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
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
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
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.)
Serenity is making the big screen -- though it is certainly
unusual. So it is not exactly unheard
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
). 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
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
Do you want to run this ship?
(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.
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Posted: December 18, 2005.