REVIEW: Serenity (Major Spoilers)

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This article contains major spoilers for the opening of the movie. Do not read, if you wish to remain unspoiled.

Without a doubt the most anticipated movie of the autumn, “Serenity” is the sci-fi epic from Buffy creator Joss Whedon. A spin-off of the brilliant, if somewhat short-lived series “Firefly” that was cancelled prematurely, Serenity is a low-budget movie designed to bring some closure to the series, and also to bring the possibility of a greater re-birth in some form.

After 44,000 people struggled to get tickets for the World Premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the movie started attracting plenty of media attention, culminating (for the moment) in the Premiere last night.

Sci-Fi Heaven.net was there in the first audience ever to see the movie.

Here’s how it is.

“Serenity” opens with a hasty run through the backstory of the show, showing humanity leaving Earth for a new system and terraforming her. In the first few moments, the movie does a far better job than the series at giving a sense of where exactly the story is taking place. Before long, the action starts, as Simon Tam (Sean Maher) breaks his gifted sister, River (Summer Glau) out of an Alliance stronghold. It turns out the entire break-out sequence is simply a holographic recreation of the event, being played by the Alliance Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofer) who has been given the task of hunting River down and recapturing her.

Right from the off, the Operative has presence (established predominantly by killing everyone in the room), but its not even the killing – its the manner in which he murders them. “There is no shame in this.” Chiwetel Ejiofer does a fantastic job at creating a villian that is both complex and unpredictable.

Joss Whedon has perfectly captured everything that made Firefly great, and transferred it into a cinema epic. The movie is low-budget, but you would not know it. There wasn’t one moment in the entire movie that I didn’t believe this was a full-budget Hollywood blockbuster. The visual effects by Zoic Studios are top-notch, the acting superb in all corners and the direction is slick and often very original.

For his big-screen debut, Joss Whedon doesn’t fail to impress in either of his roles of Writer or Director. The story is fantastically paced and well written to ensure the audience doesn’t get lost. Not only does Whedon manage to provide closure for the show in a heart-tugging and effective way, he also manages to leave the door open for a sequel (but not in one of those painfully blatantly obvious ways). He answers many fan prayers by exploring the Reavers in great depth, providing plenty of character development and generally making it great fun. Laughs are plenty (though the movie is much, much darker than the show was).

From a directing standpoint, the movie was a success. Many sharp cuts, long camera pans (that incredible 5 minute non-stop walkthrough Serenity) even some bizarre half-screen fades (in which one conversation will be finishing on one side of the screen, yet slowly the face of someone else listening will fade in on the other). The action scenes are sharp, and well-shot. The movie has so many different types of action to convey, from shootouts, to swordfights, to space battles to your regular beat-em-up. All work perfectly on screen, and the sharp and unexpected cuts get more than a few jumps from the audience.

The acting is simply fantastic. For a movie with no “big-names”, and being an unusually large ensemble, the characters are portrayed exceptionally well. Nathan Fillion provides a very strong lead to the crew, Summer Glau plays River with grace and fantastic skill and Chiwetel Ejiofer is simply stunning as the villianous Operative.

The music too is sheer quality. Many of the Western elements from the show remain here (moreso than the actual movie) with carefully crafted compositions and instrumental styles unheard of in modern action movies.

Serenity is a creative success. It is intelligent, sharp, witty and visually spectacular. I can only hope the movie will perform strongly at the box office, but no matter how well its does – it deserves even more. Serenity is the movie the Star Wars prequels could only hope to be.

Rating: *****

[LARGE PORTIONS OF REVIEW HAVE BEEN CUT DUE TO SPOILER COMPLAINTS. Though I have to point out, it is a review. -Ed. ]

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