Film Flashback: Serenity (2005)

Having briefly only remembering seeing FOX’s commercials for “Firefly,” before it’s quick cancellation, I didn’t have any preconceived notions as to whether I thought “Serenity,” the big screen adaptation of the show should be the next end all, be all of science-fiction films.

After the two-hour thrill ride of a journey that often feels like an outer space version of “Big Trouble In Little China,” I think it’s safe to proclaim “Serenity” as the start of the next great sci-fi franchise and the jolt to the system the genre needed. [2012 Flash Forward: Sigh. I was way off on the next great franchise bit, but it really should have been.]

Nathan Fillion, stars as Captain Mal Reynolds, the leader of a ragtag group that use his transport ship, Serenity, for any mission that involves a paycheck within the limits of the law or not.

Mal’s crew, including Wash (Alan Tudyk, “Dodgeball”), Zoe (Gina Torres, “24”) and Jayne (Adam Baldwin, “Wyatt Earp”) aren’t bad people per se, but they have to eat, so playing by the law doesn’t always work out for them. [2012 Flash Forward:The cast is so well-written you almost don’t have to have seen the movie to enjoy the characters.]

As the film opens, the crew has just rescued one of their own, a mentally disturbed teenager, River (Summer Glau, “Firefly”) from The Alliance, the big brother organization that controls the galaxy.

River may have learned a secret The Alliance cannot afford to allow to be made public and dispatches an agent (Chiwetel Ejiofor, “Four Brothers”) to bring her in. [2012 Flash Forward: I liked Ejiofor in the role as the emotionless villain. That reminds me. He really should have a better agent. He’s an actor who should be constantly busy.]

Being a longtime comic book reader however, I have become a great admirer of  “Serenity’s” Director/Writer Joss Whedon, who when he’s not making feature films, has made Marvel Comics’ “Astonishing X-Men” one of the best comic reads in years. [2012 Flash Forward: I was such a big fan of his work with the X-Men, I stopped reading them entirely until just last year.]

From his experience with his television shows “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” Whedon makes a solid director. [2012 Flash Forward: I should have been more generous with my praise here. Whedon’s work hardly resembles that of a first-time film director.] He knows exactly what he is envisioning and can bring that onto the screen without any distortion of the creative phase, but his nearly unmatched talent is in writing sharp conversational dialogue.

Serenity’s crew all has well-defined personalities even within the scope of a two-hour movie and the actors seem to revel in playing scarred heroes, who are so much more interesting. They’re the kind of scoundrels that would make Han Solo proud.

In filming the fighting scenes, Whedon tries something a little different — he doesn’t splice the scenes in such a cut-rate fashion that one can actually see what is going on. Quite a novel idea. Hopefully, in his subsequent directorial efforts, Whedon won’t be swayed to go the trendy route of action scenes that give the viewer motion sickness. [2012 Flash Forward: Spoiler. He doesn’t. He just decides to continue making kick-tail movies.]

After suffering through a summer crammed with TV shows being remade into movies, it’s refreshing to see a movie based on a TV show that is so entertaining that it actually makes you want to go and see the show of which the movie was created. [2012 Flash Forward:Which I still haven’t. Shame on me, but not Whedon for making a very enjoyable,  science-fiction film. There’s been far too few of them since “Serenity.”


2012 Film Flashback rating: 8 out of 10.