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"Serenity"

Directed by Joss Whedon.
Written by Joss Whedon.
Starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Summer Glau and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  10/2/05

Folks-- 

Let the record show that I have never watched an episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Angel", or "Firefly", the three TV series that writer/director Joss Whedon has dropped on the masses by way of either the WB (aka "The W-Black"), USA or the UPN over the last ten years.  I do know this, though--fans that do watch any of these shows have a tendency to be nerdtastic and also be a bit maniacal in their conviction that everything Whedon touches is nothing short of genius.

You already know if you are one of those people because when you saw the trailer for the new sci-fi flick "Serenity", you nearly lost your shit wondering when it was going to open and certainly you thought that the movie looked pretty cool.

If you are not one of these people, you saw the trailer and thought

"Man, that looks like shit!"

I know I did when I saw the trailer for a sci-fi film that had one-liners that made no sense and special effects that were straight outta "Battlestar Galactica" (the '70s show, not the new version).  So, in the interest of padding the stats, I decided to go see "Serenity" in the hopes that this dogshit would be an easy entry into the Hard Vice category.

Not so fast.  "Serenity", based on characters from the "Firefly" TV show (cancelled after one season of bad ratings, Whedon swore to put this on the big screen one day), follows a crew of mercs led by Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) that uncover a plot by the Evil Empire--they are called something else, but you get the idea--to purify the people of the galaxy by introducing toxins to their blood streams that has a slightly different effect than purification.  With the help of his ragtag crew, including the Muscle (Adam Baldwin), the Pilot (Alan Tudyk), the Second-in-Command (Gina Torres), the Love Interest (Morena Baccarin) and the Medic (Jewel Staite), Mal goes about informing the galaxy about the Empire's evil ways...but he doesn't count on two different factors.  First, the Empire's top assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor, of "Love, Actually") is coming after Mal's crew...and, one of Mal's stowaways, a 17-year-old wunderkind named River (Summer Glau), is going to provide just that extra little something to help get the team over the top.

In the tradition of shitty-yet-classic sci-fi romps like "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai" or "Ice Pirates" or even one of my faves, "Krull", "Serenity" does offer the release of going to a far-away world hundreds of years in the future that are eerily similar to our own.  Like any sci-fi that has some action, some adventure, some cool ideas, "Serenity" does offer the chance to watch Whedon rip off any number of sci-fi classics of the recent or distant past; between Mal's Han Solo-like costume and the assassin's efforts to play like a guy out of the Christian Bale/Taye Diggs actioner "Equilibrium", I actually liked the fact that Whedon doesn't try to paint a picture that hasn't already been completed in recent films.

Like "Buckaroo Banzai"--the film "Serenity" reminds me of the most--Whedon's flick depends wholly on your connection to these characters and what you get out of the humor being tossed out by their constant one-liners.  The action is so-so, the special effects are mostly bad, a space battle near the end of the film seems to set these types of scenes back ten years, and the subplotting is minimal due to what seems to be an assumption by Whedon that you have heard of/watched some of his previous series "Firefly", and therefore already know about the story with The Love Interest or are familiar with Mal's hatred of The War, which has taken place when the film events begin.  No, for the common man, it comes down to the team aboard the Serenity...and, I thought the chemistry was just okay.  I certainly thought that Mal was a ham, and therefore great...after that, the characters just felt like ideas, but this would certainly have been helped by viewing the original series.  Also, as mercenaries that are suddenly asked to be heroes, only Mal seems to accept this right away, leaving me cold to the varying interests of the others onboard (as they were left to taking orders, as opposed to feeling any passion around their new mission, i.e. Saving the Universe).

Overall, "Serenity" isn't bad and certainly is entertaining to see in an audience where there are other Whedon nerds there to whoop it up whenever something happens in the film that reminds them of how cool "Firefly" was.  Otherwise, this is probably worth skipping.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09