I perhaps should explain that even though I was aware of Firefly airing in The Netherlands last season, I somehow always managed to miss it. I saw the very first episode, and bits of one or two more later on, which resulted in me coming to Serenity with very little backstory and no idea what to expect. And I was pleasantly surprised.
First off, the film looks good. The special effects, the CGI, the sets, the make-up, and the cinematography are fine. The script and the dialogues are watertight and liberally interspersed with Joss's trademark levity. The characters seem fairly well-developed, esp. the three main ones of Mal, River Tam and The Operative, although as a newbie I could have done with a bit more characterisation of several others (Kaylee, Inara, e.g.).
The story itself I didn't think was all that interesting (the film will not feature anywhere on my list of Favourites Films Ever), but the cast did a good job of acting and Joss a fine job of directing and the end result was that for 2 hours I was wonderfully entertained.
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a most interesting villain -- an intelligent, rational, articulate killing machine not without human traits and foibles, and despite being dangerous and at first, single-minded in his pursuit of his quarry, he is not unreasonable or incapable of changing his mind or switching his allegiance.
Nathan Fillion's Capt. Mal Reynolds reminded me of Han Solo a bit -- well, actually, reminded me of Han Solo a lot: good but flawed and slightly dodgy, slightly anarchic, stepping up to the plate without hesitation, capable of making hard decisions and ruthlessness when need dictates.
The character of River Tam as the broken girl cum fighting machine was very well played by whoever it was that played her; I loved the scenes in which she kicked ass so gracefully, reminding me of some of my favourite fight scenes in those Chinese films I adore so much, and the same goes for Mal's second-in-command, Zoe. And I was sad to lose Wash, even though he didn't really have a huge part to play.
I liked the fact that Joss managed to make the Reavers scary enough through their legend without having to resort to showing us the gory details -- and a bit disappointed that the scene where they cruise through Reaver territory is so short and passes without incident. Also, I wondered why when the decision had been made to strap their friends' bodies to the craft, and time was presumably of the essence, they eventually opted for attaching their skeletons...
In short, I liked the film, and I'll certainly recommend it to any of my friends who like a bit of sci-fi now and again.
By the way, although our planned outing fell though on Friday, for me the day didn't end in a total wash-out: when I arrived home, late and soaking wet, I found that a TARDIS had landed right in front of my door. That's right: my special edition box set had arrived, and now all I need is an opportunity for uninterrupted viewing.