The Red Right Hand
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SERENITY
Can't Stop The Signal

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Director
Joss Whedon
Starring
Nathan Fillion
Summer Glau
Sean Maher
Chiwetel Ejiofor

When Firefly, Joss Whedon's (creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer) latest TV outing, was axed by Fox executives most of the fans (the affectionately dubbed 'browncoats') doubted they would ever see their beloved series resurrected. Three years and thousands of DVD sales later, the day has come for the release of Serenity. The hit series told the story of six crew members and three passengers of a cargo ship trawling the 'outer rim' - planets far from the civilised settlings of the ruthless totalitarian government, the alliance. This is an extremely brief overview of the series and it is absolutely glorious so I urge you to watch it. The best way to describe the style is that even though it's set in space it's not really a science fiction, in the typical sense. The best comparison I've come across is that it's similar to a Western, with your ranchers, smugglers, guns-for-hire, thieves, drunks, brigands, crooked law enforcers, etc. but in space. The key thing to remember is that this is not the series, nor a review of it. Something Whedon has to deal with, whilst trying to please the fans, is to cater for an audience who are strangers to his universe. The opening ten minutes -pre title sequence, detailing River's [Glau] escape from a mental alteration facility, with help from her brother Simon [Maher]- is set before the TV series, everything else designed to follow shortly after. Whilst captive, River was subjected to brutal experiments, utilising her gifted nature and enhancing her psychic potential. With her tests and trials incomplete, Simon catches brief glimpses of the girl he once knew under layers of psychosis. On the run from the alliance, they board a cargo ship, helmed by smuggler and ex-veteran, Malcolm Reynolds [Fillion]. It's been said that Mal has stolen everything he knows from Star Wars' Han Solo, but considering we never see Han Solo in a fist fight, I think Mal is the greater personality - if I'm suddenly found dead we know we can blame Star Wars fans.

The main plot drive is that the alliance have sent out one of their elite operatives [Ejiofer] to hunt down and return River. Part of their attempts to capture her involved subliminal messaging in globally broadcast advertisements, which trigger memories in River's mind of plots, secrets and operations that she read from military experts that came to view her progress. This starts a chain of events that ties up one of the threads that the TV series started to unravel, the truth and origin of the Reavers. Reavers are men that have lived on the brink of space, encountered and feared by those that live on the outer territories and covered up as a myth by those under alliance control. Scouting the blackness of space, feeding off small colonies, raping and murdering those they find. One of the most important and significant factors that separates this from other recent sci-fi releases (namely Revenge Of The Sith) is the use of music and sound. A combination of a simple piano played melody, thunderous orchestral pieces and western-style banjo twanging - I know it sounds awful but it works beautifully. As for sound, Firefly/Serenity is at the helm of realism, only introducing creaking from within the ship and sounds as ships break atmosphere; unlike most sci-fi epics which insist that everything makes a sound in space.

As a fan of the series I am astounded. The visuals are exceptional, the dialogue witty and funny (seamlessly blending Chinese and English with a futuristic slang), the action gripping and the story captivating. As a critic it took me a long time to separate my feelings. Every time I put pen to paper I couldn't block out the buzz I had from watching the film. Initially I assumed this was because I was just a fan and kept searching for faults and flaws. It's my firm belief that the reason I had so much difficulty finding a weakness in this film is that it is not only a fantastic tv-to-big screen adaptation but a genuinely good production. There are only two points that I could knock it for, the first being the surprise twist at the end, which isn't really much unless you're a fan of the series and considering there was little actually shown of the reavers you aren't as driven as you would have been if it were something revealed three or four series in - had the show continued. The second is the exclusivity; so many people are going to watch this film and hate it because fans of the series (or those that will see the film, then the series and love both) will no doubt rave on about how brilliant it is, hyping it up beyond all extremes. Having said that, this is a first class realistic science fiction with action, drama and an emotional drive that will keep audiences hanging on for the pulse-racing finale.

Release Date:
7 October 2005

The Scene To Look Out For:
The epic space battle showdown between the Reavers and the Alliance with Serenity caught in the middle. With the triumphant and frantic music making up for lack of sound effects and the war-like shakey cam making it difficult to tell what's really happening, this entire scene puts Star Wars Episode III opening to shame.

Notable Characters:
I wanted to say Jayne (played Adam Baldwin), the big-mouthed macho brute provides excellent dialogue and an almost child-like perspective. But I have to say River. Summer Glau produces such a wonderful character, giving a heart stopping performance. If we're all lucky this won't be the last we see of Ms. Glau.

Highlighted Quote:
"Remember, if anything happens to me, or you don't hear from me within the hour... you take this ship and you come and you rescue me."

In A Few Words:
"Science Fiction excellence that rivals that of anything Hollywood has produced since the seventies"

Total Score:
9/10


Matthew Stogdon