Rupert Murdoch has a lot to answer for. Forget all the complaints about the dumbing down of the world’s media, the alleged interference in politics and the sheer reach of the man’s empire. No, one of Murdoch’s greatest crimes was to allow his Fox TV channel to cancel a series called Firefly.
Created by Joss Whedon, the man behind the marvellous Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, Firefly was effectively a Western set in space. Following the exploits of a gang of mercenaries trying to survive in a universe ravaged by an intergalatic war, it survived 11 episodes before being unceremoniously cancelled.
Due to fan pressure, the series (including 3 shows that were never aired) was released on DVD and was a huge success. So, three years after Firefly was cancelled, here’s the big-screen version, written and directed by Whedon and starring all the original cast of the television series.
The story follows Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the space ship Serenity, who leads his crew round the galaxy performing whatever jobs need to be undertaken, be they legal or illegal. Stowing away with his crew are a troubled young girl River Tam and her doctor brother Simon. The pair are on the run from the Alliance, who are hot on the heels of Serenity. To make matters even more interesting, there’s a particularly nasty plague of humans turned cannibals called Reavers who have to be avoided as well…
Serenity is, quite simply, the sci-fi film of the year. There’s more energy, humour and excitement in one reel of Whedon’s film than in the entire two hours of Revenge Of The Sith. Although it helps if you’ve seen the TV show, it also stands alone as a film in its own right – and not just one to be enjoyed by the stereotypical sci-fi geek and nerd.
Considering this is Whedon’s first feature film, his direction is astonishingly self-assured. Those of us who long knew about the genius of Buffy knew that he was a master of character development and plot arcs, but here he proves himself a dab hand at action too. The action sequences are breathtaking and the effects are jaw droppingly good.
Yet crucially, Whedon never loses sight of what makes a film worth bothering with in the first place. His characters are all likeable, believable people – Reynolds is a flawed hero, who may perform actions frowned on by some, but is a genuinely decent man. Fillion embodies the character perfectly, turning in a performance of wit and verve that make him nothing less than the Han Solo for a new generation.
Of the rest of the ensemble cast, Summer Glau plays the difficult role of River perfectly, while Adam Baldwin and Jewel Staite provide plenty of funny moments. One of the standout performances is by a man who wasn’t in the original television series – English actor Chiwetel Ejiofor injects enough calm menace into his role as The Operative to make his turn truly chilling.
Whedon’s script is full of humour, providing several laugh out loud moments, and delivering a lesson that George Lucas could surely learn from, giving his characters believable dialogue. Even the trademark quirky Whedon touches such as “Shiny!” and moments of Cantonese swearing work well – a far cry from the infamous “not even the younglings survived” line from Revenge Of The Sith.
Although fans of Firefly are obviously going to love Serenity, its potential audience is huge. It’s the perfect blockbuster – an intelligent, witty and exciting action adventure that can be enjoyed by everyone, be they young or old, male or female. It will remind you of why you first fell in love with cinema as a little kid. If this is the huge hit that it should be, then Fox TV is going to look very silly. Which is surely reason enough to go and see it.