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SERENITY (2005 - PG13)
SERENITY is the resurrection of cast and crew that starred in the short lived, albeit much loved, Sci-Fi TV series "Firefly". In this realistic depiction of the future world Whedon conflates the 'way the world was' and 'the way the world is' in a cutting edge tale of the trials and tribulations of the ship Serenity after it harbors their latest refugee, River Tam; a gifted seventeen year-old that has been at the mercy of a top secret government project. While the Serenity crew try to run from the Alliance and their deadly assassin, their escapades are interrupted by the deadly alien Reevers and an even more potentially harmful secret that threatens to undo ever progressive mankind in their quest for dominion over outer space and human perfection.
The cast includes: Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Adam Baldwin, and Chiwetel Ejofor.
Written and directed by: Josh Whedon.
Tagline: The 'Firefly' has been resurrected!
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, and some sexual references.
"The world as it was could no longer contain mankind". Having run out of countries to explore and resources to exploit, the next step in human Imperialistic endeavors, and more importantly, survival, requires man to explore and cultivate planets in far off dominions of outer space.
Finding a galaxy with ample planets, moons, and other sources of energy potential, humans have begun to 'teraform' the planets; springing up colonies ready for ample human growth and civilization which occurs only under the massive conglomerate power-force that is a hybrid of today's two megalith political powers, the U.S. and China. But somewhere, in the outer regions of the system, are rebelling planet systems that refuse to adapt. In their persistence to rebuke conformity, these 'people' have turned into wild, uncivilized heathens who pose as a threat to the inner-core of civilization, governed by the all-powerful 'Alliance'.
As a young River Tam sits listening to her teacher's pat explanation for the current state of their happy-go-lucky outer space lifestyles that repeatedly infringe on the ways of others, the heathens, she radically questions her teacher's authority when she suddenly rebukes her teacher's 'propaganda' and implies that perhaps the rebels are simply tired of their system's meddlesome ways.
Flash forward to an incarcerated River Tam (Summer Glau), at the mercy of radical experimentation being conducted by a top secret agency in cahoots with the Alliance. Apparently River is a gifted 'psychic' who can see into the future. But her brother, Simon (Sean Mayher), appearing in the guise of a top Alliance official, rescues his sister from the ruthless scientific abuse and heads to the nearest port of safety.
River and Simon seek refuge in the bowels of a fugitive raider ship, the 'Serenity', head by Captain 'Mal' (Nathan Fillion); former Alliance Captain during the great galactic civil war. Together Mal and his right-hand 'man' Zoe (Gina Torres), pilot 'Wash' (Alan Tudyk), mechanic 'Kaylee' (Jewel Staite), and begrudging crewmember Jayne (Adam Baldwin) protect Simon and River from the Alliance while gallivanting through planetary systems in search of their latest lucrative larceny escapade. But the thieving bandits are weary of their new guests; all except for Kaylee who seems to have taken quite a liking to Simon. Nevertheless the crew tolerates and even extorts the two refugees' gifts in exchange for safe harbor. While Simon plays doctor to the crew, Mal uses River to help foresee trouble in their upcoming robberies.
What River doesn't see of course, but expects, is that the Alliance has come after her, sending a deadly assassin, the Operative (Chiwetel Ejofor) to do the dirty business. Faithfully believing his duty to belong to a bigger plan; the dream of a better world, the Operative scours the spatial systems in search of his target, all the while leaving pat anecdotes on noble customs of ancient civilizations; 'pearls of noble wisdom' of Greeks and Romans and other 'great civilizations' for the presently inferior human race, if you will.
But before the 'Serenity' crew will have to confront the Operative they will first have to outrun the deadly Reevers: an alien species, more correctly, a subspecies of humans turned into deadly, masochistic cannibals, who have recently invaded the planet of their latest robbery attempt.
Having narrowly escaped death the 'Serenity' crew heads to their next destination to deliver the pay off for their latest 'job'. There, however, River will unveil yet another of her many hidden talents: she too is a deadly assassin; the Alliance's most lucrative secret weapon if you will. Apparently triggered by a subliminal message, River begins to unleash her hellacious fury, quite formidable for a girl of only 90 pounds, upon the inhabitants of the local bar. Only upon the incanting of a secret code does Simon get his sister to relax; a slew of unconscious people collapsed beside her from her wrath.
After Mal locks River up, believing her to be their latest problem, he inquires as to why Simon never bothered informing him of her deadly potential before endangering his crew. That's when the Serenity crew discovers that not even Simon knows all the secrets locked in River's head; secrets that have something to do with 'Miranda'. After River escapes her juvenile incarceration she begins to attack the Serenity crew; not to kill, only to dissuade any interference with her plan. As Mal walks up to River reconfiguring the flight paths of Serenity he comes to understand what 'Miranda' is: an exile planet.
Quickly researching the planet the 'Serenity' crew discovers that 'Miranda' was a planet with ample qualification for human colonization, but the attempts have failed and the planet has since remained abandoned and unspoken of. But there's more, 'Miranda' lay just beyond the border of the deadly haven of Reevers.
Before risking to death to enter the planet the crew heads to a nearby planet who has long since remained a faithful ally. But upon landing the 'Serenity' crew discovers their friends have been murdered at the hands of the Operative and his Alliance soldiers. Quickly rallying up whatever resources they can acquire, including dead bodies, the 'Serenity' crew boards ship and heads to 'Miranda'. There they find the answer to the deadly secret that has the whole of the Alliance military in search of River. They, they discover how human curiosity and science can be so perverted as to wreak havoc on their own race. There, River will show them how all the poking and prodding of scientific discoveries sometimes leads to failed experiments gone terribly wrong, and terribly deadly.
With only a scant trace of time, the 'Serenity' crew must make a highly debatable decision about their fate and the fate of 'another race' before either the Reevers or the Operative gets to them first.
SERENITY is the Cinderella fairytale of Hollywood. In the words of Josh Whedon, "failed TV shows don't get to become major motion pictures. And yet, with SERENITY, that is exactly what Whedon has done. Thanks the devout loyalty of former cast and crew, and most importantly, fans, of the tragically cancelled Sci-Fi series "Firefly", Whedon went to work wrestling up the necessary cash, sponsors, production crew, and script to reunite the Firefly crew for an unheard of, unprecedented miracle. Whedon, along with the relentless support of the many fan-based websites, was able to contrive a beautiful Sci-Fi film that smacks of the primitive George Lucas "Star Wars" films.
Both realistic and highly intriguing, Whedon takes audiences into another world without ever going overboard which would allow the 'fantastic' to provoke disbelief. In fact, "Serenity: is so well done that suspension of disbelief is completely withheld and the audience is able to watch, in ample satisfaction , the unfolding of a succinct, palatable, Sci-Fi tale that exposes the fragility of mankind many years from now.
Developing off of current dilemmas for the human race: power, pride, war, ethics, politics, Whedon simply transports his 'un-evolved' humans into another world. There, Whedon's outer space is a near spitting image of today's world; as it would be if the U.S. and China suddenly conflated their cultures upon one another. Though the level of technology has rapidly advanced, Whedon spares audiences with an overabundance of rapid transformations of the human race and their lifestyles by allowing the race to harmoniously persist in a rather stable, even contemporary society without the usage of highly advanced technological devices. Rather, technology is saved for outer-planetary transportation and the Alliance.
Though the acting was at times sub par, for the most part the cast did a credible job. Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that these are the original 'stars' of the "Firefly" series; this was their baby as much as Whedon's, and as Whedon notes, "these aren't stars". However, that noted, the non A-list cast definitely rises to the occasion and convinces audiences enough of their plight with their solid and dedicated performances.
SERENITY is an intriguing, tastefully done film that gets the most bang for 'its modest buck", so to speak in that Whedon unabashedly admits to the restricted budget and yet, likewise, he revels in the fact that he even had a chance to make the film at all; any budget is better than no budget. That said, the budget that Whedon was left with did not injure his portrayal of his 'baby'; from start to finish "Serenity" is a palatable, well-directed, well edited, technical enough film that, though it won't garner Oscar attention (as is the case with most all Sci-Fi films), will definitely please any true Sci-Fi lover and elate the loyal "Firefly" and Whedon fans of old; hopefully adding some new names to the ever increasing fan base thanks to Whedon's newest accomplishment, SERENITY.
Nathan Fillion plays Captain 'Mal', the skeptical war-worn, ex-Alliance Captain and current Captain of the 'Serenity' spaceship and crew.
Gina Torres plays Zoe, Mal's right-hand 'man' and Wash's girlfriend.
Summer Glau plays River Tam, the gifted 17 year old psychic with a secret knack at military defense.
Alan Tudyk plays 'Wash',Washborne, the 'Serenity's' head pilot and Zoë's partner.
Morena Baccarin plays Inara, former member of the 'Serenity' crew with particular affection for the abrasive Captain 'Mal'.
Adam Baldwin plays Jayne, the loud-mouth, hot-shot, fast-tongued, grenade lovin' 'Serenity' crewmember.
Jewel Staite plays 'Kaylee', the 'Serenity' spaceship's head mechanic.
Sean Maher plays Simon, River Tam's loyal and loving brother and new "Dr." for the 'Serenity' crew.
Chiwetel Ejofor plays The Operative, the Alliance's deadly assassin in pursuit of River Tam.