Whenever a movie has its release date pushed back, you can already begin to smell problems. Be it because the studio wants to cover its losses after seeing the finished product, moving it to less competitive date, or to allow for some time to patch things up; it usually never happens when a film is deemed “good.” There are two previously 2018 films that have had their release date pushed back to 2019, one of them is the Robert Rodriguez blockbuster Alita: Battle Angel, which will premiere in February, the other is the star-studded noir-thriller Serenity.
Serenity centers on a scrappy fisherman Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) who bumps into his old flame, the now wealthy Karen (Anne Hathaway) who begs for help from her abusive husband Frank (Jason Clarke).
The film plays to its film noir genre and fills itself with clichés for the first half of the film and given the impressive cast, along with the additions of Diane Lane and Djimon Hounsou, you’re tempted to simply go along with it. There’s certainly a surprising commitment from the entire cast to play the story out with straight faces, and if this had persisted until the end it would have been an enjoyable time. However, writer-director Steven Knight seemed to think this was not enough, and thus throws a curveball twist half-way through the film that throws everything into disarray.
For the sake of respecting spoilers, I won’t get into what the big twist is, and while I and some other viewers could see it coming, it seemed too ridiculous once it was presented to the audience to even elicit gasps. The result is that it unmakes everything from the first half of the film and takes away any meaning or attachment to any of the characters. There is also an abrupt change in pace, with Knight slowing things down to a crawl as if to give us time to absorb the big twist, but it isn’t as clever or complex as he thinks it to be. While the film certainly had the material for a twist, the one that was chosen came from left-field so that it seemed to be a revelation for a different film that somehow found its way into Serenity’s script. The result is that the second half of the film voids the first and makes the entire end product seem like Velazquez and Pollock painting on the same canvas; you simply don’t know what the end product is supposed to be.
Serenity had everything going for it, and by simply playing it safe it would have delivered an infinitely better product than what we ended up getting. The committed cast is wasted on characters that end up meaning nothing to us. While I commend filmmakers for making bold and risky movies in filmmaking today, it doesn’t excuse failed attempts, especially when they’re as blatant and trivial as here. Definitely not alright alright alright.