Serenity has a lot to live up to as the feature length continuation of Joss Whedon’s extremely good but tragically cancelled sci-fi western, Firefly. Though it may seem odd at first that a bunch of cowboys would pilot interplanetary vessels to get to the nearest cattle ranch, and are just as likely to make a statement with a rifle as a laser, the show featured plenty of Whedon’s trademark wit and mastery of the ensemble cast.
Serenity does a remarkably good job of both continuing the series for fans while remaining accessible as an independent story for everyone else. It’s got some tight sci-fi action sequences, but Whedon always puts the characters first, and the movie is all the better for it. Many of the diehard Firefly fans are hoping for a Big Damn Trilogy if the movie does well enough, but Whedon is obviously more of a realist. You might be better off watching the fifteen episodes of Firefly before seeing the movie, not because you need it to appreciate the plot, but because Serenity caps the plotlines of the series in a number of ways. Granted, there is still a lot that could be done with the Serenity/Firefly universe, but clearly Whedon is acting under the assumption that he’s been given just the one shot at bringing some closure to his world. I’m glad to see he didn’t waste that shot.
Ultimately though, the final fate of the crew of the Serenity is a secondary factor. This is probably the best piece of science fiction to hit theaters in many years, regardless of whether you’ve seen the series (and you know I’m including the Star Wars prequels and Matrix sequels in “the last few years”).