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Firefly - "Serenity" Movie - Imdb.com Review

Keith Simanton

Wednesday 17 May 2006, by Webmaster

Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Chiwetel Ejiofor

8 out of 10 stars: Watching Serenity is a bit like being an outsider at a party of old college friends.

Part of the fun there, if you’re comfortable with the setting, and the people are sociable, is picking up on the vibes amongst the attendees and guessing about the past associations and current dramas. Who slept with whom? Who resents whom?

If you didn’t watch Firefly, the sci-fi television show on Fox that had the lifespan of a firefly, you may have that same experience with Serenity. Firefly was writer/director Joss Whedon’s new series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer was slowing down. With that kind of established success you’d think that they’d give Whedon a little room to establish his new show. But no, for all his clout, Fox unceremoniously dumped "Firefly" after only 11 of the episodes aired.

As is often true of fantasy/sci-fi themed shows that get cancelled, the rabid fans of Firefly, who’d dubbed themselves "brown-coats," protested the network’s decision. They also bought DVDs, lots of them, selling three times the amount they were supposed to sell; there was clearly a market. Universal cagily picked up on this and gave the series a second chance, this time as a feature film.

In Firefly a band of mercenaries survive on the fringes of civilized space. It is five hundred years in the future and the galaxy has just ended a brutal civil war. The captain of the ship "Serenity" is Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, we could stand some more of him) and he was on the losing side of the conflict against the totalitarian pan-galactic government called the Alliance, which sought unification and harmony among all the planets, at any cost.

Also on the losing side was Mal’s second-in-command, Zoe (Gina Torres), who owes the captain her life, which she repays with fierce loyalty. Zoe’s husband, Wash (Alan Tudyk), is more laid-back, even though he has the stressful task of piloting the ship. Kaylee (Jewel Staite) is the perpetually vivacious, and horny, engineer and Jayne (Adam Baldwin) is a mercenary with very little loyalty to anyone at all. On the show they ended up bringing along a brother and sister in their travels, Simon, a secretive doctor (Sean Maher) and River (Summer Glau), a reclusive, but gifted young woman whose talents are such that she is considered a dangerous weapon and a threat to the stability of the galaxy.

Serenity starts out with a little back-story as Simon frees River from an Alliance deprogramming center. Almost immediately they are being tracked by the relentless Alliance Operative (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor). He will stop at nothing to get River back as she somehow knows some deep, dark governmental secret, though neither she nor Simon has a clue as to what it may be.

The Operative is so ruthless that it becomes evident that harboring River has become prohibitively expensive for the crew of "Serenity." As they scrape by, from friendly port to friendly port, they realize they may have to go to the edge of the known universe, through the vicious race of cannibals called the Reivers, to get themselves out of their current jamb. All of this is thrown at the uninitiated viewer as if they should know what a Reiver is, or that the next port they’re going to is safe for them. The interplay among the characters feels comfortable, as small reactions tell of entire histories (or at least a season’s worth of association).Part of the fun is connecting the dots.

The largest problem for the film is that its roots are showing, and those roots aren’t brunette, they’re television. Whedon’s romantic dialogue is painfully WB and UPN as characters sappily discuss carpe diem crap-ola about being too afraid to show their feelings until now that they’re about to be eaten. Whedon has Mal and some of the others on the ship use a bastardized version of Creole, that pops up with the regularity of Kevin Costner’s English accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. One reoccurring character from the show, the veritable hooker with a heart of gold named Inara (Morena Baccarin), has no discernible function other than to please the geeks who run the websites devoted to her.

Serenity also harkens back to its humble beginnings with its plot, which is little more than an extended season finale; but it’s a damn good season finale. At one point in this movie I truly began to wonder if Whedon hadn’t created Serenity as the ultimate back-hand to the suits that have bedeviled creative types since the first film was interfered with and the first show was cancelled. I began to be convinced that he was going to kill every single one of his character’s off. The sheer joy of this possibility, and the quick, happy canter that Whedon allows for this film, makes the entire project a fine piece of pop entertainment.

1 Message

  • Firefly - "Serenity" Movie - Imdb.com Review

    18 May 2006 11:08, by Captain Peroxide
    A good balanced review i suppose, although I don’t agree with the ’too-much-like-television’ bit - personally I think hollywood would benefit from a bit more pure character driven dialogue. Oh, and someone might want to draft an email to IMDb and tell them exactly how to spell ’Reaver’.