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The films centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire abroad his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family- squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal. When Mal takes on two new passengers—a young doctor and his unstable, telepathic sister—he gets much more than he bargained for. The pair are fugitives from the coalition dominating the universe, who will stop at nothing to reclaim the girl. The crew that was once used to skimming the outskirts of the galaxy unnoticed find themselves caught between the unstoppable military force of the Universal Alliance and the horrific, cannibalistic fury of the Reavers, savages who roam the very edge of space. Haunted by vastly different enemies, they begin to discover that the greatest danger to them may be on board Serenity herself.
Dear George Lucas; Throw out the playbook and take notes.
The Story: Malcolm Reynolds and his crew finally discover why the Government is after River Tam and her brother. The theme is powerfully intact: Believe in something. Whatever you want, just believe in something. The structure is perfect and it doesn’t bore you for one second. The characterization is impeccable. While they are already established in the TV series, Whedon and company take a little bit of time to rehash everyone in a way that brings the characters personalities to the forefront. What’s amazing about this, is that it not only keeps fans who had previously seen the show interested, but furthers the plot along. I wish I could say more about the story, it’s theme, structure and so on and so forth but…..it’s just so simplistically perfect that I cannot.
Nathan Fillion – Malcolm Reynolds: Han Solo on crack. One of the greatest “hero’s” ever portrayed in any medium. He’s not perfect. Most heroes have one character flaw and that’s it. Mal is ridden with them, but that’s what makes him a great hero. Where Whedon has little space to create doubt about Mal in the plot, he does in the character. Even more so for fans from the series. Nathan Fillion is just spot on in his acting. Now, I haven’t seen Fillion in anything but the Firefly series so I don’t know his range. But whatever the case, it works perfectly for this.
Chiwetel Ejiofor – The Operative: Never has an on screen match up of a hero and a villain been so great since Batman and the Joker. Chiwetel does an amazing job at sculpting this already rich character into an icy cold hearted “believer.” He made me a fan of his acting in the first 5 minutes of this film.
Supporting Cast: As a whole, they’re strong. As individuals, they’re iron clad. I’ll just touch briefly on them here, but they all nail the characters in a way that any Oscar winner has ever “nailed” a character. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying anything about their characters. All you need to know is that you’ll enjoy them. Very, very much
Directing: Joss Whedon’s Feature Film debut. Say what you want, Film and TV are two completely different mediums. Each with their own set of problems, standards and restrictions.
Thankfully none of that matters to Joss Whedon. He’s a story teller. He understands stories. The epic scale of this film may not be much to the normal viewer, but those who watched the show and that’s who Whedon is making this for. I’ll confess, I saw the movie first and then watched the series. It sucks because serious implications for the characters occur in the film that would have been even more meaningful had I watched the show first. Whedon tells a fantastic story, in a fantastic setting, with an amazing cast, perfect visuals and film making expertise. Cinematography: Although different from the show, it’s grown as a story into an epic tale. The shots reflect this great leap. The entire introduction to the ship is done in a single glorious take. Simply…..amazing. You don’t even appreciate it the first time you see it because you’re so drawn into it that you forget to be “outside of it.” The style is very realistic and it works well with the tone and mood of the story and direction. Nothing seems out of place or is “showing off.” It’s all there to tell the story.
Production Design: As good as it can be given the production budget. Also, on assumption that the entire ship had to be rebuilt from scratch after they destroyed it following the canceling of the series. It gritty and realistic. And yet, clean and articulate. Lots of thought were given to each little piece of everything, helping forge this masterpiece.
Editing: Again, no shot holds too long to show off something in particular. It’s done to keep the pacing of the story and the emotions intact of the scene. It’s never boring or frustrating.
Score: To be honest, I recall very little of the score. Which should be the point of the score, much like editing. To stay un noticed. To draw you in, rather than pick you up. It well handled, used and constructed to fit with everything else in the film making process, as well as always, telling the story the way it should be told.
Special Effects: The films biggest fault. There really isn’t much they could do given the continuity of the series as well as the budget working under. What I will give credit for, is it’s use. It’s not over done as like the newer Star Wars movies and only when necessary. The way audience respond to the art forms of visual animation. You can blatantly tell what’s real and what’s not most of the time. But you’re so drawn into the story that you honestly don’t care and it doesn’t bother you.
In closing: Watch the series first and I guarantee you’ll thank me later. But if you’re stubborn or whatnot, check this film out and I promise you’ll be intrigued at how well it is. I recall first seeing the trailer in theaters and seeing that all of the reviews used in the trailer were from DVD websites. That automatically killed the credibility of the film for me. Years later a friend made me watch it as I thought it was “just another stupid space show.” Much like Battlestar Gallactica or a lot of the garbage from the Sci-Fi channel. No siree Bob. This is a film that pisses on the new star wars movies. In a different context, picture a movie about Han Solo like it was written for Clint Eastwood in his early days. That’s what you have. Add in the witty dialogue that’s sure to make even the biggest skeptic chuckle and you have one of the greatest Sci-Fi films of all time. If I had to list them, it’d be Star Wars, Back to the Future, and then Serenity. Yeah….it’s that damn good.