Based on the popular and very short lived T.V show Firefly (maybe it wasn't that popular) comes Serenity, the new film by the acclaimed director of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon. Complete with the same cast from the show and some impressive special effects, this is one of the most entertaining movies of the year. Given that the show was only around for one season, my expectations for this film were not that high. The cast is relatively unknown, the director's resume does not blow me away, but luckily it didn't show at all. Whedon has made a smart, sci-fi western hybrid, which should hold some great sequel potential (as I'm sure the producers already know).
The movie opens with an awesome sequence that uses some extremely clever transitions. Nothing is exactly how it seems. This movie does what every movie should do; get the audience engaged right from the start. The rest of the movie unwinds in a fast pace with a near perfect balance of action and comedy.
From the few episodes that I have seen, the show's strength comes from its original cast of characters. Unlike some of the recent Star Trek spin-offs, Whedon doesn't simply fit his characters into stereotypes, i.e. the android, the inspirational captain. Speaking of captains, Nathan Fillion gives a strong performance as Mal, the unpredictable leader of the motley crew. He is flanked by Gina Torres and Adam Baldwin, who are both entertaining. Unfortunately my favorite character in the show, Alan Tudyk (the sidekick from A Knight's Tale) was relegated to a more minor role and was not given the best of jokes. Also, the doctor (Sean Maher) seemed a little flat; you don't really care what happens to him. Also, Mal's love interest in the show, Inara (Morena Baccarin), never is given any time to be developed. Besides her main scene, when Mal comes to rescue her, she doesn't have any important lines until the very end. Although, it is her ending line that leads one to believe a sequel is in the making (if this movie makes enough money). Also, Summer Glau who plays River, the reason why the crew is being pursued by the entire alliance, is a strong character, even though she doesn't do much except for fall down and have headaches until her big scene towards the end.
One last thing must be said about the special effects. Surprisingly they are very good. There are two or three first rate, heart pounding action scenes (this is also due to the great sound work). I only wish they had shown River kick more ass at the end. Oh well.
Although this movie could use about ten more minutes to fully develop the characters and story, it should fulfill most moviegoers' action cravings. Sorry for doubting your skill, Mr. Whedon.
Now out on DVD, the bonus features offer several items fans will be interested in, though none are all that spectacular. An array of deleted scenes, interviews with the cast and crew and outtakes are all very well done, even if they fall short of spectacular. The deleted scenes were for good reason cut out, but not as bad as found on most DVDs. Listening to the cast talk about the show's cancellation and subsequent resurrection on the big screen is the most interesting of all interviews. All in all, if you liked the movie, the DVD is a must-have.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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