No, we haven’t time traveled back to 2005 to talk about the Serenity movie that kept the Firefly universe going for a little longer. We’re looking at the Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway-led Serenity thriller that hits theaters this weekend. The last time we saw these two actors together was the Christopher Nolan-directed Interstellar in 2014, so naturally there are folks curious about what their second outing together is like. Well, reviews for Serenity are now in, and it looks like the Steven Knight-directed flick is nowhere near the same level of quality as Interstellar. The movie’s unusual twist in particular sounds quite controversial, depending on who you ask.
Starting off, CinemaBlend’s own Mike Reyes gave Serenity 2.5 out of 5 stars in his review, saying that the movie’s talented cast are brought together to act out “what’s basically a late night Cinemax movie from the late 80’s / early 90’s.” It isn’t until later that the movie transitions from a “sexy noir knockoff” into “something altogether different” by presenting intriguing ideas, but by the time Serenity hits its final act, it transitions once more into an “info dump that undermines a lot of the goodwill it’s earned.”
A film that starts off like a Cinemax late night thriller, only to slide into half baked territory that only a USA Networks original dares to tread.
Karen Han from Polygon found Serenity to be “ludicrous,” noting how the first half of the movie is about what you’d expect from the trailers, but the latter half is where things get super weird (no spoilers here). While Han found Serenity to be beautifully shot and its actors committed to their roles, the bonkers twist takes away attention from everything else.
While I can’t whole-heartedly recommend going to see this film — the first hour, i.e. when it’s still trying to hide the fact that it’s a video game, is a drag — I can’t imagine that there’s a single other movie coming out this year that will match it for how utterly unbelievable it is. That alone makes Serenity worthy of distinction, despite how impossible it is to figure out exactly what audience the film was meant for.
Collider’s Matt Goldberg was more positive towards Serenity, awarding it a B+. Although he found the first two-thirds of the movie as “baffling” overall, once that “bonkers” and “stunningly audacious” twist is revealed, that’s when Serenity gets “a heart,” although Goldberg acknowledged that this twist won’t work for everyone.
Serenity presents itself as a sultry thriller and instead it’s far closer to an episode Black Mirror. And if Serenity had been an episode of Black Mirror, no one would have a batted an eye, because we know that every episode is dark, twisted, and has some relationship to technology. As good as an episode like “San Junipero” is, we watch it not believing that it takes place in the 1980s but waiting for the other shoe to drop. Serenity is deeply reluctant to let us even know there are shoes.
William Bibbiani from The Wrap, on the other hand, was among the critics who did not like Serenity’s twist. He thought that director Steven Knight failed to bring the “usual, rich characters and believable dialogue” to Serenity that was present in past movies like Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises. Put simply, Serenity is “all pressure points and no connective tissue,” and Bibbiani was puzzled why Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway joined the project.
The best twists make you reevaluate everything you’ve seen before, and reveal new layers of the story that make the whole film stronger. The twist in Serenity makes you reevaluate everything you’ve seen before, but now it all makes less sense, as though Knight wasn’t particularly interested in the mechanics of his twist and only interested in pulling the rug out from under us.
Back to (slightly more) positive territory, Slashfilm’s Hoai-Tran Bui gave Serenity a 6.5 out of 10 score. As she explained, the movie can be divided into two acts: before and after the twist, and both halves are so “wildly dissimilar” from one another that they could be completely different movies. Bui complimented Serenity’s cast for dedicating themselves to the “sheer heights of ridiculousness,” but said the movie ultimately fails to resolve everything as properly as it could have.
But Serenity is splashy, it’s weird, it’s wild, and it knows it. And it’s a highly ambitious movie that offers something that fewer and fewer movies do these days: a genuine surprise.
Finally, Kimber Myers from The Playlist stamped a C grade on Serenity. While she couldn’t exactly recommend the movie to people, she nonetheless wants others to see it to discuss just how “insane” it is with her. Myers also mentioned how ironic it is that this movie is called Serenity considering that the story is anything but calm or peaceful for the audience. But, at least Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway were able to have fun with the material they were given.
The oily slick of sin across the surface of this film isn’t what makes it wickedly fun; it’s the utter devotion to its bonkers twist, at once defying logic and good taste. Serenity knows it’s trash, but that’s not to say that it’s not entertaining trash.
These are just a few of the reviews for Serenity now online, so feel free to look around for other thoughts. Nevertheless, it appears that the M. Night Shyamalan-like twist in Serenity will be what makes or breaks this movie for everyone. Some of you might be all for it, others might be completely turned off, but it definitely sounds like this will be a topic of discussion amongst cinephiles for a little bit.
You can judge Serenity for itself when it hits theaters tomorrow, January 25, which is also when The Kid Who Would Be King opens. For those of you curious about what else there is to look forward to on the big screen this year, look through our 2019 release schedule to arm yourselves with knowledge, and stay tuned to CinemaBlend for all the latest updates from the world of movies.