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Serenity now

Kevin Williamson

Wednesday 21 December 2005, by Webmaster

SERENITY: Filmgoers can bemoan Hollywood’s lack of originality all they want - the fact is, if they went to good movies more good movies would be made.

SPACE COWBOYS ... l to r: Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau lead the crew of Serenity, arriving on DVD Dec. 20.

Case in point: Joss Whedon’s canny, energetic Serenity, which grossed less during its entire theatrical run than Dukes of Hazzard did its first weekend.

That’s a shame, really, since this science-fiction oater - if there is such a thing - about intergalactic rebels on the run from the oppressive, omniscient Alliance is a pitch-perfect popcorn entertainment that relies much more on character interplay than empty spectacle.

It arrives Dec. 20 on DVD, where it will doubtlessly be appreciated by browncoats the world over (“browncoats” being the preferred term for fans of the short-lived Firefly, the TV show which the movie is based upon).

It was those same fans, after all, who sparked Firefly’s resurrection by snapping up the show on DVD. Universal, motivated by those robust sales, let Whedon re-assemble the original cast of unknown actors and relaunch the defunct series as a $40-million US movie.

Edmonton-born Nathan Fillion reprises his role as Mal Reynolds, the Han Solo-esque captain of the titular vessel and leader of a motley crew of criminals, who has brought onboard two mysterious passengers - a doctor Simon Tan (Sean Maher) and his psychic little sister, River, (Summer Glau), who he rescued from the Alliance’s ruthless clutches.

The Alliance - which had its military scientists conducting experiments on River - wants her back because she knows too much. To retrieve her, they assign their fiercest agent, The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiof), a devout follower of Alliance dogma who freely admits he’s a monster.

It’s a generic set-up, to be sure, but as with all things Whedon - he created genre-bending television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer and spinoff Angel - Serenity confounds expectations, tackling a clunky B-movie and elevating it to an oddball, elegant artform all its own.

EXTRAS: Whedon offers a commentary while a documentary gives a shout out to the aforementioned “browncoats,” who made Serenity’s resurrection a short-lived reality.

STARS: Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau and Adam Baldwin

IN BRIEF: Intergalactic rebels protect siblings from an evil galactic Alliance.

SUN RATING: 3 1/2 out of 5