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FireflyStarship troup-ers: ’Serenity’ could replace popular sci-fi franchises
By Stephanie Schorow
Sunday 8 May 2005, by Webmaster
When both the ``Star Wars’’ and ``Star Trek’’ universes reach their final frontiers this month, where will sci-fi addicts next get their fix of the future? Perhaps in the dark, gritty `` ’verse’’ of ``Serenity’’ - director Joss Whedon’s big-budget movie production of his failed 2002-2003 TV series ``Firefly.’’ That’s the prediction of some of the 600 enthusiastic fans who packed a special advance screening of ``Serenity’’ in Boston Thursday. The movie opens Sept. 30. ``There are a lot of closet fans out there,’’ said David Adams, 41, of Seekonk. ``This is very much how `Trek’ fandom started in the 1970s. Sci-fi fans need a new frontier and this is it.’’ Whedon, who launched such cult TV favorites as ``Buffy the Vampire Slayer’’ and ``Angel,’’ conceived the ``Firefly’’ TV series as a cross between an action-packed, shoot-’em-up western and a noir space odyssey. The show focused on the disillusioned captain of the space ship Serenity (Nathan Fillion) and his crew living on the edge of the ``civilized’’ galaxy. Only 13 episodes were made - not all of them aired - and the show was canceled. That might have ended the ``Serenity’’ saga, but for a determined fan base and a hugely popular DVD of the truncated season. DVD sales gave Whedon the clout to close a movie deal - with all the original cast members - and to carry on the adventures of Captain Mal Reynolds and crew. When tickets for advance screenings in 10 cities went on sale in April, they sold out within hours. Fans from as far away as Ohio and California came to the Boston screening; cast members Sean Maher (the ship’s doctor) and Morena Baccarin (a courtesan) also showed up to a standing ovation. Fans were not concerned the film might fall short of expectations - ``We trust Joss’’ was their mantra. But, noted Waltham software engineer Jason Davis, 30, ``I expect to be shocked and surprised.’’ He was. Some of the movie’s plot twists left fans visibly stunned and near tears. The reaction was, some admitted, testament to Whedon’s compelling characters. ``Who’s buying `Survivor’ DVDs 20 years from now?’’ asked Shelley Hachman, 37, of Billerica. Still, most fans echoed the one-word reaction of Sonja Cohen, 27, of Boston and Kathy Todd, 27, of Norwood: ``Wow.’’ Said Josie Peterson, 46, who had traveled from New Jersey, ``I was just blown away.’’ She added, ``It had the standard Joss Whedon lines we have come to know and love.’’ ``It really complemented what most of us love about the (TV) show,’’ said Mark Behnke, 47,of Somerville. Yet ``the ending caught most of us by surprise.’’ The real challenge facing the movie is whether its appeal goes beyond its loyal fan base. ``It was a great stand-alone movie,’’ said Debra Anderson, 39, of Fairhaven. Other fans thought moviegoers who have never seen the ``Firefly’’ series could follow the action, but admitted it was difficult to see the film with ``fresh eyes.’’ Stand-up comedian Kevin Conn, 30, of Mahway, N.J., called on Universal Studio to give the movie the kind of promotion the TV show lacked: ``You have comedy, you have drama, you have action and, of course, you have science fiction. So market, market, market.’’ Serenity: The Next Generation is counting on it.