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Monday, June 4, 2007

SERENITY (2005) - Joss Whedon

In 2002, Joss Whedon created Firefly, a television series that crossed sci-fi with a western sensibility. After 14 episodes, Fox dropped the show and left legions of it's fans wanting more. After overwhelming demand, a film was put into production and in 2005, Whedon gave us Serenity.

Serenity takes place 500 years in the future. Folks packed up and left Earth and set up shop in another solar system. After a civil war, the facistic government, the Alliance emerges victorious. The Alliance conducts experiments on psychic humans and one such subject is a seventeen year old girl by the name of River. After breaking her out of the Alliance facility, River's brother, Simon seeks refuge on a ship named Serenity, captained by Malcolm Reynolds. It soon emerges River is carrying a secret the Alliance wants nobody to know. A secret so dangerous, the Alliance sends a cold-blooded assassin known simply as The Operative to track down and retrieve or kill River. Mal and his crew seek refuge while protecting River and her secret, but trouble is thrown at them from all directions.

Serenity is a great, sci-fi adventure movie. Joss Whedon's universe is fully realised and quite detailed as you'd expect from a writer/director who has had an entire television series to create a canvas for the story. I do think that there is something to be said for viewing the series before watching the movie. I myself have done this, so I was quite familiar with the characters when it came to Serenity. That's not to say it's essential. Whedon has been careful enough to create a stand-alone story that wont leave the uninitiated scratching their heads. And the movie delivers exactly what you'd expect from a sci-fi adventure movie. The crew of Serenity are a lovable bunch of rogues.
Mal Reynolds is essentially Han Solo, with the mannerisms and quick wit of the iconic hero. Nathan Fillion is great as Reynolds, and is clearly the heir to Harrison Ford's throne. Veterans from the series, including Adam Baldwin, Gina Torres and Alan Tudyk are completely at ease with their characters and provide a great ensemble. The only major newcomer is Chiwetel Ejiofor as The Operative. Ejiofor is a great character actor and plays The Operative, a cold and calm murderer excellently.

After three pretty poor Star Wars prequels, Whedon shows George Lucas exactly how to craft a space-adventure film worth a damn. The essential ingredient are characters the audience cares about. Whedon provides plenty of humour in the script, and the action scenes are exciting and never get repetitive. While some have lauded Serenity as the new Star Wars, I think this may be a little premature. It's a far better film than the prequel trilogy, but still doesn't come close to the original movies. However, it's by far one of the better science fiction films of recent times, and when seen with the Firefly television series, makes for one thrilling ride.


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