I've just finally seen Serenity. So, if you're concerned about spoilers, bugger off now—if you cared about spoilers, you should've already seen the big damn movie.
Some quick, fully spoiled thoughts:
I'm fairly certain it was the best science fiction movie I've seen in about 10-15 years. I'm only just about to turn 30 this month, so I'm not old by any stretch—but I've watched a lot of sci-fi in my time. Probably too much sci-fi.
In any case, this was the first movie I've seen in at least a decade that had me wanting to walk out, go straight to get another ticket, and watch it over again. Like I remember doing a few times with roller coasters when I was little.
Many classic snips of Whedonesque dialog. If they aren't coming out now via geeks with recorders in theaters, they'll be out in soundboards by December when the DVD arrives.
"Dozens of planets, hundreds of moons"? Well, I guess a single solar system alleviates the need for any sort of faster-than-light travel loopholes—but damn, that makes our solar system look sparse.
River as a psychic, having mentally scooped up state secrets from visiting politicians gave a very nice and sensible motivation to everyone after her.
I missed the men with blue gloves. They were creepy. The operative seemed like part 2 of the last one they'd left drifting in space, only maybe more finely honed. He was rather fearsome, but didn't give me the willies.
The operative's total psychological conversion to the mission as a "believer" was a great concept, though. I could imagine some future tech being used to tickle the "God spot" or something in a Pavlovian/Skinnerian approach to bind a person to an objective.
I am surprised that the truth managed to snap him out of it, though. Religious zealots seem very rarely turned by the facts. It was a good admission at the end though, having failed the mission, when he said "there's nothing left to see".
When the Shepherd died, I wasn't too choked up. I mean, he was a good character, had a crapload of mysteries worth exploring, but he was ultimately an outsider and a passenger on the ship—maybe because of all those mysteries.
And, of course, in the movie as independent from the series, the Shepherd wasn't given much story to become a central concern. But, he got his dying scene and a fairly closure-rich exit.
The landing on Miranda and the subsequent explanation of the Reavers struck me as a bit of classic Star Trek done right—done better*. And, having demystified the Reavers—from victims of *spaaaaace madness down to better living through government chemistry—did nothing to make them any less scary.
Does anyone out there remember when they used to play 3-D movies on TV? They'd have a signal at a certain point, when you were meant to don the glasses.
When that spike nailed Wash and he died without a few minutes' scene of melodramatic, coughing last words—that was the signal for, "In this next fight? They're all fair game. Start worrying."
He was just gone, like people really go when they're not characters in a story enjoying the benefits of deus ex machina. It's a very rare story where the author's gutsy enough to do permanent damage to the fictional universe itself in order to raise the stakes.
I'm sad and pissed, but this was a hell of a lot better than wrecking the Enterprise. Hell, they did wreck the ship, but Serenity already got rebuilt by the end of the movie. There will be no Wash 1701B.