Escapist Velocity

Columbus Alive | September 29, 2005
Freed from the confines of a small budget and a fickle audience’s tastes, Joss Whedon resurrects his cancelled 2002 TV series Firefly as a feature film, and it’s a perfect showcase for everything Whedon does best. Like his clever small screen horror dramedies Buffy and Angel, Serenity seems to soar by vaulting the exceptionally low bar of its genre; it may simply be better than average, but when the average is the likes of The Chronicles of Riddick and the new Star Wars movies, it seems like a masterpiece.

Set in a ramshackle, thrift store future, Serenity borrows the multi-culti progressive vibe of the Matrix and the lived-in Western aesthetic of popular anime (like Trigun, Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop). The film takes its name from a spaceship captained by Nathan Fillion (who, like the rest of the cast, reprises his TV role) and crewed by an assortment of easy-to-like rogues. Mercenary, quick with their fists and quicker with their lips, it’s like a whole ship full of Han Solos, without any stuffy Jedis or annoying robots cramping their style.

It’s the Serenity’s newest crewmembers that drive the film’s plot: living weapon Summer Glau and her brother Sean Maher, who springs her from a government lab. In addition to learning a bunch of kick-ass kung-fu there, she learned a dangerous secret, and to keep it a secret the government sics their Zen samurai enforcer Chiwetel Ejiofor on our heroes.

While the plot is fairly pedestrian (though there's a political critique regarding the dangers of wars waged for faith in there if you're willing to look for it), Serenity has two things sorely lacking from so much recent sci-fi: a sense of humor and real, honest-to-God characters.

Not only do Fillion and company crack smiles, they crack jokes, sharing the same smart-ass gene all Whedon characters have. Sure, they’re broadly sketched, but they’re distinct and easy to give a damn about, making the emotions in this space opera more potent and genuine than that of your average space soap opera.

Whedon may be best known for his cult-inspiring television shows, but here’s hoping he sticks to films for a while. The medium’s wider canvas better suits his imagination, and he certainly seems to know what he’s doing with it.

Columbus Alive

Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
More »
Contact for Reprint Rights
  • Market Served: Metropolitan Area
  • Address: 62 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215
  • Phone: (614) 221-2449