Ask most anyone on campus, and they most likely have not heard of Serenity, a sci-fi adventure that opened on Sept. 30. Set 500 years into the future, the film follows Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), a former rebel soldier fighting against the ruling galactic Alliance, now making ends meet through petty robberies and shady transport jobs, and his eclectic crew of galactic outcasts. They consist of second-in-command Zoe (Gena Torres), her husband and the ship’s pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk), mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite), and mercenary fighter Jayne (Adam Baldwin).
The crew has agreed to shelter River Tam (Summer Glau), a teenage psychic and super-weapon created for the Alliance, and her older brother Simon (Sean Maher), now the ship’s resident doctor, after their daring escape from a top-secret Alliance laboratory.
As a result, the group is being pursued by the Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an Alliance assassin sent to retrieve River for the valuable secrets she holds in her mind. As they dodge the Alliance’s grasp, they are led by River to the planet of Miranda, and ultimately to buried secrets that could have the power to destroy the Alliance.
The film is based on Firefly, a 2002 FOX television show created by Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) that was cancelled after just one season. Despite the show’s short run, it generated a devoted fan following and impressive DVD sales, prompting Universal to give it another chance on the big-screen. And the results do not disappoint.
“Serenity” will be sure to please fans of the original series, with the film resolving the series’ major plot arcs. But the uninitiated will be sure to find Serenity entertaining as well.
The film is a dynamic mix of all sorts of genres and styles. It contains elements of Star Wars, Star Trek, westerns, and Asian culture. It combines edge-of-your-seat thrills, action-packed fight scenes, flashy explosions, high-speed chases in outer space, and plenty of humor, along with some romance on the side for good measure.
Humor is deftly contrasted against the action, and laughs pop up at the most unexpected of places. The dialogue is quick and witty.
Wielded by the charming and likeable cast, it provides for onscreen interaction that is a delight to watch. River’s fight scenes, in which her inner weapon is unleashed, are spectacularly choreographed, and a highlight of the action. She drops her opponents with swift efficiency and an eerie grace, swooping from one place to the next and leaving piles of bodies in her wake.
A scene in which she obliterates dozens of Reavers, flesh crazed cannibals that rip their victims apart while they’re alive, is immensely satisfying. The image of River standing on top of a pile of them is an awesome sight.
“Serenity’s” one major weakness is its storyline, which comes off as a hodge-podge of cliches from various genres. Included are the requisite hidden government conspiracy, the top-secret experiment gone horribly wrong, the cool and efficient covert assassin, and the unstable psychic girl with wide saucer eyes and unnatural abilities.
A major plot point, the secrets River carries also come off as somewhat cliched. Nonetheless, the execution more than makes up for the weakness in the storyline. Despite the story’s shortcomings, I was riveted to the screen for most of the film.
Overall, “Serenity” was immensely entertaining and made for a few hours well spent at the theater.
Those unfamiliar with Wheden’s “Serenity’s” universe are encouraged to give this film a chance. They won’t be disappointed.