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Serenity - Review

Serenity

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Joss Whedon Introduction; Feature Commentary; Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary By Director Joss Whedon; Outtakes; Future History The Story Of Earth That Was; What’s In A Firefly?; ReLighting The Firefly; A Filmmakers’ Journey

SERENITY first began life as the short-lived television series Firefly that was created by Joss Whedon (the Oscar and Emmy-nominated writer/director of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel).

Unfortunately, the show got cancelled after 11 episodes despite strong reviews. But Whedon, ever the optimist, refused to give up and through sheer guts, determination and mounting fan pressure, turned to the big screen to continue his story.

The result is an epic, sprawling sci-fi western adventure in the Star Wars tradition that boasts a first-rate ensemble cast (of relative unknowns), some impressive special effects and heaps and heaps of fun.

What’s more, you don’t need to have seen the TV series (I have not) to appreciate it, given that the movie works as both a stand-alone experience in its own right, as well as the continuation of the Firefly story that fans have no doubt been craving (they embraced the film at early US screenings).

For those that don’t know, therefore, Serenity is the name of the ragtag spaceship populated by Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his crew, who struggle to make a living as transport for hire in a systen governed by the dictatorial Universal Alliance.

Their latest cargo, however, might just prove their deadliest, given that she is called River (Summer Glau) and is the mentally unstable, telepathic sister of the ship’s medical expert, Simon (Sean Maher).

Her talents have long-been exploited by the Alliance who have been seeking to develop them as a weapon – but when she escapes, they will stop at nothing to retrieve her and prevent their secrets from emerging, dispatching a deadly assassin, known as The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor), to handle the task.

Included in this lively adventure are series regulars Zoe (Gina Torres), Wash (Alan Tudyk), Jayne (Adam Baldwin) and Kaylee (Jewel Staite), all of whom feature prominently in some way, while the previously unseen Reavers (cannibalistic killers) also make their long-anticipated debut.

Serenity works as well as it does because Whedon is a past-master at providing audiences with what they want (he also co-wrote the script for box office sensation, Toy Story), as well as a genuine movie geek.

Hence, Serenity contains plenty of nods to past classics (from Star Wars and Star Trek to Kill Bill and the spaghetti westerns) but retains an identity of its own as well as a number of characters to savour.

Fillion’s rogue captain and Glau’s athletic Summer both register strongly, as does Ejiofor, whose villain provides an outstanding adversary for the crew.

But the camaraderie that exists between everyone is genuine and undoubtedly benefits from their past work in the series, which looks well worth revisiting if you haven’t already.

There are also plenty of twists to keep audiences guessing, as well as a couple of shocks for the fans that elevate the film from some of the more bog-standard sci-fi fare doing the rounds.

The film’s biggest asset, however, is that it can be enjoyed by just about everyone – a point which makes the prospect of the inevitable sequels all the more thrilling.