Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Tuesday, September 27, 2005  

Very little peace to be found in Serenity

Joss Whedon, producer of the hit TV series Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and its spin off, Angel, also created a sci-fi series, Firefly which only lasted for eleven episodes in 2002. In failing, he succeeded in creating the kind of fan base which kept the original Star Trek on for a third season and led to a long series of films and subsequent TV shows.

Serenity, the film adapted by Whedon from the Firefly series has been eagerly awaited since its production was first announced, and the fans of the show will not be disappointed. Rather, they will be happily surprised to find a movie that is much better than the TV show was.

Whedon has created a new brand which may not immediately rival Star Wars or Star Trek, but would not surprise if it eventually did.

To quote from the website:

“The film 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 aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family -- squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.“

A classic set of B adventure movie clichés, and a common formula. It was tired when George Lukas used it for Han Solo, but made fresh in Serenity since the sympathy lies not with any single action hero, but an entire group.

The Alliance is a group of planets which have it in mind to make everything better by imposing their brand of civilization on the rest even if they have to kill them to do it.

If you’re on the Left, you might take this as an allegory of the religious Right, President Bush and the global war on Islamofascism as the US seeks to democratize other nations who may not be eager to adopt Western style government.

If you’re on the Right, you cannot help but notice the Orwellian chill of the totalitarianism which enslaves even while it claims to be liberating. Everyone is made to think alike about what is best for themselves and others in the Alliance.

If you wish to ignore politics, you can easily do that, too. It’s just a premise to get the plot rolling.

The Alliance has a secret which falls into the hands of the crew of Serenity. A rather invincible assassin is dispatched to track them down and kill the young girl who contains the secret who is onboard Serenity with her brother, the ship’s doctor.

The crew of Serenity’s job is to survive as they become prey. The truth as they discover it leads them to choose between survival or sacrifice.

The actors all do yeoman’s service here. No one stands out, and they demonstrate why they are from TV. Nathan Fillion, a former Emmy winning soap opera actor, plays Captain Mal, who is intended to be gritty, pragmatic, mercenary, and sensitive at the same time. He is not impressive as his main expression is to clench his jaw, while displaying anger through gritted teeth, but he’s adequate as the rest are.

The action is a roller coaster, the tension is earned, the surprises are few, but the one that is a real shock helps to put everyone else in jeopardy and create true dramatic suspense.

The movie is fun. Have I said that yet? Well, it is thoroughly entertaining. I have a couple of quibbles. Kick butt little women will always annoy me. Even though they try to explain how it is possible in the story -- sci-fi, remember? -- it still doesn’t work.

The film achieves its intentions and is just plain fun. In a year of such dreadful flops, this is one the studio can take to the bank. It’s fresh, delightful, thrilling, clean, and fast. A wonderful, popcorn escape.

The web site home.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 10:59 PM |