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Worth A Look: 21.32%
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Sucks: 6.25%

15 reviews, 182 user ratings

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Serenity (2005)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Serenity Now!"
3 stars

Let no one say that Joss Whedon is a man who simply walks away when something that he has created doesn’t quite work out the first time around. In 1992, he wrote the screenplay for a quirky horror comedy entitled “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” that was transformed into a listless film that contained a funny death scene from Paul Reubens and precious little else. A few years later, he reworked the premise and convinced the fledgling WB network to transform it into a series and the result was a funny, spooky, touching and brilliantly acted work that has earned a place as one of the all-time great TV shows. A few years after that success, he developed another series for Fox, a sci-fi Western entitled “Firefly,” and watched as alleged network interference and a bad time slot led to its early cancellation after only a handful of episodes aired. When those episodes proved to be surprisingly popular when they were issued on DVD, he was able to convince another studio, Universal, to give him the money to bring “Firefly” to the big screen and give a mass audience a chance to pay to see something that they had mostly rejected when it was offered them for free.

For the loyal fans of “Firefly,” “Serenity” should prove to be a dream come true, if the response of the audience that I saw it with (largely culled from local fans recruited via the Internet) are any indication. To its credit, it seems to pick up right where the show left off and never stops to laboriously explain the concept and various backstories for those in the audience who have never before seen the show. This is an approach that is swell if you know the history of the show but much less so if you don’t. For anyone not in the know, a group that includes myself and approximately 236 million people in America alone, watching “Serenity” is like watching a group of tightly-knit people telling inside jokes for two solid hours in a language that only they can speak and understand.

Set 500 years in the future, a time during which Earth as we know it has gone bust and a new solar system has been discovered and populated, the film follows the crew of the “Serenity,” a group of ex-soldiers–cynical Capt. Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), loyal second-in-command Zoe (Gina Torres), comic-relief pilot (and husband of Zoe) Wash, hot-head muscleman Jayne (Adam Baldwin) and sweetie-pie mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite)–who had the misfortune to fight for the losing side and who now make a quasi-legal living doing whatever jobs they can find that will pay money. Currently, they have two extra passengers on board–a mysterious girl named River (Summer Glau) and her loyal brother Simon (Sean Maher), who is currently serving as the ship’s doctor to buy passage for him and his sister. As it turns out, River is the end result of some kind of genetic experimentation done by the Alliance, the corporation that basically runs everything in the universe, that has left her with the standard superhuman fighting skills found in every wispy heroine in a Joss Whedon production. It seems that River, unbeknownst to anyone, is carrying some kind of information that the Alliance will do anything to prevent from leaking out and they send a ruthless hitman (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who promises that he will destroy the ship and its crew unless they turn her over.

Although I am sure that I am leaving out a lot more than what I have described–the film also makes room for a weirdo technogenius (David Krumholtz), a wise old sage who provides the crew with shelter (Ron Glass) and Inara (Morena Baccarin), a sexy dame who gets to be both a former hooker with a heart of gold and the mysterious babe with some kind of former history with Fillion–that is the basic gist of the story. Fans of the show will no doubt get a deeper sense of the relationships between the characters and why they do and say what they do. However, newcomers are likely to spend most of the first hour struggling to get up to speed and the second hour wondering why they bothered to put in the effort. For a film like this to work, it should have taken a page from one of the best TV-to-film transitions, “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan”: like “Serenity,” it contained a deep and detailed backstory that could only properly resonate for longtime fans but it also had a gripping and exciting story that worked on its own terms for audiences unfamiliar with the material to latch onto.

What is especially disappointing, speaking as a newcomer, is that for all of its vaunted originality, the major elements of “Serenity” will seem more than a bit familiar to anyone with even a vague working knowledge of the sci-fi genre. The cheerfully cynical mercenary hero who can nevertheless be counted on to do the right thing in a pinch is just a carbon copy of Han Solo (though Fillion’s approach is less roguish and more off-putting than Harrison Ford’s), the lived-in look (everything seems to be in dire need of repair) is straight out of the “Alien” films and the ironic dialogue, usually delivered in the middle of fight scenes (“Remember the part where this is a trap?”) will sound familiar to anyone who watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” As for the basic story, in which a cynical ex-soldier finds himself protecting a beautiful young girl who possesses unimaginable powers and can decimate a crowd of bruisers twice her size without blinking, I suspect that I won’t be alone in recognizing it as essentially as a retread of “The Fifth Element” that lacks, among other things, the wild flamboyance and the brilliant notion that a couple of small bandages on a fabulous-looking babe could actually be technically classified as a costume.

“Serenity” isn’t an awful movie–most of the performers are bright and entertaining (and many males in the audience will walk away from the film crushing hard on Jewel Staite) and there are individual scenes where the iconographic blending of the Old West and the far-off future is undeniably impressive. And yet, the film kept me at such a distance from the material that by the time it all ended in a surprisingly downbeat finale, I found that I really didn’t care very much. Fans of “Firefly” will no doubt adore it (and will no doubt send many letters explaining in excruciating detail about how wrong I am) but for others, there is not much of anything in “Serenity” to cause you to think that you are really missing out on much of anything.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12621&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/29/05 23:58:33
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival For more in the 2006 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.
TV to Screen: For more in the TV to Screen series, click here.

User Comments

10/04/12 mike miller A must see for any Firefly fan(like myself.) 5 stars
3/08/12 fuzzylizard Intelligent without being highbrow: characters discover simple but powerful message 5 stars
9/23/11 psychoillogic expressing anything positive about this flick exposes ones lack of movieviewing experience 1 stars
8/08/11 WENDY Not quite the ending I wanted but better than nothing 4 stars
1/09/10 Ben C Big fan, saw the movie without having seen the series went out and got the seriies 5 stars
11/03/09 Kurtis Serenity is a great conclusion to the short-lived series. Touching and exciting. 5 stars
9/12/09 Miriam This film is absolutely brilliant! It's funny, slick, emotional, and awesome! 5 stars
7/19/09 Leonis Boring and overrated! 8 on IMBD! Nerds/Buffy fans need to get a life or get laid! 2 stars
10/09/08 man huh? 1 stars
6/22/08 J Black OK, like the series better. Wish Firefly hadn't been cancelled 4 stars
5/06/08 Neil Foster If only everyone who saw it had watched ALL the Firefly eps first ! 5 stars
3/29/08 Chiya Recently discovered firefly. serenity was mostly just mal &river, but brilliant. Shiny. 5 stars
12/09/07 Russell Liscomb Note how everyone giving it one star has poor grammar skills and no valid argument? 5 stars
11/26/07 dude boring and confusing 1 stars
11/21/07 fools♫gold I agree with all who like this. And only people who give it 5 stars like it! :P 5 stars
10/04/07 Akbar For Firefly fans only, otherwise boring soap opera tripe 2 stars
10/01/07 JohnnyFaye Melcom Renolds is a great caption you, a man you can follow. 4 stars
7/21/07 ben dover amazing fuck off lucas you fat cunt 5 stars
7/16/07 Andy Just brilliant, and shiny to boot 5 stars
7/02/07 Transid Great admiration for Firefly, but dissapointed in this 2 stars
6/16/07 Tom Lifelong Star Wars fan, but sorry folks... Firefly/Serenity takes the cake! 5 stars
5/16/07 Letter Liked It, but loved the series so something was lacking 3 stars
5/15/07 Dave Didn't like it 1 stars
5/01/07 Dude Sith was way better 1 stars
5/01/07 Tracey Chambers great movie 5 stars
4/02/07 Guido Sanchez Not the show, but pretty damn good nonetheless. 4 stars
2/09/07 -Cruden- I saw only one episode before the times started switching around and still loved the movie. 5 stars
1/31/07 Jeff Anderson A great valentine for fans of FIREFLY(long live them)& a blast. JEWEL STAITE ROCKS!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/28/06 Veritas Anyone who doesn't like this movie ought to be fed to Reavers 5 stars
11/27/06 Bella awesome awesome romp - very funny and touching. Bring on the sequel or bring back Firely 5 stars
11/26/06 sirina the story line sucked and it was way dum!! 1 stars
10/24/06 Drew G I probably have to see it again, but I wasn't blown away 3 stars
10/23/06 Browncoat If you have any brains,you loved it.If not, you don't count. 't 5 stars
10/17/06 AJ Muller in my Top 5 Best Flicks Ever.(seen 1 ep. before this)simply KILLER 5 stars
10/14/06 Ron Newbold There should be penalties for Fox cancelling the TV series! But the movie is fantastic 5 stars
8/25/06 michael just wish it was still on TV 5 stars
8/21/06 fozzybear loved the series,loved the film.if you don't get it,you never will!! 5 stars
8/13/06 Sharon pretty good I didnt expect much but it was awsome 5 stars
8/05/06 nicklor24 great movie, great action, they need to make a second one or bring back firefly 5 stars
5/22/06 sarah h can be made better 1 stars
5/19/06 UnpluggedCrazy Pretty much the best movie ever made. I may be biased, yes, but it's still impressive. 5 stars
5/03/06 ES Didn't make it thru this one. Bad acting, strained humur and no one worth mentioning in it 1 stars
4/19/06 Becky I love this movie!! Go browncoats!! I have it on DVD and it really gets better every time 5 stars
4/01/06 john smith would return of the jedi worked as stand alone? Serenity is a great sequel be satisfied...! 5 stars
3/31/06 Steve Newman Not sure what to make of this - would not watch again but glad I watched it 3 stars
3/28/06 mike turned it off after 30 mins. forwarded to cool fight scene in end 2 stars
3/19/06 Marlon Absolutely endearing, engrossing and entertaining--must have more! Sequel please... 5 stars
3/08/06 daveyt bought the box-set dvds, just watched film... blown away. Cheers Joss 5 stars
3/07/06 myzzy A must See movie!! its worth every penny 5 stars
3/03/06 Kris Hall stereotypically Western and Sci Fi setting allow to sit back and enjoy the ride 5 stars
3/01/06 kaz rawked my sawks 5 stars
2/20/06 Sonja Nikolic Whedon > Lucas. This from a Firefly virgin. 5 stars
2/14/06 Perry Mason At least one space opera filmmaker puts some thought in his work. 4 stars
2/06/06 Jim Snappy dialog, good plot and special effects, lots of Buffy and Angel villains 4 stars
1/20/06 Reklc Great sci fi movie! 5 stars
12/30/05 GBFH fantastic background noise 5 stars
12/22/05 gummy Serenity is the best SciFi movie i've seen in a LONG TIME!(i nevr saw a episode of firefly) 5 stars
12/21/05 Steve Does the series justice 5 stars
12/19/05 Dan Awesome movie! Loved it. 5 stars
12/15/05 Rob Proctor This and the series from TV are incredable. 5 stars
12/02/05 Blair K. Ivey This is a good movie. Not a four-star classic but certainly worth more than "Worth a look". 5 stars
12/01/05 Marty Welll thought out and well crafteded piece of work. 5 stars
11/22/05 Guy The best space opera since...well, it's actually the best of its kind! 5 stars
11/18/05 Indrid Cold Why are all these Babalon 5/Andromeda/Farscape things exactly the same? 3 stars
11/13/05 Jade Loved it!!! Need I say more? Well, I could actually go on for pages, but I'll refrain! 5 stars
10/29/05 Jared excellent 5 stars
10/23/05 Pale Dim brianorndorf is a moron. Intelligent fans can have a blast with this. 5 stars
10/22/05 Lord Chu AWESOME. The best movie ever, suckers. 5 stars
10/22/05 momacress Smart and action-packed. If it starred Brad Pitt it'd be a blockbuster by now. 4 stars
10/21/05 Suzz unrelenting gore, violence, noise, bad acting and idiot dialogue 1 stars
10/20/05 Ole Man Bourbon Star Wars meets Judge Dredd meets Jason X. IT SUCKS! 1 stars
10/20/05 marajade29sm FINALLY! This is what sci-fi adventure is supposed to be! Whedon is my master now! 5 stars
10/19/05 Rob G With DVD sales this will be in profit easy. Helloooo sequel! 5 stars
10/18/05 mike brianorndorf lacks ability to follow fast plot points. Never seen firefly, loved the movie. 5 stars
10/17/05 Bradley Timm Sci-fi is once again legitimate cinema. 5 stars
10/15/05 Walter Hillman The reviewer must be getting paid under the table. 2 stars
10/15/05 mirasol eagerly anticipated and not dissappointed! 5 stars
10/14/05 Pooly Pretty decent movie for a space drama. Check it out. 4 stars
10/13/05 Roy Smith How is this movie not making money? Fuck! 5 stars
10/13/05 Eula excellent film - I'd wanted more backstory on Book and Inara but it was still just fine! 5 stars
10/12/05 R White Best Sci-Fi for years! 5 stars
10/12/05 James K Chambliss Nice comeback for a series sadly mistreated. Send in a sequel! 5 stars
10/11/05 Elizabeth S Extremely entertaining! Cast is marvelous! 5 stars
10/10/05 jimbo CGI isn't as good as star wars serenity sucked 1 stars
10/09/05 Meritaten Pure Whedon - a breathtaking roller coaster ride from beginning to end! 5 stars
10/09/05 S Gyles THE BEST MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN! 5 stars
10/09/05 DMF Not perfect, but miles better than the competition! 4 stars
10/09/05 CA Goosmann I love the crew...sign me up 5 stars
10/09/05 ajay wasn't laugh-out-loud funny, but an enjoyable esperience. 4 stars
10/07/05 Titus I vote we eliminate Star Wars I-III and replace it with Serenity. This ROCKED. 5 stars
10/07/05 Bob Roberts absolutely f*cking awesome 5 stars
10/06/05 Jef Stellar. Great action, emotional, fearful...wonderful. 5 stars
10/06/05 S McBurnie Best SF movie I've seen in years. 5 stars
10/05/05 Amy Long One hell of a ride! Really cute guys! 5 stars
10/05/05 RevRob More TV Eps Please! (plus additional movies...) 5 stars
10/05/05 Jack Handy This movie was lacking plot, acting, plot, humor, plot, script, plot. 1 stars
10/04/05 Jeremy Absolutely the best movie I have seen all year. 5 stars
10/04/05 Mark This movie sucks 1 stars
10/04/05 Vince Outstanding 5 stars
10/03/05 Jonathon Holmes Half Outlaw Star, half Cowboy Bebop, all fun 4 stars
10/03/05 Elizabeth S Great fun! Stands alone for those unfamiliar with "Firefly" 5 stars
10/03/05 Brenden Rogers The best Sci-Fi I've ever seen 5 stars
10/03/05 bob Loved it, better than most stuff lately 4 stars
10/03/05 mwr Superb movie! 5 stars
10/03/05 strider3700 Great, when's the next one comming? 5 stars
10/03/05 Lynn Huls Joss Whedon at his best! 5 stars
10/03/05 Duckman Freckin' Sweer 5 stars
10/03/05 Mike Haggar It's Like Cowboy Bebop? More like Outlaw Star. I smell a Rip Off. 1 stars
10/02/05 Bob Roberts excellent 5 stars
10/02/05 McNab any sci-fi fan should enjoy it... bring me more 4 stars
10/02/05 Chico Dude Great movie, go see it 5 stars
10/02/05 Tamara Bycroft fantastic 5 stars
10/02/05 Wally Conger I couldn't have been happier with this FIREFLY "sequel." 5 stars
10/02/05 Surfaday Totally entertained - see it!! 5 stars
10/02/05 J. Marra The best in a long, long time by a far, far piece 5 stars
10/02/05 Susan A terrific movie - more, more! 5 stars
10/02/05 Michael Y. Better than Star Wars Episodes 1-3 combined! 5 stars
10/02/05 E. Milo witty, clever, original, and as far from stifling Star Trek morality as you can get! 5 stars
10/02/05 bullit16 Joss Whedon is a god. Best movie of the year, easily. 5 stars
10/02/05 KingNeutron I was really looking fwd to this, but OMG THEY KILLED KENNY! 3 stars
10/01/05 Dan Absolutely awesome and stunning sci-fi movie! Right up there with Star Wars! 5 stars
10/01/05 michaelb14 smart, witty, dialogue; characters you care about; great action; best scifi in a while 5 stars
10/01/05 Wildcarde1 more than mindless sci-fi action, real feeling 5 stars
10/01/05 KGWyly Long overdue successor to "Star Wars" 5 stars
10/01/05 Norma awesome is the right word! watch firefly though! 5 stars
10/01/05 J. O'Brien great sci-fi 5 stars
10/01/05 dj hanson the best sci-fi adventure ive ever seen!!! 5 stars
10/01/05 Heath This has all the elements of an excellent movie no matter what the genre. 5 stars
9/30/05 Green Gremlin Great sci-fi movies don't need CGI !!! 4 stars
9/30/05 Wyatt Allbright Leaves Lucas in the dust. Stunning, brutal, funny, intense and compelling Sci-Fi. 5 stars
9/30/05 what the fuck is wrong with you this movie is the most overrated peice of shit of all time the show sux and so does this 1 stars
9/30/05 Nick Smith Trek what? 5 stars
9/30/05 Jessica Guilford "Roller-coaster" pretty well sums it up. 5 stars
9/30/05 Trevor Hanson Excellent, shocking and unforgettable, there are scenes that are simply staggering 5 stars
9/30/05 Ashley C. The space battle beat ROTS. Fan gold. Action fun. Being a fan, I rate it 5. 5 stars
9/30/05 Keely333 Thank you, Joss! 5 stars
9/30/05 BrianWilly Pure, unadulterated awesomry. 5 stars
9/30/05 Jakub Wow, better than MENACE and JEDI?!?!?! THERE'S an accomplishment!!!!! 1 stars
9/30/05 Frank Lynch Best Gorram SF flick! 5 stars
9/30/05 cat It blows you away the first time you see it and is somehow even better the second time. 5 stars
9/30/05 GUSH!! OMG AWESOME OMG AWESOME OMG AWESOME the bestest movie ever...not. 1 stars
9/29/05 ellie totally amazing! 5 stars
9/29/05 Paul Rocks Such an awesome film, see it if you get the chance, you won't be disappointed 5 stars
9/29/05 Chris Original and Genera busting Action and Humor 5 stars
9/29/05 celticfeminist Fantastic and fun! 5 stars
9/27/05 Heidialyssa I have to agree that it was similar to the series. 4 stars
9/26/05 Mig Alonso About the same as the TV series 2 stars
9/16/05 kk Fantastic. TV show expectations were changed by JW, now he does the same to movies. 5 stars
9/14/05 Anthony Toledo Absolutely worth a look 4 stars
9/06/05 Chris Munoz Average....a big fan but dissapointed with certain aspects of the film. Missed oppurtunity. 3 stars
9/01/05 Igneous Triffic! A mantlepiece! 5 stars
8/30/05 Anthony Mangiarciana Awesome movie , we had a great time it was funny , sweet , exciting , scary and more 5 stars
8/25/05 robert murray absolutely brilliant 5 stars
8/25/05 Michelle It is incredibly amazing heart-stopping breathtaking movie 5 stars
8/25/05 jt best movie of the year so far 5 stars
8/25/05 Surzel outstanding 5 stars
8/25/05 J.A.A. Awesome. I've found Serenity. 5 stars
8/25/05 tony excellent 5 stars
8/25/05 sorcha silver Incredible - exceeded high expectations 5 stars
8/25/05 dorrie6 This movie surpassed all my expectations, including ones I didn't even know I had. 5 stars
8/25/05 Ste Amazing. Great action, great characters overall great film. You'll laugh you'll cry. See it 5 stars
8/25/05 Stephen Fletcher Fantastic, emotionally charged film, best I have seen in a long time. 5 stars
8/25/05 Ed Smith Saw it at the premiere on Monday. Was worried about the hype. Needn't have been. Fantastic. 5 stars
8/25/05 Douglas Hutcheson Must-see film! A roller coaster of emotions running up and down with humour and excitement! 5 stars
8/25/05 DSK Sometimes dark action packed sci-fi with heart and humour. Laughs and tears for all. 5 stars
8/25/05 Jane Burnett Surpassed expectations. A dynamic blockbuster with true (unschmaltzy) heart 5 stars
8/25/05 Jem Absolutely blew me away. Not what I expected... far, far better! 5 stars
8/25/05 jabby Wonderful Movie. A fast paced, exciting, intelligent and funny sci-fi movie. 5 stars
8/25/05 Jay Starr Wicked Awsome! 5 stars
8/25/05 Hannah It gives the world if SciFi just the kick its been needing. 5 stars
8/25/05 Earl Ferguson Real characters, compelling story, non-stop action, memorable music. Great entertainment. 5 stars
8/25/05 Angelique This movie is so much better than all the crap Hollywood has been coming out with! 5 stars
8/25/05 Duy Dinh Not just a good Sci Fi movie, but a good movie in all regards 5 stars
8/25/05 Diane G. fabulous, a great film 5 stars
8/24/05 Edith Simpson Awesome! Best movie this year! 5 stars
8/24/05 Shiny Very Very Shiny 5 stars
8/24/05 Denise M. FANTASTIC film! 5 stars
8/24/05 Geoff Roberts Hands down the best space SF movies in over 10 years 5 stars
8/24/05 Richard Kenneth Lenseth The best movie of 2005 if not this decade! 5 stars
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  30-Sep-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Dec-2005



Directed by
  Joss Whedon

Written by
  Joss Whedon

  Nathan Fillion
  Gina Torres
  Alan Tudyk
  Morena Baccarin
  Adam Baldwin
  Jewel Staite

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