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Firefly - "Serenity" Movie - Bullz-eye.com Review

Saturday 17 December 2005, by Webmaster

The tale of the prematurely-cancelled network series is one that has become more frequent over the past few years. And now, passionate fans who had once overlooked the possibility of a rebirth have gathered together through the power of the Internet in a desperate attempt to persuade the studios to reconsider. The return of “Family Guy” is perhaps the most prominent example of a canned show brought back to life, but who can forget about the original “Star Trek” series? A ratings nightmare during its first season on the air, fans of the show protested its cancellation and a feature-length film was produced. Five more films followed, the show returned to television for two more seasons, and, well, the rest is history.

Now it appears to be happening again, this time with Joss Whedon’s brilliant sci-fi western “Firefly,” which bumbling Fox execs cancelled midway into the first season. Despite its formidable fan base, only eleven of the fourteen episodes actually made it to air (and out of chronological order, no less), but when sales of the DVD landed the series in the Top 10, Universal saw the opportunity to turn a healthy profit by relocating the story to the big screen. Whedon returns as the film’s writer and director in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revive his epic space tale, and as the first feature film in a possibly expanding franchise, “Serenity” is without a doubt one of the best fan thank yous to ever be realized.

The story picks up six months after the events of the final episode, with the crew of Serenity still fugitives on the run from the governmental Alliance. Whedon is smart to make quick reference as to how this all transpired in the opening moments of the film, but he does it in a manner that also offers new truths to fans of the series as well. Long story short, after a brilliant doctor (Sean Maher) rescues his sister River (Summer Glau) from a government experiment that has turned her into a psychic as well as a skilled assassin, the two find refuge aboard Serenity, a small Firefly-class freighter ship captained by Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). When an Alliance assassin, simply known as The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor), is sent to track down River by any means necessary, the crew of Serenity discover that the seemingly harmless girl is actually carrying a secret that could affect the entire universe.

There’s no denying Whedon’s talent for dialogue, and for once, it feels less like scripted dialogue and more like real conversation. He’s also does a commendable job of making moviegoers who haven’t experienced the charm of the series feel welcome in what fans would refer to as the Whedon-verse, though the script did rush supporting characters in and out of the story without explaining much. One of my biggest complaints would have to be with the character of Shepard Book (Ron Glass), a prominent cast member in the series who doesn’t even receive a proper introduction and is then reduced to a short Obi-Wan-like appearance in the film.

Other major players from the series also show up as mere background in a majority of the scenes, but at least their absence is explained. The rest of the cast, mostly unknowns with the possible exception of Alan Tudyk, make wonderful transitions to the big screen, which is only further evidence of Whedon’s spot-on casting. Fillion and Glau are arguably the stars of the film, since a majority of the time is spent further exploring their characters, but Adam Baldwin remains the standout performer of the cast as the comic relief and muscle of the group, Jayne.

In fact, the only major problem with “Serenity” is that many of the unanswered questions from the series aren’t wrapped up, but instead, are put on the back burner while a whole new can of worms is opened for many of the characters. A decision like this may have bigger repercussions for Whedon further down the road, but if anything, it should help to insure a sequel. And what does the future hold for fans of “Firefly”? Will more films sprout up if the debut feature is a success? Or better yet, a resurrection of the TV series? Whatever the result, at least fans will finally have a bit of serenity.

DVD Review: As one of the better films of the year, I expected a lot more from the single-disc DVD release of “Serenity.” Then again, the film is set to hit DVD less than three months after its theatrical release, and the poor box office draw certainly doesn’t help. Still, the “Firefly” property has a very strong cult following, so I can’t imagine that a special edition isn’t in the works. Getting to the DVD itself, “Serenity” is packed with a decent selection of bonus material, featuring an audio commentary with writer/director Joss Whedon that wasn’t available on our press copy. The rest of the extras are a bit anti-climatic, including ten deleted/extended scenes, a hilarious four-minute gag reel, an introduction by Whedon that was shown in front of the special summer screenings of the movie, and three production featurettes. And while all three featurettes are pretty short in length, they sure manage to cram in a lot of information on the story’s origin (“Future History”), special effects (“What’s In a Firefly”), and bringing the series back from the dead (“Re-Lighting the Firefly”).