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Serenity: (Another) Preview Screening
Firefly on the Big Screen
Reviewed by Kristi Price, © 2005

Format: Movie
By:   Joss Whedon (writer, director)
Genre:   Science Fiction
Released:   Wide release September 30, 2005
Review Date:   August 25, 2005
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

So there we was, hunkered down in a speeding SUV, blowin’ through toll lanes like the Alliance was on our tail. But we was runnin’ late on this job and there weren't a power in the 'verse that'd keep the rest of 'em from startin’ without us. Hell, two hours ought to be enough time, but we barely made it — squeezing into a space between the velvet ropes. There was nine of us. More filed in to fill the space behind. We were surrounded. The crew got a mite concerned, checkin’ for exits and such. Me, the doxie, and the doc settled down on the floor to play cards. I ain't never had much use for worryin’. Then someone took to strummin’ “The Hero of Canton” and it was then we knowed we was safe.

The long, long awaited follow up to the canceled Firefly series offered a brand new idea in marketing — advance screenings. I leapt aboard with my brown coat on.

The screening opened with a welcoming speech from The Man Himself, Joss Whedon. For those that aren’t familiar with Whedon’s work (leave your cave and come blinking into the light) he was the driving force behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. He created Firefly. And for those that aren’t all dark or westerny, he writes the Astonishing X-Mencomic.

The audience was out of their seats with tears and much stomping of feet, and one “I love you, Joss.” He spoke in his quirky, confident way about how the people that made Firefly and the people that loved it could not let go of the concept. “Failed television shows do not get made into movies.” And yet here it is. He also said this film belongs to the fans. We were then instructed to tell someone, nay, everyone if we liked it. If we didn’t care for it, “then this is the time for quiet reflection.”

Let me lay your fears to rest. The entire cast returns to reprise your favorite band of Alliance fugitives. Whedon writes and directs this PG-13 film and no animals were injured in its creation.

No opening credits — the film isn’t finished yet — but right to the meat of the matter. Yes, yes, River and Simon Tam. (If you aren't familiar with the heroes of Firefly and Serenity, we have some earlier reviews that might prove edifying.) The Alliance’s answer to them is The Operative played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. He’s creepy, intelligent, and makes Jayne sound like a Hallmark card. Tracing them is relatively simple since River has an until-now unmentioned “GO-GO Assassin” code buried in her subconscious. As you can tell from the trailer, she’s kicking ass and not so much asking for names. A simple recording of her bar fight is all that’s needed to track them and therefore the crew of Serenity down.

I am assured by many that this was an awesome movie, including one Dr. Michael Kellam:

As someone who has never seen a minute of the series, I can say that the movie definitely does not suffer because of that. I hope that it is marketed as a space opera and not as an extension of the TV show, because the target audience for it should be a big as the audience for any other action sci-fi movie.

However, as someone that has seen and loved the series, it was not the best experience. All the witty banter was there. Zoë defends Mal. Mal discovers the Alliance’s secret concerning the Reavers. Simon stands around and looks pained in his shiny vest. There is River-fu. Jayne insults. Wash’s playfulness in his usual manner. Inarra insinuations and even some Inarra-fu. Shepherd, well, he doesn’t have much face time and neither does Kaylee. It all seemed rushed to me. There wasn’t enough time spent with any one storyline or character for my tastes. It felt like the end of the 'verse and Whedon had to wrap it all up better than he did with Buffy or Angel.

What’s missing is the “job.” There isn’t any cargo to smuggle past the Alliance while hiding River. This is duck and cover with all their hidey-holes being burned to the ground before they can get there. I repeat, The Operative is scary.

The acting is top, as it always was with Firefly. There was only one big surprise and that’s something I won’t spoil. But let me answer the burning question: [Editor's note: If you want the burning question answered, hold your mouse button down and swipe over the next bit of white space.] No, the companion and captain don’t sleep together. Didn’t you people learn anything from Moonlighting?

Don’t get me wrong, I really did like the movie. It’s darker than anything I’ve seen from Whedon yet, including Toy Story. People die. That’s part of my trouble with it. People die and there is no time to grieve because life — the movie — has to go on. I didn’t ask for a side order of reality with my fantasy. But that’s just Joss and Firefly. And I wouldn’t hold my breath for a new Firefly series as the characters’ numbers are somewhat depleted.

What was left of our crew packed up the gear. Weren’t no use in stayin’. We’d had our fill and somethin’ worse than Reavers might linger in that lot after midnight. I didn’t have no plans on finding out. Nine went out into the black and seven made home.

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