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Firefly - "Serenity" Movie - Christianitytoday.com Review
By Jeffrey Overstreet
Thursday 6 October 2005, by Webmaster
Serenity Soars, Violence Shocks, Game Plays Well
If you’ve never seen episodes of the short-lived TV show Firefly, don’t fret. The reviews of Joss Whedon’s Serenity prove that you didn’t have to watch the TV show to love the movie.
Firefly fans finally got satisfaction after spending three years bemoaning the premature cancellation of their favorite show. Universal Pictures gave writer/director Whedon the resources to bring some closure to his exciting, breathlessly entertaining "space Western," and he turned it into a film that has fans cheering and critics raving ... even those who went in skeptical.
These big screen newcomers are earning better reviews than the blockbuster conclusion of the Star Wars saga that came out earlier this year. Sure, Serenity owes a great debt to George Lucas’s inventions, as well as to Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek and to classic Westerns like Stagecoach. But it has wit and wisdom all its own.
Let’s start with the reactions of two critics: a Firefly fan-Todd Hertz of Christianity Today Movies-and someone who’s never seen the television series.
Hertz (Christianity Today Movies) says Serenity is "excitingly tense, often surprising and even more frequently comical. ... Fans will rejoice. There are moments of laughing out loud, of tearing up, of spine-tingles, and of outright shock." He also thinks the film will appeal to newbies: "The story is well explained and complete. The special effects are spot-on. The action is well done and the pace is fast moving and relentless. While pleasing fans, Serenity is also a solid sci-fi film that stands on its own. But still, non-fans may at times feel like they’re viewing a season finale without having seen the rest of the season-not because they won’t get the story but because they won’t know the characters."
Cliff Vaughn (Ethics Daily), who’d never seen Firefly, writes, "[A]fter experiencing Serenity ... I certainly see what fans of this sci-fi world-often called Browncoats-are jazzed about ... Serenity takes the characters-and actors-from the show and recycles them for a feature packed with not only solid special effects but absolutely adorable characters and witty writing. If you enter the theater not a Whedon fan, changes are great you won’t leave that way."
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) raves that the journey is "at once thrilling, rewarding, heartbreaking, and wistful. For non-fans, Serenity is a delirious excursion into a world whose setting, characters and relationships are richer and more elaborate than any one-shot movie is likely to be."
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "What Serenity lacks in Star Wars-caliber special effects it makes up for in its wry sense of humor. (If Star Wars is the Wagner of space operas, this is Gilbert and Sullivan.) ... Despite its campy feel, Whedon weaves serious ethical and political themes into the narrative in much the same way Gene Rodenberry did with Star Trek."
Christopher Lyon (Plugged In) notes, "The writing is smart and funny. The acting ... is excellent. The action is efficiently paced with good special effects and stunt work. And the story is about more than just crossing the finish line before the credits roll. ... Serenity’s characters wrestle not just with issues of right and wrong, good and evil, but with issues of faith and belief as well."
Josh Hurst (Reveal) raves, "Let’s hope there’s more where this came from. Firefly’s early demise was cruelly premature, and Whedon and his cast prove here that the magic of those early TV episodes was no fluke. Serenity is not a flawless film, but it may very well be the most enthralling, satisfying, funny, moving, and profound sci-fi adventure film in years. It’s exceptional entertainment-both for the Browncoats and for those who have no clue what a Browncoat even is."
Stephen Tilson (World’s movie blog) calls Serenity "the best big-screen space opera in years, with its engaging characters, crisp writing, and ever-ratcheting tension. Too bad its theology isn’t better; the Christian character, Shepherd Book, tells Mal, the titular ship’s commander, to ’believe’ in something, and it doesn’t matter what, as long as he believes. This is the sort of feather-brained foolishness we get when atheist writers grind their own post-modern philosophical axes on their token Christians."
But Greg Wright (Hollywood Jesus) disagrees: "Serenity does not suggest that one belief is just as good another. It does, however, make a strong case for believing in something as the first step toward finding truth. And hope will sustain the journey." He adds, "But this film is not ultimately about faith. It’s about love. The film begins there and ends there."
My own review of the film, plus interviews with Whedon and the cast, are posted at Looking Closer.
Most mainstream critics are celebrating the big screen debut of "the little television show that could."
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