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ABC Australia blogs about "Serenity" Movie

Saturday 2 February 2008, by Webmaster

Serenity is that rarest of things - a feature film made from a brief, cancelled TV series. And all thanks to the fans.

Joss Whedon’s unfinished science-fiction TV series Firefly was canned after only 11 of 14 episodes had been aired, but fans of the cult comedy made such a persistent fuss that they caught the attention of studio execs.

The fans, known as Browncoats after the rebel soldiers in the series, raised money for an ad in Variety magazine and bombarded the broadcaster with postcards requesting the show go on.

While the series never returned to the air, it was released on DVD. And it was a hit.

So to the delight of Browncoats across the ’verse, Universal Studios agreed to produce a feature film based on the series, and thus Serenity was born.

The movie, probably best described as a futuristic space western, follows a motley crew of ex-rebels as they attempt to scrape out a living on the outer planets while hiding a psychic fugitive and uncovering government secrets.

Fittingly, NASA astronaut Steven Swanson, a famous Browncoat, took the Firefly series and a Serenity DVD up to the International Space Station, where they’re now kept as entertainment for the station’s crew.

All the main actors from Firefly returned for Serenity, and the DVD commentary explains that there was a strong sense of family between the cast, Whedon and the crew.

Apparently the bond between on-screen siblings River (Summer Glau) and Simon (Sean Maher) was so strong, they had to keep re-shooting the scene where River is trying to save Simon’s life, because Glau kept bursting into tears.

Glau, a dancer, used a combination of Kung Fu, kickboxing and ballet for her fighting style.

The Fruity Oaty Bar commercial that has a hidden code to send River into killing mode was filmed in full. You can watch it here.

But apparently, much of the Chinese used in the film (often instead of English swear words) is actually nonsensical.

While critics gave Serenity a mixed reception, Firefly converts went wild and the fanbase grew.

In April 2007, Serenity beat Star Wars to be voted the best science-fiction movie of all time in an SFX magazine poll of 3,000 sci-fi fans.

Serenity has also produced a spin-off comic book series, co-written by Whedon.

The Browncoats are famous for their generosity and fierce loyalty to the director. Since 2006, annual charity screenings of Serenity across the globe have raised $US160,000 for Equality Now, an organisation devoted to women’s rights.

In 2006, fans organised Serenity Day, a day on which they encouraged people to buy Firefly and Serenity DVDs to "thank Universal for supporting Joss" and to prove that creating a sequel to Serenity would be a profitable venture.

The annual charity screenings and Serenity Day are all held on June 23, because - naturally - that’s Whedon’s birthday.