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Serenity
2005 - PG-13 - 119 Mins.
Director: Joss Whedon
Producer: Barry Mendel
Written By: Joss Whedon
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Gina Torres, Jewel Staite
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site: www.serenitymovie.com/
   
Joss Whedon, the writer/director behind TV shows ‘Angel,’ ‘Buff the Vampire Slayer’ and the short-lived sci-fi series, ‘Firefly,’ returns with a sharply written sci-fi adventure, ‘Serenity.’ Amazingly, though it only aired for one season, ‘Firefly’ has developed a sizable cult following so Whedon was empowered to take the series to the big screen.

Taking place with the ‘Firefly’ characters, ‘Serenity’ is set 500 years in the future after humanity has been split into a civil war. The moral majority Alliance is determined to bring mind-numbing conformity to the galaxy, while the Independents are a minority faction, preferring a little anarchy with their freedom. Canadian actor, Nathan Fillion stars as Malcolm Reynolds, captain of a spaceship named Serenity. Malcolm and his ragtag crew originally fought on the side of the Independents, but after a crushing defeat, are now mercenaries.

The crew of the Serenity ends up with two young passengers – brother and sister, Simon and River Tam. River apparently is a victim of major Alliance mind experiments. She poses a threat to the crew of the Serenity as well as to the Alliance itself, which has dispatched a hit team to hunt her down.

If Han Solo and Chewbacca had a back-story, it probably would be something like ‘Serenity.’ Dialogue written with almost a Western twang, ‘Serenity’ is a snappy adventure that doesn’t wallow in grand space opera ideals or happy-happy moral stories that brought the end to ‘Star Trek.’ The cast of the ‘Serenity’ – mostly TV veterans – are a strong team that takes this film up to almost gritty ‘Band of Brothers’ territory. But since we’re dealing with Whedon as writer, the zingers fly so that, much like Han Solo in the very first ‘Star Wars’ movie, you know no one is taking himself too seriously.

Though Fillion is fine as the cantankerous captain, he’s supported by a punchy cast that includes the always underrated Adam Baldwin (‘ID4’) and the seething Gina Torres (“Cleopatra 2525’). Newcomer Summer Glau, as the psychic psycho River, writhes and yowls in battle, looking like Alanis Morrisette checking out her latest record sales. And Jewel Staite, as the sexually frustrated engineer, is reminiscent of a young Laura Dern.

Some of that Buffy wit goes a long way to keep the film free of sci-fi clichés – or at least turn them on their heads. The villain, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, is a character simply named ‘The Operative.’ This bad guy murders and acknowledges his own wrongdoing, but freely confesses that he does so for the greater good of the Alliance. It’s creepy how Whedon’s script takes a poke at zealotry of all kinds. Odder still when he makes the ‘good guys’ on the losing side of that battle. Message there?

Special effects are breathtaking and state of the art – a great achievement given ‘Serenity’s’ measly $40 million budget. Plus there’s something really enjoyable about watching a special effects movie that didn’t come from Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic. Set design is also quite intricate, with lots of 'Blade Runner' influences with Asian languages and anime-esque touches. Whether or not ‘Serenity’ will lead to the revival of the ‘Firefly’ TV series, the movie is sharp and memorable entertainment on its own. You don’t need to see a single episode of ‘Firefly’ to appreciate this wild space ride.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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