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Ignored in theaters, "Serenity" Movie deserves a look on DVD

Chris Ball

Friday 23 December 2005, by Webmaster

Space: the fickle frontier. These are the voyages of the spaceship "Serenity." Its short-lived mission — to boldly go where no cult film has gone before.

Released this week on DVD, "Serenity" is a nicely balanced 119 minutes of bracing action and hip humor set 500 years in the future.

It’s both ahead of its time and apparently an acquired taste. The $40 million space Western earned only $25 million. Blame the red ink on its lack of big-name stars, not on any quality deficit.

A labor of love from writer-director Joss Whedon, creator of television’s "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Serenity" is drawn from a cult TV series that also suffered a disappointing fate. "Firefly" (2002-03) won Emmy and Hugo awards but flamed out on Fox after only 11 episodes.

"Serenity" stands on its own, requiring no knowledge of "Firefly" — which is good because most people don’t know of it. A plucky crew of space scavengers faces numerous threats, from a mysterious psychic passenger to a murderous fascist regime. A U.S.-China national merger gives this universe a distinctive flavor, mainly when the characters swear in Chinese. At least it fooled the censors.

Whedon provides insightful commentary on the DVD, which also offers deleted scenes and a featurette. The best extra also features Whedon, who is poised and funny in a brief introduction (Universal, PG-13).