R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Joss Whedon
with Nathan Fillion, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gina Torres, Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin, David Krumholtz, Ron Glass, Michael Hitchcock
release US 30.Sep.05, UK 7.Oct.05
05/US Universal 1h59

On a mission: Torres, Fillion, Baldwin and Glau

fillion ejiofor tudyk

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Serenity Writer-director Whedon brings his snappy Buffy attitude to the big screen in fine style. Essentially a TV Western in space, this energetic adventure is thoroughly entertaining even if you've never seen the Firefly series on which it's based.

The crew of the mercenary ship Serenity has no idea what they're carrying. But while a tenacious governmental henchman (Ejiofor) pursues their cargo from planet to planet, Captain Mal (Fillion) just as tenaciously eludes him, assisted by first mate Zoe (Torres), Zen pilot Wash (Tudyk), musclehead Jayne (Baldwin) and techie Kaylee (Staite). Also on board are Dr Simon (Maher) and his prescient sister River (Glau), whose gifts have been tampered with by the government, and who carries a secret that could shake society.

The premise is extremely well-established without being overcomplicated: after wearing out Earth, humans had to find a new planetary system to inhabit. Mal could be captaining a Conestoga wagon! And he even talks like a cattle rancher. In this sense, the film feels a lot like the original Star Wars trilogy--sassy dialog, zinging interaction between characters, serious menace from oppressive authorities and terrific character complexity. Refreshingly, there are no alien creatures.

It's such a well-defined, self-contained premise that we have no trouble diving in. And Whedon never lets us down, building to a tremendously gripping, stirring conclusion that shifts and develops brilliantly. The cast clearly loves these characters--each feels raw and natural, individualistic and part of a team, a bundle of jagged emotions and edgy humour. As the actors draw our interest and sympathies, they take us on an outrageously entertaining odyssey that's hilarious, exciting, scary and surprisingly moving. And Ejiofor is a formidable foe with lots of surprises both for the Serenity crew and for us.

Where the film tips into something remarkable is in its spiritual subtext. The story is about faith--in a cause, in a higher power, in each other. Each character is forced not only to make extremely difficult decisions, but also to examine their personal beliefs. And possibly change them. This layer of meaning makes it one of the most satisfying action movies in a long, long time.

cert 15 themes, violence, innuendo 7.Sep.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Serenity Alex Brown, England: 4.5/5 "An almost faultless film; exciting, fun, dark, scary, funny, tense, dramatic, and did I mention fun? What Whedon has masterfully created here is a piece of cinematic genius, only let down on a couple of slight graphical gripes. The cast are wonderful, their on screen chemistry greatly boosted by the previous television work, giving the film that extra atmosphere of realism that you rarely see, despite it being such a far out premise. Lead star Fillion is excellent, and the rest of the cast fill their roles well, especially Baldwin, who nails every single line he has. Ejiofor makes an absolutely superb bad guy - and his character is very different than the norm. A great ride, thoroughly enjoyed it." (28.Sep.05)

Serenity Ghostroo, Brisbane: 5/5 "I enjoyed it for the overall presentation, but also for the layers of the story. On the surface it is a sci-fi action flick with a focus on humans and their deeds (or misdeeds as the case may be). On a deeper level, the themes of government desire for control, personal freedom and ultimately personal responsibility make this more than just an action movie. Every choice the characters make has consequences; sometime they can foresee them and sometimes not. For those new to the 'Verse, the introduction is clipped and efficient. The sassy dialogue makes for humour and drama as well as advancing the story of the characters and their relationships. The characters are not the usual sterotypes they may appear on the surface, they all have the Whedon treatment so they are more than they seem. Humour, pathos, loyalty, betrayal, love and hate, all set to a backdrop of a gritty technological future where human decisions are more important than the hi-tech, make this a movie for a wide audience." (29.Sep.05)

Serenity Noelle, net: 4.5/5 "Others find the space Western-ness to be hokey, but I think it allows a futuristic setting to become almost familiar, and really highlight the gritty, frontier aspect. Also, the lack of true aliens is a big relief. Means no long scenes where we deal with what they are, how to communicate, cultural differences etc. Just pure human interaction in a sci-fi setting. The real problem is the one all movies with a lot of good characters tend to run into: not enough time to show them all or exploit all their backstories, especially those built on the show." (2.Oct.05)

2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall