If someone was to ask me what my favourite American films were, I’d instictively rattle off a list that would include things like Heat, The Godfather Parts I&II, The Before Trilogy, No Country For Old Men, Zodiac, Apocalypse Now, Collateral, Lost In Translation, and The Last Waltz.
But if someone were to ask me what American film I’d seen the most, the likely answer wouldn’t be any of those. Not because I haven’t watched those a lot, but because the film I’m pretty sure I’ve watched more times than any other I have seen just so many times so as to border on the ridiculous. Weirdly, that film is Serenity. Serenity, that movie extension of a beloved TV series that itself never really feels like a ‘proper’ film but more of a feature-length episode. That brainchild of a once-revered industry creative now fully revealed to be at the very least a bit of a c**t.
I just love it. Can’t help it. Granted I haven’t seen it for a few years now, so maybe my relationship to it has changed, but at one point I’m sure I could’ve watched it on loop a few times before feeling the need to turn it off. I’m not even sure what it is about it that has(/d) me in such a trance, to be honest. There’s something about the rhythm of the thing. The pacing of it. The way it feels that you’re joining these characters who have already existed for a long time before the camera honed in on them.
I guess that’s partly because they actually, literally did. What with Firefly being a thing and all. Firefly is one of the most famously ‘prematurely cancelled’ series of all time. Serenity only exists in the first place thanks to an intense fan campaign clamouring for a more satisfying conclusion to their beloved, terminated joy. So in terms of character investment, Serenity would have had a lesser challenge than most movies, its audience coming in with an established relationship to its cast. I didn’t have any such investment. I saw the film before the series. I think for me, this remains maybe the best part about the film: The way the characters are established with such impressively economic, comic efficiency, so that even someone who has never seen or heard them before ends up with a near-total understanding of who these people are within a few minutes. ‘We’re gonna explode? I don’t wanna explode!’ That kind of thing. All of this, in other words:
I was hooked from the get-go. I did go back and watch Firefly after that, and while I enjoyed it a lot, it never quite captured the magic I felt in Serenity. Most fans at the time had the exact opposite opinion.
I haven’t seen the show in even longer than the film. I’d wondered a few times how it would hold up now. Honest Trailers apparently did too, as they grappled with it recently.
Header Image Source: 20th Century Fox Television