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Nothing serene about 'Serenity'

Oct. 4, 2005

by AUDREY LECKER,contributor

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, has created a new phenomenon with Serenity.

In a universe 500 years in the future, Earth can no longer sustain its growing population.

Mankind has branched out into a different solar system and begun the difficult process of transforming the landscape of planets into one that has the characteristic landscapes of Earth, as well as developing other planets for civilization.

Outer space has become the new "Wild West."

The central planets are controlled by a government known as the Alliance.

Mal (Nathan Fillion, Saving Private Ryan), the captain of the space ship Serenity, is a veteran of the failed revolution against the Alliance as well as a smuggler.

He has taken on two fugitives running from the Alliance, Simon Tam (Sean Maher), a doctor, and his sister River (Summer Glau).

The Alliance wants River back badly enough to send a government operative after her, thus endangering the Serenity and her crew.

Serenity, a continuation of the short-lived TV series Firefly, is the first feature length film Whedon has directed and written.

The downside to the film is that most audiences will not see the series before seeing the movie.

This is regretful, as the series is just as good and provides a much more in-depth look at the characters and the story.

Viewers do not need to see the series to understand and enjoy the movie, though.

I have to admit that going in I was not sure how Whedon was going to accomplish setting everything up fast enough to still have time for the rest of the film.

Within the first 20 minutes, Whedon brings everyone up to speed with the plot, characters and the relationships between them, while at the same time throwing viewers into the action.

Plus, the introduction to the Serenity's crew is one continuous shot, a challenging filmmaking achievement.

The cinematography is subtle, drawing attention to what is important.

The storytelling itself pulls off a wide range of emotion.

Whedon takes his audience on a thrilling ride of action, suspense, horror and humor. He even throws a bit of mystery in for good measure.

This is one of the best films I have seen all year. For the two hours I was watching it, I was completely absorbed.

It's not just a movie for those who enjoy science fiction, though it does belong in that genre.

Serenity has something in it to offer everyone, whether it be space ships or a detailed, well-written story.

Grade: A