Thursday Night Movie Club
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Release Date: September 30, 2005

Director: Joss Whedon
Nathan Fillion
Gina Torres
Alan Tudyk
Morena Baccarin
Adam Baldwin
Jewel Staite
Sean Maher
Summer Glau
Ron Glass
Chiwetel Ejiofor
David Krumholtz
Michael Hitchcock
Sarah Paulson
Yan Feldman
Raphael Feldman
Shepherd Book
The Operative
Mr. Universe
Dr. Mathias
Dr. Caron
Serenity movie poster Serenity movie poster Serenity movie poster
Photo of Nathan Fillion as Mal Reynolds in SerenityJoss Whedon brings his short-lived TV epic to the big screen to finish what he started. Thanks for being so bold to take this step. Serenity is a continuation of the show "Firefly", doomed from the start because it was way too intelligently written and directed for the collective masses who watch network TV.

Roughly eight months after the final episode, the crew of the Firefly-class Serenity are in for a rude awakening. One member of the crew, River, might carry a deeply hidden memory that could fracture The Alliance's hold over the civilized world. The Alliance wants River back under their control, or dead if there are no other options.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds leads his crew on a series of "jobs". Some of these are legitimate, some criminal. Mal does his jobs to scratch out a meager existence on the fringes of a new galaxy. Earth became overcrowded and the populace left in search of a new place to live. They found a neighboring galaxy with several planets. Terra forming and civilization followed, leading to the formation of the galactic political structure, The Alliance. The Alliance's goal was to form a new Utopia of peaceful existence. This ideal worked well for the central planets. But on the outskirts of the galaxy, things were not so serene. The ideal here was to live your life on your terms without governmental oversight. The end result was a Civil War.

Mal was a commander in the failed War. Now, all he desires is to be left alone to live his life on his terms. Mal has a similar code of conduct as John Wayne's personal code of ethics evident in his westerns. Serenity is very much a space western.

The Alliance sends a mysterious man to recapture River. This man has no name, no rank, but he is very well connected with the upper echelons of The Alliance. He is known only as an Operative. It is his attempts to recover River that sets in motion a chess match between him and Mal. Mal is playing the black pieces, always reacting to different moves, trying to solve a puzzle. The curious angle of Whedon's script is that Mal has no clue what he is doing. The Operative gives Mal the opportunity to reunite his crew. A few members have gone their separate ways, only to be drawn back to Mal.

Photo of the Firefly-class starship SerenityAs The Operative makes his moves, Mal finds his world closing in around him and he doesn't like to be pushed. Stuck right in the middle is River, a traumatized young woman who has been altered by The Alliance because of her special gifts of precognition. Due to her skill as a dancer, The Alliance has conditioned her into the perfect weapon. Like Mal, River sees through the blindfold surrounding her training and never conforms to the system.

After being removed from the TV show, it is uncanny how the actors so easily slip back into character. Unlike Star Wars, all of the characters are very complex and fully realized. Just like any family or group of friends, they don't always agree. There are constant disagreements, but the underlying theme is how fiercely loyal they are to each other, none more so than Mal. The entire cast is a joy to watch. The verbal barbs are fast and furious and if you blink, you might miss one of Whedon's visual jokes. Note the similarity in looks of a robot to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".

Whedon's script and direction is so dead-on perfect, that even characters with small roles get their scenes to really shine. Ron Glass has only two scenes as Book, the preacher that gives the crew a root for their spirituality but he nails it and sends Mal to fulfill his destiny. Adam Baldwin gets his soliloquy in explaining his reasons for killing another man. It's a hoot and yet fully explains the brute who desires to be a captain of a crew but lacks the necessary skills.

Photo of the the crew of SerenitySerenity ultimately revolves around three characters: Mal, River and The Operative. Nathan Fillion is wonderful as Mal, always hiding behind a stone face, desperately clinging to an emotionless existence of survival because he knows emotions can and will cloud his judgment. But, his code of conduct always comes first. Mal is intensely true to himself and that is all that matters to him. Summer Glau has the toughest acting job portraying the frayed River. River is tormented by dreams, feelings and different realities that constantly bombard her. Glau has to portray both rationality and irrationality at the same time. Her shining moment comes when brother Simon asks her if the mysterious Miranda is in her, implying schizophrenia. Glau's response is a facial look that speaks volumes. As The Operative, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays his character with an emotionless subtlety. The Operative is robotic. All he thinks about is the mission. It doesn't matter what the mission is. The Operative will do whatever it takes to complete his mission, no questions asked. It is a wonderful performance that adds the extra edge to the film.

Serenity clicks on every level. The suspense never lets up, due not only to the back story but the complex relationships among the crew. This is not a happy-go-lucky family. They are all dysfunctional, not wanting to bring their emotions to light. The humor comes out at the least expected times. It is not uncommon to grip the arms of the theater seats in suspense while laughing at the same time. It is a marvelous blend that is sustained throughout the movie. If it is any consolation to Joss Whedon, I want to see more! The great joy of Serenity is spending two hours watching it not knowing what will come next.

And maybe that is the final take on the movie, every second brings new surprises. As Mal rallies the crew, his final line to them is, "They won't see this coming!" I never saw any of it coming and it is a credit to Whedon and the cast of miscreants. Enjoy! When will the DVD be released?