produce good, big-screen drama. In the context of the story, the decisions made by the characters matter.

Along the trail to its conclusion, Serenity touches on a number of timely issues. In a limited way, this film asks us to consider government influence on information, the need for social control, the creative, anarchic messiness of humanity, and the nature of heroism. This isn’t quite the movie I expected, but Serenity delivers. Apply that statement to most of the Star Trek films and any of the Star Wars prequels, and it would be a half-truth.


1. As much as I enjoyed Firefly, the degree to which Whedon pushed the western elements became annoying at times. Another issue with the setting created by Serenity involves the suggestion that the series and movie take place in a single, heavily-terraformed solar system. While this conceit allows them to get by without FTL travel and explains how ships can engage each other, it raises a number of problems. It's a quibble, but a fair one. I wish Whedon had either ignored the issue of how Firefly moves so easily among the space colonies, or explained it in a less problematic way.

Brook,
Be still,---be still!
Midnight's arch is broken
In thy ceaseless ripples.
Dark and cold below them
Runs the troubled water,---
Only on its bosom,
Shimmering and trembling,
Doth the glinted star-shine
                          Sparkle and cease.

Life,
Be still,---be still!
Boundless truth is shattered
On thy hurrying current.
Rest, with face uplifted,
Calm, serenely quiet;
Drink the deathless beauty---
Thrills of love and wonder
Sinking, shining, star-like;
Till the mirrored heaven
Hollow down within thee
Holy deeps unfathomed,
Where far thoughts go floating,
And low voices wander
                          Whispering peace.

Edward Rowland Sill, The Poetical Works, 1906

A manga-style comic created by Buzz Dixon and Min Kwon in 2005, Serenity depicts the life of a teenage girl named Serenity Harper who moves from Los Angeles to a seemingly unspecified town somewhere in the United States, and on enrolling at James A. Madison High School in this settlement ends up associating with members of the Prayer Club and gradually adopts Christianity as her faith.

So far there are six volumes in the series:

The sales figures were less than spectacular, with fewer comic geeks buying it than expected. The first six volumes were published by Barbour, but the rights have passed to Thomas Nelson Publishing, who plan to release four further volumes in January 2008:

The writing is not as bad as some might expect in a work of Christian fiction (such as, for example, the TV series 7th Heaven), but not of the standard one typically expects of more mainstream comic writers such as Brian K. Vaughan.

Why Serenity is good:

  • Serenity doesn't convert to Christianity immediately; Dixon teases out the issue gradually so that Serenity has still not fully converted by the end of volume 6.
  • There is a surprisingly nuanced presentation on the moral rectitude of a Christian life.

Why Serenity is not so good:

There is no connection to any space westerns of any kind.

Se*ren"i*ty (?), n. [L. serenuas: cf. F. s'er'enit'e.]

1.

The quality or state of being serene; clearness and calmness; quietness; stillness; peace.

A general peace and serenity newly succeeded a general trouble. Sir W. Temple.

2.

Calmness of mind; eveness of temper; undisturbed state; coolness; composure.

I can not see how any men should ever transgress those moral rules with confidence and serenity. Locke.

Serenity is given as a title to the members of certain princely families in Europe; as, Your Serenity.

 

© Webster 1913.

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