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Serenity Advance Test Screening - Darkworlds.com Report

By Amy Berner

Wednesday 15 December 2004, by Webmaster

An invited test audience watched an advance screening version of SERENITY, the film version of a short-lived and much-lamented science-fiction series, on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Based on the cheers and applause that began as soon as the lights dimmed, the theater was primarily filled with fans of the series who wanted to be the very first to see their beloved show make the leap to the big screen.

You see, once upon a time, there was a television show called FIREFLY. It followed the adventures of Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), a veteran of a war that his side lost, as well as his crew and guests: "companion" Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin), the doctor Simon Tam and his mentally unbalanced sister River (Sean Maher and Summer Glau), engineer Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), first officer and fellow veteran ZoŽ Warren (Gina Torres) and her husband Wash Warren (Alan Tudyk), who piloted the ship, muscle Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), and the religious man of the bunch, Shepherd Book (Ron Glass).

Mistreated by its network, which aired episodes out of order and put the series in the Friday Night Time Slot of oom, it was unceremoniously dumped in December of 2002 before all fourteen episodes had a chance to air. Thanks to the magic of DVD, fans were finally able to see the entire series. Word spread as new fans discovered the show, and sales exceeded expectations. Thanks to the popularity of the DVD set, the quality of the base material, and the sheer determination of series creator Joss Whedon (of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL fame), FIREFLY has made the leap to movie-dom. The result is SERENITY, a film slated for release in September of 2005 (it was original set for April, but the studio decided that it would face less competition in the fall), written and directed by Whedon.

The movie is still very much a work in progress; most of the effects are either half-finished or missing, the music was a temporary fill-in, and the titles have not yet been completed. In addition, there were some issues with film quality in sections, and some of the editing remained choppy. There were also a few elements in the set-up that did not seem to completely gel with the information gleaned from the series, and we didn’t learn much about what happened in the six months between the series and the film. I wished for more screen time by a few of the characters, but with a primary cast of nine, there is only so much screen time available.

Even with issues such as these, SERENITY is already a very good film. The fact that it was as strong as it is now, so far from the actual release date, is exciting. The story overall is strong and the characters remain as engaging as they were on the series (some more so than expected). Although one of the people running the screening referred to the film as "special-effects driven," it would be far more accurate to call it story-driven. Besides, special-effects driven movies can be seen on any given weekend. It’s far more satisfying to focus on plot and interesting characters. Whedon does. That said, I do look forward to the visuals of the finished product, as they should add to the effectiveness of the film.

SERENITY ties more loose ends than I had anticipated (although not all of them that remained from the series), and the film had many surprises and shocks in store. For those of you familiar with Whedon’s work, it (unsurprisingly) has his stamp and style all over it. Overall, I laughed, I cried, it was better than CATS. No, really. It was.

If you’re looking for a full synopsis and spoilers galore for this new film, you wont find them here. You’ll want to head to the theater for SRERENITY and bring a few friends along with you. If you’re not familiar with FIREFLY, then buy yourself the four-disc DVD set as a present to yourself this holiday season. This show is worth having in your library even without this feature film to cap it off. Every installment is a strong offering, which is quite an accomplishment for any fledgling series. Don’t be dissuaded by its Sci-Fi/Western/Action hybrid nature, because it just plain works. These characters are worth getting to know.

Had the Fox Network shown the pilot first and given sufficient much-deserved support to FIREFLY, we might still be watching this gem every week. As much as I wish this were so, the result of this cancellation tragedy looks to be an amazing and intense film that makes what happened almost worthwhile. SERENITY really will be that good when it hits theaters in September.