What the hell happened in Serenity?
That is the question. This movie is absolutely bonkers and then it hits the final twist and the haberdashery is raised to levels of helter skelter madness. Serenity is a very-bright noir crime mystery with a tinge of fantasy, a splash of science fiction and an ABSURD amount of heavy-handed symbolism, motif building or whatever you have it.
This is the storyline according to IMDB.com: Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) is a fishing boat captain leading tours off a tranquil, tropical enclave called Plymouth Island. His quiet life is shattered, however, when his ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) tracks him down with a desperate plea for help. She begs Dill to save her – and their young son – from her new, violent husband (Jason Clarke) by taking him out to sea on a fishing excursion, only to throw him to the sharks and leave him for dead. Karen’s appearance thrusts Dill back into a life he’d tried to forget, and as he struggles between right and wrong, his world is plunged into a new reality that may not be all that it seems.
ABSURD…but it’d tell you I was intrigued from the get-go with what is an undeniably strong cast. You combine beach McConaughey, blonde Hathaway and comically-over-the-top evil Clarke…one can imagine even a bad script could be lifted to a passable viewing.
Nope. That’s not the case.
The final third of this movie takes what’s a very inconsistent movie to a downright comically insane movie. Through expository flashbacks, telepathic connections and a rule-maker (literally), the main character Baker Dill, who is actually named John, finds out that he is just a digital character created within a computer program by his genius son and that his existence is a mere fabrication because he is actually dead in real life and Dill’s digital presence is a subconscious projection of this son…who in the real world uses this computer program as a way to gather courage on his way to taking a knife and stabs his step-father to death.
Does that make sense? You get all that?
Serenity goes off the deep end and drags everything that was respectable about it with it. The movie itself has some very pretty cinematic shots and the acting of McConaughey and Hathaway is not terrible. There are some very odd camera movements and literal “whoosh” sound effects sprinkled throughout that hint at Serenity’s odd genre blend, but the shifts in style really hit you in the face like a surprise stepping on the toe on the dance floor.
In terms of the heavy handed nature: the big Tuna that Dill is chasing from the get-go is called Justice. You know, because the son is seeking justice for his mom but it keeps on getting away. It’s all folded neatly into an envelope when the tuna drags down Frank (the abusive husband) into the blue depths in the final moments of the movie. There is also Karen (Hathaway) being dressed in white for nearly the entire movie…because in the son’s eyes she is completely innocent and has yet to be tainted. Well, she does wear black when she goes to Baker’s boat and they have sex, which is really weird when you think about it because the son is programming his parents having sex and talking about their sex lives.
Did I mention Serenity is bonkers?
Writer and director Steven Knight has done some very respected work, including the really underrated Locke in 2013. He’s also been a writer on Peaky Blinders, which is one of the best shows on TV.
However, as I am writing this, I see he was part of the screenplay for November Criminals (2017), which is one of the worst movies I’ve seen over the last few years.
Serenity cannot be recommended as a movie, but if you want to laugh at illogicality and silliness, then this journey is for you. Get your popcorn, warm your lungs, because you’ll be laughing all the way to the ludicrous end.
Stanko Rating: D