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For those not in the know, Serenity is based on the short-lived science fiction series Firefly.  Cancelled before it had a chance to thrive by Fox, the Joss Whedon creation (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) was a unique mix of Old West horse and carriage and hi-tech space ships. The fact that Serenity was even made is an amazing story.  As Whedon admits in one of his DVD interviews, cancelled shows do NOT get made into major theatrical movies (hell most series that aren't cancelled can't get a movie...reference Babylon-5).  But the fans spoke and somehow a miracle occured.
Serenity picks up just a few months after the end of Firely without missing a beat, proceeding to wrap up many of the major plot threads of the series.  Sure some things are left out, but it is enough to make any fan giddy. Most importantly, there are very few happy endings here.  You will see loss and you will see pain as the final minutes unfold.  That's the way it should be.
Unfortunately, wrapping up plot threads effectively and pleasing the hard-core fans (without which this movie would not have been made) does not a great movie make.  We have to consider the people coming into the theater with zero exposure to the original series.  And for that percentage of ticket goers, the movie does little to deliver.  There are too many assumptions made and many of the character querks that would be perfectly acceptable to the seasoned viewer are confusing to the newbee.  IE, why is the captain, Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) on the verge of kicking half of the crew off his ship all the time?  For that matter, why does the crew put up with it?  Where does the Inara character fit in?  Why is River nuttier than a fruitcake?
The movie is clearly made for the staff, creator and fans.  And that is fine with us.  To those people, who deserve it most, you will get the closure you need (and this is a four star effort).  For the non-fan, this isn't for you. 
This is indeed a great flick.  But we have to scoff at many of the reviews coming out touting Serenity as the next Star Wars and "as intense as the Matrix".  We don't know what was in their popcorn. 
Plot wise, Serenity flows well with lulls and action well spaced.  One major complaint is the total lack of attention paid to the Inara and Mal relationship.  Why is Inara with the enemy?  In the theatrical cut and in the trailers we assumed she, a registered companion (a woman for hire), had some relationship with him.  And to that end, things get confusing as there is no frame of reference for this.  However, looking at the DVD extras things make more sense.  More than half of the dropped scenes were based on Inara and in our view should have never hit the cutting room floor.  We are dissapointed that the DVD did not come with a director's cut, as it would have solved many problems.
Continuing that tone, the rest of the DVD special features make the purchase worth while.  Lots of personal footage, a great commentary and nothing but honesty from Whedom and company.  You can really feel what they went through.
Bottom line, if you are a fan Serenity is a must own.  If you are not, stear clear or become one first (its not hard to fall in love with).
    (- William J Piniarski -) 

    | copyright, 2005 |