No. No. NO!!!
Joss, you did NOT just kill Wash! Please, please do NOT have just killed Wash! I was still recovering from your killing Book! At least I can somehow rationalize your killing Book! That was the "this guy is ruthless" killing! But then to go and ... ACK! My very favorite character and you ran a giant stake through him! (Is staking a requirement in your movies and TV shows?) Yes, I know you love to kill off main characters, but at least on 'Buffy' you only bumped off one per season at most. Here you killed off two main cast members within 30 minutes of each other! (Of course, I also came into Buffy fandom late, so I knew who was going to die before I ever saw the episodes. I suppose that was an advantage.)
I couldn't even get into the Climactic Battle, because the whole time I was looking for ways Wash might have survived. I mean, you could have had the stake hit his leg or his side or something! Then you could have still had your sudden bang, and there would have been the additional drama of the group trying to take Wash with them and keep him alive while they fought off the Reavers.
So, yeah. From that moment on, the movie was pretty well ruined for me. But up until that point, it was great! We had the origin of the Reavers, a good explanation of River's condition (even if the opening scenes of Simon breaking her out of the lab don't quite jibe with his description in the TV show's pilot episode), and lots of should-be-patented Whedon dialogue. And, of course, Simon and Kaylee finally got it on. That was the only good part of the ending.
I also don't think the movie was a good setup for a sequel. I mean, what's left? OK, maybe Mal's broadwave transmission causes more people to rise against the Alliance, but that's about it. With Book gone, I doubt we'll ever hear about what he did before he became a shepherd. Even River seems to be, if not cured, at least a lot better.
So, first 90 minutes - stellar stuff. I was loving it. Last 30 minutes - awful. In addition to the aforementioned death, it was pretty much stock sci-fi stuff: captain wages final boss battle while underlings fight against mooks - with long odds, of course. Then, somehow, it all turns out OK. Except for Wash and Book.
I really didn't want to be disappointed, Joss. But I am.
x-posted to _the_firefly_