Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

"Knowing, loving, kidding and one of the year's best films."

Serenity is a much-needed shot in the arm for comic book science fiction movies. It is a riveting entertainment, superbly written and made with genuine fan boy passion. A highly affectionate B-movie, made efficiently, inexpensively and imbued with terrific style, with a script that crackles off the tongue. It is knowing, loving, kidding and one of the year's best films.

The opening sequence explains that subsequent to space-travel, terraforming worlds and the multiplication of human society, an Alliance of planets was formed, which govern, police and dictate policy. They also fund weapons and scientific projects, of which the psychic River (Summer Glau) is their greatest triumph. She was discovered, taken and put through horrific research, eventually escaping from the Alliance, thanks to her brother Simon. They are given sanctuary on board Serenity, a Firefly class smuggler spacecraft, used by a ragtag crew of misfits, only united by their stunning loyalty to Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds.

Copy picture

For those that haven't seen the short lived TV series Firefly, which is most of the populace, the story-up-to-this-point is frugally explained. Ten minutes of heavily compressed exposition, including a great single shot following the captain through the ship's interiors, as he barks orders and interacts with the entire crew. It hammers home the archetypical character motifs that Whedon interleaves throughout, while leaving lots of asides to devotees of the show.

So far, all very Star Trek, you may say. Where auteur Whedon separates from it is the sheer infectious good humour and surprising character logic. All his screenplays contain throwaway lines that lighten the tone and Serenity is no exception. Humour is a damn good thing when the despicable and downright frightening Reavers are in town. Once they were men and are now virtually an unstoppable force of hideous cannibalistic freaks, fond of mutilation and rampaging through worlds.

Serenity is darker than Firefly, but considerably more thrilling. The use of crude visual effects highlights the homespun production values and visual ideas extremely well. Whedon's highly accomplished intrascene editorial pacing and exhilarating action direction aside, the film quite simply feels complete, in much the way that Star Wars did, back in 1977.

A lot of story is told - some of it shocking, some of it revelatory - and you'll thank me for avoiding spoilers, but all of it well-dressed and delivered with style. Bring on another series, or at least the second part of a trilogy!

Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2005
Share this with others on...
Serenity packshot
Buffy's creator does battle with the Reavers in space, as earthlings move off their overcrowded planet.
Amazon link

Read more Serenity reviews:

The Exile ****
Keith Hennessey Brown **1/2

Director: Joss Whedon

Writer: Joss Whedon

Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Krumholtz

Year: 2005

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


EIFF 2005

Search database:

Related Articles:

Scoring With Joss