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When the Fox network made the decision to cancel Firefly, fans of the show -- styling themselves "Browncoats" after the rebels on the series -- decided to wage their own Battle of Serenity.
They won. The result was Serenity, the big-screen adaptation of the show (and, indirectly, Halo ODST, the characters of which were based on the cast of Firefly, and even voice-acted by the actors from the show).
The film picks up where the series left off, with Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) leading the crew of the Serenity on a payroll robbery.
Leading Jane (Adam Baldwin), Zoe (Gina Torres) and the psychic River Tam (Summer Glau), their robbery is interrupted by Reavers, humans driven deranged and cannibalistic.
Reynold's adventures eventually lead him into the sights of an Alliance assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor) intent on killing River in order to secure any secrets she may have gleaned from Alliance politicians.
As it turns out, the secret River unknowingly possesses is even darker than anyone could have imagined: the secret of the Reavers.
The origin of the reavers relates closely to the underplot of the entire Firefly franchise: a big government "Alliance" that has imposed itself upon outlying worlds outside of its core territories by military force. Their self-proclaimed goal is to improve the lives of all humanity.
Simply put, the Alliance is essentially Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan in space.
The Alliance dabbles in all sorts of utopian experiments as only big government can manage. The one that ranspires on the planet Miranda truly takes the cake.
Planet Miranda is a former Alliance colony that has essentially been erased from history. It also happens to be smack-dab in the middle of territory controlled by the Alliance.
The Alliance secretly dosed their colonists there with a drug that would minimize aggressive impulses. Unfortuantely, it had two sinister side effects. One, shown in a portion of the population, caused them to become suicidally docile. These colonists stopped eating, and essentially just allowed themselves to starve to death.
The other side effect caused a portion of colonists to become far more aggressive than previously imagined. They became the Reavers.
In response to this revelation, Reynolds delivers one of the most stirring libertarian speeches in the history of cinema:
"You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you've all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this: they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave."Reynolds is determined to see the Alliance's secret exposed to the universe, and so sets off to see Mr Universe (David Krumholtz) in order to make it happen. However, the Alliance assassin is determined to prevent this, and so kills Mr Universe, and prepares to kill Reynolds and his crew.
It's a reminder that when the would-be architects of utopia fail, and the results of their work is instead becomes dystopic, they will do anything to prevent that from becoming public knowledge: even kill.
Serenity may have provided the most succinctly conservative message ever offered by a Hollywood film -- even one made nearly unwillingly by film executives who never understood the value of what they had.
The simple message of Serenity -- beware the so-called progressive masterminds who believe they know what's best for you, better than you do -- holds as true in the modern day as in a fictional and dystopic future.