We’re not even a full month into 2019 yet, and already we have the runaway contender for worst movie of the year. Truly, it will take a calamitous motion picture event to knock Serenity from its perch, and that’s not likely since the majority of the movie’s failure lies with the obscenely squandered cast. It isn’t every day you get two Oscar winners and two nominees together in one movie, trying to make sense of what can only be described as the most laughably deranged screenplay in recent years. And that counts last year’s godawful The Happytime Murders.
Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Djimon Hounsou, and Diane Lane all somehow got coerced (or tricked) into signing up for this thing, and when all is said and done, you’ll either find yourself lamenting how the mighty are fallen or trying to figure out who they owed big.
And what’s worse (yes, there’s a “worse”) is that Serenity actually has the makings of a good (or at least decent) movie until it careens so entirely off the rails.
McConaughey stars as Baker Dill, a loner fishing guide who lives in a repurposed shipping container on the remote island of Plymouth (Mauritius, in real life) and spends his days taking rich jackasses out in his boat. At the same time he’s also hunting down his white whale—a gigantic tuna he’s named Justice. And when he’s not doing either of those things, he can usually be found in flagrante with Constance (Lane).
’Round about this time, rich socialite Karen (Hathaway) arrives on the scene, begging John (which is apparently Baker’s real name) to kill her husband Frank (Jason Clarke). Turns out she used to be with Baker (and they even had a kid together), but when Baker went off to war, she left him and took up with Frank. Frank, though, is worse than any jackass Baker has ever taken out on his boat—a creepy, ultra-possessive dude who Anne will pay Baker $10 million to dispatch.
Decent setup, right? It may be pretty standard for noir-ish, pulpy fare, but there’s at least a little bit of promise.
That feeling doesn’t last long, though.
Shortly after Karen’s arrival, we start to get the sense there’s something wonky afoot… and then, as the “big twist” slowly reveals itself, we’re left with little to think except: “Is this movie really going there? Seriously?” Alas, yes it is. And we haven’t even mentioned the weirdo accountant-guy wading through the surf in his three-piece suit.
I will begrudgingly give the cast some credit, since they actually seem to be putting forth some effort here, but there’s only so much they can do with lines like, “Around here everyone seems to know everything, but what if the truth is no one knows anything?”
Writer-director Steven Knight (who also wrote the less-than-mediocre Burnt and Allied) was probably going for something like Inception or Lost some other mind-bendy head-trip when he came up with Serenity, but whew, something not-so-funny happened on the way to the big screen. While I can easily see a certain (small) portion of the viewing populace looking at this as something so-bad-it’s-good, it’s not. It’s just bad. Plot holes abound, the twist results in nothing but confused looks followed by hefty eye rolls, and in the end none of it actually makes a lick of sense.
I’m sure one day years from now we’ll hear about how McConaughey lost a bet or that Hathaway had simply always wanted to visit Mauritius, but until then we’re left to sit and wonder how this trainwreck of a catastrophe ever came to be.