topfivefilms.com Tuesday 18th January 2022
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Serenity (15)
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz
Hmmm, something smells like Star Wars
Hmmm, something smells like Star Wars

Joss Whedon is the writer/director who managed to turn Buffy the Vampire Slayer from a fairly appalling film into a very successful TV series. He went on to enjoy moderate success with spin-off Angel, but fewer people have heard of his most recent series, Firefly, an ambitious attempt to cross the sci-fi genre with the wild west.

When it's phrased like that, you might be tempted to think of Will Smith's career nadir, Wild Wild West, but Whedon's series is a very different creature. Set in 2517, when the Earth can no longer support the population, the human race is forced to head out to the furthest frontiers of outer space, terraform planets and survive much like the settlers of the Wild West. Unfortunately, Firefly was cancelled after only fifteen episodes, leaving much unresolved.

Of course, no series from the creator of Buffy could disappear just like that. It began to amass a large cult following and when the unfinished series was released on DVD, sales were unexpectedly large, prompting Universal to agree to a feature film. The question is, can Whedon reverse his previous trick and turn a cancelled series into a successful movie?

The real trick in this case, however, is to attract a new audience. It's a safe bet that fans of the series will see Serenity, and probably more than once, but to do real business and secure the two sequels that have already been discussed, it will have to draw in a large crowd from the uninitiated.

It's no surprise, therefore, that the film kicks off with some exciting sequences that also serve to explain the plot to newcomers to the franchise, without patronising existing fans. While it may be a good way to start the film though, it is a pattern that infects the whole film, as Whedon struggles to produce a mainstream action film without losing the charm of the TV series.

Firefly had some ingeniously idiosyncratic qualities, including an appealing sense of humour and a slow pace that allowed the audience to concentrate on the characters, effectively filling the 45 minutes with surprisingly little action. Unfortunately, in meddling with this formula to appeal to a larger audience, Whedon has lost some of the quirky qualities that defined the series. Serenity is very fast moving and has a more serious approach to the storyline, with the humour kept to a few one-liners.

There is still plenty to enjoy here nonetheless. It's always a pleasure to see the actors and the wonderful characters they portray back on the screen, and the sets are masterfully designed too. The action is great fun to watch and it's the sort of film that could definitely benefit from repeat viewings.

Overall, though, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed with this film, because rather than raising the bar for the transition to the silver screen, Serenity seems more like a slightly below par episode of Firefly. If you haven't seen the original series however, this film may well come as a pleasant and enjoyable surprise. Interestingly, in a rather desperate attempt to lure more viewers in, the first nine minutes of Serenity is now available to view on the internet as a legal preview, which is obviously a great way of finding out if it's your cup of tea!

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Length: 119 minutes
Certificate: 15
Official Site: http://www.serenitymovie.com/
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0379786/
Release Date: 7th October 2005

Top Five Rating: 70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0% (70.0%)
User Rating: 97.5%97.5%97.5%97.5%97.5%97.5%97.5%97.5%97.5%97.5% (97.5%)

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