DISCLAIMER: This review contains massive spoilers for Serenity, as it’s impossible to talk about why it’s so bad without getting into the details. You’ve been warned, but you probably don’t care to see it anyway, as it bombed terribly. Anyway, here we go.

Ahhhhh, the glory of twists. An element of some films that have the power to either make or (usually) break the story. Twists are all about turning you on your head, making you reconsider everything you just watched. Sometimes you go back and find a clue you missed that made it all make sense, but if you go back and explore the bad twists, then you’re left with a lot of confusion and sometimes aggravation. 

Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) is a deep-sea fisherman, constantly chasing after a giant tuna fish on his boat named Serenity. He lives on the island of Plymouth, doing the same routine over and over, desperately hunting the fish. Suddenly, his ex-lover from years ago Karen Zariakas (Anne Hathway) appears, offering him a proposal: throw her abusive husband Frank (Jason Clarke) overboard and she’ll give him $10,000,000. Baker isn’t sure if he should do the deed, but realizing his son Patrick is also abused by Frank, he believes he has no choice… Or does he? 

So, for the first half of this movie, I was actually invested. It’s a simple premise that I really enjoyed, even if it has this sleazy tone to it. I love stories where terrible people get what’s coming to them, and all of the actors were doing a fine job. There was some nice, fluid editing, and the scenery and photography were gorgeous too, so what was the problem? Well, throughout the first half, a tiny man is chasing around Baker, desperately trying to tell him something. He acts incredibly odd and almost robotic. Also throughout this, as parts of Baker’s past and family are explored, it shows Patrick disappearing into his computer to escape his abusive home. It shows him play a fishing video game, which I at first thought was just him having a vicarious relationship with Baker through the game. But as it the story progressed, I found myself thinking, “Are they actually inside a video game created by the kid the whole time? No. There’s no way they would be that stupid.” 

Oh, but they were that stupid, because that’s actually the twist of the movie. Baker lives inside a video game created by Patrick, and this is some just bizarre wish fulfillment fantasy that he uses to gain courage to murder his evil step father in the real world. It’s also revealed that Baker was killed in a war a decade prior, and it’s another way for Patrick to have a relationship with him. So, he created a game from the ground up, complete with the most realistic graphics and character models you would ever see. There’s such a fundamental misunderstanding of computers and video games here, it’s laughable. Writer/director Steven Knight has a somewhat spotty career, and I love some of his stuff (how can you not love Peaky Fookin’ Blinders?!), but this all seems like some old man who’s horribly out of touch. 

The twist does absolutely nothing to add to the story, only making it more complicated and confusing. It’s certainly nowhere as clever as Knight thinks it is, and it just grinds the story to a halt because it’s like a dramatic tone shift. It gets even more confusing and even creepy the more you think about it. Baker isn’t just a fisherman, but also a prostitute, who often meets with client Constance (Diane Lane). There’s also quite the heavy sex scene between Baker and Karen, and all this means is that Patrick is designing and coding these video game versions of his parents to have sex, be prostitutes, murderers, and all that. The prospect is even more uncomfortable with the copious amounts of McConaughey nudity (ladies and gay guys will love that at least), which also means Patrick must think of his dad being naked a lot… Anyway, is there any Anne Hathaway or Diane Lane (who’s still got it) nudity for us guys or ladies on the other side, at least? Hahaha, of course not. Hope you enjoy McConaughey’s butt. 

You know those sleazy romance novels that have Fabio on the cover, or something? Serenity feels like a cross between one of those and an episode of Black Mirror. Out of the eight people in my screening, I was the youngest person by at least a 25 year margin. There were a few old ladies in particular, and with the poster and the actors, they were probably thinking they were getting some erotic thriller with some attractive people. During the hysterical last five minutes, I could literally feel the confusion radiating through the room. I felt awful for them, because it’s almost insulting from top to bottom. It’s distributed by Aviron Pictures, which I have never heard of until now, but that’s not a surprise, as absolutely no big studio would finance this failed experiment. 


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