Serenity, the latest movie by writer and director Steven Knight, is one heck of a beast to wrap your mind around. Knight packs so much into a less than two hour time period that it really should be an entertaining flick, but in the end, this overpacked suitcase ends up ripping its zipper, leading to an absolute mess.
Serenity has a number of elements that would typically make a movie into a hit, such as a torn apart father-son relationship, an ethical dilemma, a giant sea monster, a star-studded cast, vigorous sex scenes, some freaky camera movement, a character who looks like he came right out of a Wes Anderson movie, healthy doses of science fiction, plot twists, telepathy, and a plethora of unnecessary underwater shots of a naked Matthew McConaughey. All of this added up into a nearly impossible to follow plot that kept shifting tones, with character motivation that was incredibly difficult to follow at times. Almost all of the strange tonal decisions in this movie felt like they were made to give the movie a feeling of being good, without actually having to be good.
The first half of Serenity actually had potential to be decent, but all of that changed about halfway through the movie. Without spoiling what happened, it felt like Steven Knight was halfway through writing a script with a deep ethical narrative about whether or not murder can be excused in certain circumstances, but then he got hooked on Black Mirror, and decided to make the rest of the script a Black Mirror episode instead. Even when the resolution seemingly answered all of the questions that the movie had asked, it made everything that occurred in the movie feel utterly pointless, as if you had just wasted the last two hours of your life (which you had).
The only aspect of Serenity that was actually quite decent was the cast. Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jason Clarke all gave their all in their respective roles, giving passionate performances that felt real, even when the rest of the story did not. I would say the same for actor Djimon Hounsou, but like almost every other movie with Djimon Hounsou, this movie seriously underutilized his talent, giving him very few real moment throughout the movie. However, the great performances by this star-studded cast arguably made the movie even worse, as the script and narrative was so horrible that almost everything McConaughey and Hathaway did felt over-acted. Also, the movie tried to convince us that Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey were the same age without using any make-up to age or de-age either actor, which made the story even more unbelievable.
While the ethical narrative of the movie may be intriguing enough to attract audience to see Serenity, it's unlikely that this ship will stay afloat at the box office for longer than the weekend. Though this latest movie from Aviron Pictures may have started out as a clever concept, the idea of what could have been is barely visible within the horrible, spam-like stew that Steven Knight has mixed up. Give it a few years, and Serenity may end up being a huge hit in the "So bad, it's good" genre.