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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Serenity

MOVIE REVIEWS

SERENITY (2005)

Starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Krumholtz, Michael Hitchcock, Sarah Paulson, Yan Feldman and Rafael Feldman.

Screenplay by Joss Whedon.

Directed by Joss Whedon.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.  119 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

 

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Serenity

This must be a first.  A television series is put on the air.  It is not even popular enough to last a season before getting cancelled.  Then, instead of just fading away like all other forgotten shows, it is turned into a feature film. 

Maybe part of the reason is that the series, Firefly, was producer Joss Whedon's follow-up to his extraordinarily popular series Buffy The Vampire Slayer (which, ironically, took the opposite road -- it was a smash TV series based on a barely seen movie) and its respected-if-less-accepted spin-off Angel.  Firefly received some critical acclaim and did inspire a small-but-rabid cult following.  That, and Whedon's Hollywood clout, gave the crew from the series one more shot at hitting the big time. 

Which does make you wonder, if people would not watch this for free at home, why should they go to a cinema and pay to see it?

The closest situation that I can remember to this was the Twin Peaks prequel Fire Walk With Me, which followed shortly after that show's cancellation after its second season -- but that series was a popular phenomenon, though, granted a short-lived one.  Or, if you go back to the 70s, the disappointing space opera Battlestar Galactica was axed after one season and then the original pilot film for the series was released into the theaters (in Sensurround -- that wonderful but totally useless gimmick which caused the seats to shake as you watch the movie.) 

So it is not exactly unheard of that Serenity is making the big screen -- though it is certainly unusual.  However, both of those films were complete box-office flops, and each of the TV franchises they were based upon had a bigger following than Firefly ever had.  Also, both had splashy casts that were probably an easier sell.

Well, I have never seen even a moment of Firefly, so I can't tell you how faithful Serenity is the the tube version (though with the same creator and much of the same cast, I have to assume it is rather similar.)  However Whedon throws himself completely into the task, writing (and making his feature directing debut) and he has actually created a quirky and interesting future western.   

The movie is also to be congratulated for keeping the barely-known cast from the series together -- the biggest names here are likable character actor David Krumholtz (currently starring in the series Numb3rs), a cameo by Ron Glass (formerly of Barney Miller) and Adam Baldwin (who has had a steady-but-unspectacular career since his splashy debut protecting a nerdy kid from bully Matt Dillon in My Bodyguard [1980]).  I have no doubt that Whedon withstood some serious pressure to populate his universe with celebs, so it shows a good amount of belief in his young cast that they are all here.

Whedon also trusts the audience enough to not explain too much of what has come before, just throw us into the thick of the story and let us figure out what is going on.  The storyline is rather dense, but not too confusing.

It revolves around River (Summer Glau) a waifish killing machine who has been programmed by the evil empire.  When her brother (Sean Maher) breaks her out of captivity, they hide out on the spaceship Serenity, which is captained by a scoundrel named Mal (Nathan Fillion) and his oddball crew.  They are being tracked by an evil government assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and a hoard of cannibalistic aliens.

Early on, the script has a fascinating quirkiness, Whedon keeps tricking you into believing that his characters will slip into clichéd sci-fi speak, and then instead bobs and weaves into the opposite direction.  What the people of Serenity say is not heroic, which makes it all the funnier and more human.  For example:

Mal:  Do you want to run this ship?

Jayne: (angrily)  Yeah!

Mal: (surprised)  Well you can't...

Too bad after this eccentric and fascinating beginning, the movie downshifts into a kind of standard-issue space opera, with derring-do from our heroes, fighting of murderous mutants and the vanquishing of an evil empire.  However, even when the ground that Serenity covers is well-trod, Whedon and his cast do it with style.  (12/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2005   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: December 18, 2005.

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Copyright ©2005   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: December 18, 2005.

 

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