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Serenity
Written and Directed by Joss Whedon
Serenity
 
Principal Cast
Nathan Fillion -- Mal
Gina Torres -- Zoe
Alan Tudyk -- Wash
Morena Baccarin -- Inara
Adam Baldwin -- Jayne
Jewel Staite -- Kaylee
Sean Maher -- Simon
Summer Glau -- River
Ron Glass -- Shepherd Book
Chiwetel Ejiofor -- The Operative
David Krumholtz -- Mr. Universe
Michael Hitchcock -- Dr. Mathias
Sarah Paulson -- Dr. Caron
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

The film Serenity is based on the short-lived Joss Whedon television series Firefly (2002). Firefly told the stories of nine people on a smuggler. In addition to the crew of five, there was a registered companion (whore), a preacher, and two fugitives. While all nine of these characters appear in the film, Whedon wisely holds off on introducing two of them until the viewer can get comfortable with the other characters and the situation.

Although Serenity picks up shortly after the final episode of Firefly, familiarity with the television series is not essential to enjoy the film. The movie opens with a sequence which provides the background to the universe and the specifics of two of the characters, Simon and River Tam. This is done well and in a way which will provide needed information to the first time viewer and additional information to the fans of the series.

In fact, one of the areas in which Serenity excels is the ability to present background information in a way which doesn't feel like an infodump and gives information to fans of the series as well as those who haven't seen it. Whedon has selected the areas of the show he wants to explore in the film and manages to build up the mystery and provide a satisfying resolution. At the same time, he addresses other ideas from the series in an off-hand manner which lets fan know he remembers the issues, but doesn't serve to alienate those who haven't seen the television episodes.

The story told in Serenity focus on Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), the captain of the ship, but also on River Tam (Summer Glau), the fugitive whose brother rescued her from the Alliance, the central government of the solar system. From the opening of the film, when the audience sees the world through a young River's eyes, it is clear that her mystery will form the core of the movie, and yet Whedon manages to make her a figure of inscrutability. Mal, who isn't introduced until well into the film, is Whedon's everyman, despite his rather abrasive personality and the flexible code of honor he demonstrates. Despite his faults, Mal invokes a sense of loyalty from his crew and respect from the other elements of the demimonde in which he deals.

Given that many of the actors in the film had fourteen television episodes to find their characters, it isn't surprising that the nine costars all have a good handle on their roles. They appear to have fallen back into the camaraderie which suffused the television show, whether the unrequited love between Kaylee and Simon (Jewel Staite & Sean Maher) or the good-natured antagonism between Wash and Jayne (Alan Tudyk & Adam Baldwin).

Serenity is not just an extended episode of Firefly. The original pilot for Firefly, the two part episode also called "Serenity" had the same feel as the other episodes. The film is able to build slowly and linger on shots. There is no need to edit to fit the mandatory commercial breaks of television. Furthermore, the film is darker than the television show, even the darkest episodes, although humor is never too far from the surface.

Despite being based on a television show, familiarity with Firefly is not necessary for enjoyment of Serenity. The film stands on its own, as it must if it is to be successful. Naturally, those who have watched Firefly will have a deeper understanding of the characters, their relationships, and history. In either event, the film stands as one of the best space operas ever filmed both in story and in visuals.

Serenity also stars Ron Glass, Morena Baccarin, Gina Torres and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Copyright © 2005 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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