a critiQal film review Serenity (2005)

Plot: 500 years in the future, rogue spaceship captain Mal (Fillion) has been letting Simon (Maher) and his sister River (Glau) stay on his ship since Simon rescued River from the Alliance, the all-powerful government of the worlds. When the Alliance comes looking for River, Mal discovers that not only is she a powerful weapon, but she holds within her mind a secret that could destroy the Alliance.

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  • ...if newbies to the "Firefly" universe can get through the confusing first part of the film, the rest of the film is worth waiting for.

Apparently, Serenity is a continuation of a short-lived TV series by the name of “Firefly” (TV) Going into the film, we had no idea of the connection – we just knew Joss Whedon, the man behind some of our favorite television shows (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV) and “Angel” (TV)) was helming it.

If we had known, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, since we never had the chance to check out “Firefly” (TV) while it was on. However, with Joss Whedon behind the wheel, it couldn’t be anything but good, right? Hopefully.

The actors all did a pretty good job with their roles in Serenity. Some of them (Gina Torres and Andy Tudyk) seemed familiar, but (like Simon Baker from Land of the Dead (2005)) weren’t easily placeable.

The lead went to Nathan Fillion, and he was able to create a likable character with depth and humor. Without that, Serenity would have been hard-pressed to get off the ground. With this type of film, however, he wouldn’t have been able to handle it all by himself, and he didn’t have to.

Thankfully, the other actors all did a pretty good job of backing him up in Serenity, and the camaraderie between them was easy to see. They seem very much at ease with working with each other (as television casts usually seem to be after a few episodes), and it was hard to tell that they had been away from these characters for any length of time.

Plus, they all looked to be very passionate about Whedon’s vision, and they all obviously aimed to do their best to help that vision come to life on the big-screen in Serenity. Even The Operative – as portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor – comes of as very sinister more because of his quiet power than his flashy swordsmanship, and seems a worthy foe for our band of anti-heroes.

With many futuristic plots, the new technologies showcased almost end up taking over the movie, leaving the story behind for high-tech gadgets and gizmos. Serenity tries to keep the technological leaps low-key, focusing instead on the story.

With the story, it’s a wonder why it was ever cancelled on TV, as there seems to be something for everyone: a girl that can kick butt with the best of ’em, a couple of romances blossoming on the ship, and plenty of sci-fi action to keep anyone entertained. Maybe they pulled out all the stops on the film, and the TV series wasn’t as exciting. Whatever the case, the movie rockets along and pulls the viewer right along for the ride.

True, the beginning is a little bit confusing, but it does explain itself as it goes along. Throw in Joss Whedon’s trademark ability to toss in witty remarks to get the audience chuckling, and it seems like Serenity is a can’t miss.

When Serenity did decide to showcase some new technology, they had CGI to back it up and then some. The spaceship they travel in, of course, while slightly resembling a bird in flight, was able to fly around (even through some intense battle sequences) realistically enough for the audience to easily “buy it”. They also were able to throw in a hovercraft race with enough style and action that viewers won’t even think of comparing it to the pod-racing sequence of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999).

It’s not everyday a movie comes along based on a cancelled television series, but Joss Whedon has pulled off the impossible with Serenity. While it takes a while to get into the spirit of Serenity for newcomers to the “Firefly” (TV) universe, once you’re in you’re hooked.

If you can get through the confusing first part of the film, the rest of the film is worth waiting for – including a role (as, appropriately enough, Mr. Universe) for “Numb3rs” (TV) math whiz David Krumholtz!

But, the best thing about Serenity? It makes newcomers like me want to go out and watch the now defunct television series turned cult fave – conveniently available on DVD.

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