When I was at university, Serenity came out. I’d never heard of Firefly, but I was familiar with Joss Wheedon thanks to Buffy and at the time it was in IMDB’s top 250. So I dragged one of my friends along and saw a film I still own and watch regularly to this day. Then I discovered Firefly and saw the film in a whole new light. All the jokes I hadn’t quite caught, the references I didn’t quite understand made sense. Serenity works fantastically as a stand alone movie and as a finale to a cancelled TV show.
I’ve been thinking about day a lot this year. I thought about it before I saw Spooks: The Greater Good (review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wg8Dvjhr3us) and before I saw Entourage (review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FElPWowmsY) And in most cases, I feel that you need a working knowledge of the TV show. I am aware that the films will often do an exposition dump in order to give a basic understanding to the world and its characters (Serenity is still the master of this in one amazing shot), but in a crowded cinema screen, when people are laughing at a reference or reacting to a new character being introduced then it can alienate you from the film that you are trying to enjoy.
That’s not to say that you need to watch all the accompanying episodes of a TV show to understand the film, it is still possible for you to enjoy these films without prior knowledge and in the case of this summers Man from U.N.C.L.E. or Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, these are reboots and as such have their own internal mythology and world-building. But sometimes, a little prior knowledge can lead to an far superior film experience.