Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

At last, Joss Whedon’s feloniously mishandled sci-fi TV series gets its feature film sequel, and as expected, it’s dense with character details and in-jokes for fans while being just as exciting and surprising as the best episodes of the short-lived series. “Firefly” took the unpromising concept of a pistols-and-horses Western set in the space age and made it work through talent, charisma, and force of will, and “Serenity” extends the premise to a bigger canvas without the limitations of a weekly serial. Thankfully, it also abandons or goes easy on the more gimmicky elements of the show, such as the swearing in Mandarin and the silent space sequences, focusing instead on the complicated plot it has to tell, resolving one of the series’ central mysteries in a dense two hours while still managing to fit in a number of sensational action scenes. The uninitiated are likely to enjoy it even if they don’t understand what the hell is happening most of the time, since the film seems made unapologetically for fans who already appreciate its sarcastic wit and consistent ability to pull the rug out from under you just when you think you get it. The film is a treat, and I strongly recommend it, but first you have to rent the original 14-episode series that inspired it. Together they’re worthy of every ounce of love and praise the fans lavish on them.

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