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FireflyFirefly - "Serenity" DVD - Sfx.co.uk Review
Monday 27 February 2006, by Webmaster
It’s as good as Star Wars used to be.
15 114 minutes £19.99
Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gina Torres and Alan Tudyk
Film Rating: 5/5
Extras Rating: 4/5
This movie should never have been made. The crew of Serenity should have winked out of existence the moment those blinkered network arseholes axed Joss Whedon’s sublime Firefly. They certainly shouldn’t have been revived in a multi-million dollar movie. That they did proves that beautiful miracles can still happen, if you believe hard enough.
Serenity is a treat for Firefly fans: it takes the unresolved mysteries of the show, and ties them up in a neat bow. Finally, we find out why the control freaks of the ruling Alliance carved up little River Tam’s brain, why they’re doggedly pursuing her, and what turned thousands of men into Reavers, cannibalistic killers. It’s a shame we were denied a drip-drip of revelations over a couple of TV seasons, but god-damn, having them mainlined into your brain in under two hours feels good. Here’s the important thing, though: Serenity is a treat for newbies too; it’s astonishingly accessible. The opening moments provide a masterclass in exposition; after five minutes you know everything you need to know. So this movie isn’t fan-fic writ large for converts. Instead, it’s a Browncoat recruiting machine. advertisement Click here for more information
It’s not an extended TV episode either - it’s a proper movie. It’s grown-up, with a moral universe painted in shades of grey. The hero shoots unarmed men, while the bad guy is driven by the conviction that every evil act he commits is helping to create a better world. It’s packed with everything a popcorn-muncher could want: thrilling action, romantic subplot, scary nasties. And it’s epic, because the ramifications of the storyline are huge.
Yet at the same time, Joss maintains a sense of intimacy. Newcomers will soon feel they know the characters. The way they talk - a mix of neologisms and the archaic - is distinctive, but sounds natural. Having made his audience fall in love, Joss then breaks their hearts. There are sweet laughs in the midst of the darkest moments; conversely, in a moment of triumph he can flick the switch to “tragedy” and send you spiralling into despair. This is a movie that dares to hurt its fans, and as a result, you can believe that anything is possible; that no character is safe.
Failings? Well, arguably, whereas Joss usually turns sci-fi clichés on their heads, there are moments here where he shamelessly recycles them - like the climax, which involves a giant Fan Of Death. But hey - we love those clichés, right? You’d have to be a joyless dullard to nitpick further, because Serenity is a triumph on every level. It’s everything the Star Wars prequels should have been. Joss understands what went wrong with Star Wars. We want characters we care about. We want Leia’s banter. We miss the Han Solo who shot Greedo first. Why did it take Joss to give him back to us, in the shape of Mal Reynolds?
The future of this franchise is in doubt, while Universal’s bean-counters tot up the receipts. For the moment, though, it’s enough that this universe continues to exist: in chat room arguments, in fan fiction, and on this DVD - which you should rush out and buy. Buy copies for your friends, too - not to influence Universal’s accountants, but ’cause your friends deserve it, since this is a perfect SF movie that anyone who loves the genre must see. And keep believing in the impossible, because Serenity has proved that it’s true: you really can’t stop the signal.
Joss Whedon provides a commentary, pointing out cock-ups, reshoots and changes made after previews. Shame he wasn’t teamed up with Nathan Fillion, though. Joss also explains nine deleted scenes, dropped to keep the momentum going. The outtakes reel is a doozy, thanks to Fillion’s silly improvisations. You also get Joss’s introduction to the film, plus featurettes on the Serenity universe, Zoic’s effects, and Joss’s fight to continue the story. Finally, there’s an exclusive region two treat: “A Filmmaker’s Journey”. This is a good Making-Of featuring some sweet, funny footage, including the first readthrough, and stunt co-ordinators awarding Summer Glau marks out of ten for her fight scene!