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From Horus.vcsa.uci.edu


Sci-Fi Fans Find Hope in "Serenity" Movie

By James Huang

Monday 17 October 2005, by Webmaster

Earlier this year, “Family Guy” completed its comeback thanks to the power of DVD sales. Among the shows listed as cancelled since “Family Guy” was cancelled was “Firefly.” Cancelled perhaps, but in no small part due to the fan base and its own DVD sales, the show would make its return via the big screen.

Unfortunately for the movie, there are no big-name stars, it’s based on a cult classic TV show and the movie had a budget of a paltry $40 million (the last “Star Wars” movie, by comparison, had a budget of $115 million and had dialogue that was at times laughable). Despite all of the potential shortfalls of “Serenity,” Joss Whedon has managed to create a movie that surpasses every science fiction movie since “The Matrix.”

Even without seeing the original TV show, which was cancelled after only one season by FOX, which preempted the show for what seemed like every sports game on the planet and sold the show as an action-comedy when in fact it was a more serious character based show, the movie stands well on its own.

The show takes place in the future after a long civil war where “freedom” did not win the day. Mal, played by Nathan Fillion, a volunteer on the losing side of the war, takes to the frontier to escape the reaches of the Alliance. With his rag-tag crew and a ship that’s in danger of coming apart at any time, they do odd jobs in an attempt to make ends meet-some legal, some not. Even as a thief, Mal comes away as a respectable man with his own moral code.

The movie centers on the two mysterious passengers that Serenity takes on in the pilot episode: River (Summer Glau) and her caretaker brother Simon (Sean Maher). River, a prodigy by every means of the word, has been a psychological lab rat for several years. She escapes from the Alliance’s clutches with her brother and are the two on the run with a secret that compels the Alliance to send a top assassin to stop them.

The movie has many scenes set in space. Even without a big budget, the computer generated graphics are fairly well done and gives life to the ship ... in all of its incarnations. Whedon’s greatest strength is giving life: every character and even the inanimate ship seems to have their own unique and loveable personality.

The writing and direction of Joss Whedon as well as the superb casting done years ago in the “Firefly” TV show are the greatest assets to this franchise. At times, the movie has a “western in space” feel similar to “Star Wars: A New Hope.” The major difference between Lucas’ movies and Whedon’s movies is the superb dialogue. While Lucas is notorious for his horrific dialogue, Whedon comes through with both humorous and serious prose, so well-done by the cast that it gives life to the characters and their relationships. By the end of the movie, you begin to bond with the characters on a level that’s rarely seen in science fiction.

Another strength of the movie is the consequences on both the characters and the universe at large. Without spoiling the movie, there is no facet that Whedon is not willing to explore-and no consequence too great on the universe established in “Firefly.”

With all this said, I did go and rewatch the original 13 episodes of “Firefly” before I went to see the movie. The day after the movie, there was a knock on my door: it was two of the guys with whom I went to see the movie. They wanted to get a hold of my copy of “Firefly” to see it for the first time. All six of the friends whom I went with to see “Firefly” (including two girls) have since expressed interest in watching the original TV show.

With the actors already under contract for two sequels, look for “Serenity” to become part of a trilogy should the movie do well in the box office and DVD sales.