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SERENITY (PG-13) (2005)


Official Site

Director: Joss Whedon

Producer: Barry Mendel

Written by: Joss Whedon

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


Somewhere, there’s a ragtag band of misfits roaming through space on the run from an interplanetary empire. Their ship is in constant disrepair. The crew grows weary from scraping a scoundrel’s existence, but each has a deep sense of family with the rest. The frontier spirit of the crew of the Serenity is their only weapon against harsh reality, a cruel operative of the Alliance, and horrific space cannibals. That, and a creepy psychic girl with unparalleled close combat capabilities (and a safe word).

Meet the crew. Mal (Fillion), the Captain of the Serenity, has a checkered past with leadership. However, he’s a hardened, clever, and focused captain, even if he’s just a confused little boy on the inside. Zoe (Torres) is the yin to Mal’s yang, giving him some thoughtful words rather than questioning his leadership. She’s married to the lovable pilot (Tudyk), who does little more than care for Zoe and fly flawlessly. Jayne (Baldwin) is the guy you hate to love, the kind of guy who needs to be talked out of bringing grenades to a heist. He’s a step backwards in spiritual evolution, being more ape than man in his heart. Then there’s the mechanic, Kaylee (Staite), who fails to evoke a classic image of a grease-monkey. I guess in the future mechanics will actually be sexy, but won’t have their asses falling out of their shorts. Simon (Maher), the onboard doctor, has just freed his sister River (Glau) from the clutches of a clandestine institute working the kinks out of mind-control procedures. She’s a violently unstable psychic, who seems to have little control over whether or not she’s going to kick the hell out of everyone in close proximity. Deep in her subconscious she holds a sensitive secret, and to make sure that secret doesn’t get out, the parliament has dispatched a nameless operative, a man with a mind and soul as cold and hard as a frozen diamond.

Okay, that’s the skinny. We have a solid setup for a good sci-fi adventure, and Joss Whedon delivered. Given that he wrote this, I have to give him full credit for making a good movie. The dialogue was cute, and the theme had a deep application to our modern-day *meddling* society. But unfortunately, like any and every action movie ever made, character growth was minimal. Mal found something to believe in, but hardly talked to the woman he was supposed to love, even though they had both just saved each other’s lives. Simon learned to orally express his interest in the nubile if not witty mechanic, and River learned to open a can of whoop-ass when her brother’s life is endangered. It’s all pretty shallow on that end, but hey, Joss Whedon has been working with TV (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” anyone?) for the past decade, so we can’t expect too much of him. I just wish they had gotten a more recognizable cast, because I spent damn near the whole movie thinking to myself, “Is that the dude from “Sliders”?” Turns out it wasn’t. Nathan Fillion had a part in Saving Private Ryan. He was Private James Ryan, but not the one who had lost his brothers, but rather the one whose brother was still in grammar school. Remember that guy?

Those people who eagerly await this movie (self-proclaimed Browncoats, you know who you are) will love it with all their being, but the rest of us won’t be blown away, we’ll just be entertained. So go be entertained, dammit! It’s a good thing when space cowboys learn Chinese.

—Duncan Wright

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

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