The Firefly fan base was so rabid, in fact, that they kept the characters, the buzz, and the show alive in fan fiction and DVD sales for several years after the its demise. Universal Studios was impressed by the fans’ showing (they call themselves Browncoats—the nickname for those who fight the Alliance), and was subsequently convinced to give Whedon writing and directorial duties and an action-flick budget to bring Serenity back to life.
Since I’d never seen Firefly, I was worried I’d be too out of the loop to enjoy the movie, but Whedon has made it accessible for Browncoats and non-Browncoats alike. The movie got hearty laughs and several rounds of applause from the Serenity-T-shirt-clad group sitting near me, and I was laughing with them.
Despite its elaborate special effects and sets, Serenity felt like a TV show – but that wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, it made very clear that the average Hollywood action flick could use a writer like Whedon. The comic timing was great, the jokes funnier, and the catchphrases more believable than the average big-budget adventure. Most action movies seem to labor under the misapprehension that big noise and bigger guns buy them the right to forego clever writing, or take themselves too seriously to find the humor in an intergalactic fire fight. Serenity does neither, and the result is a film that covers a lot of the entertainment bases.
The cast members, all of which Whedon brought from the TV show into the movie project, obviously had 13 episodes of chemistry under their belts. They left you expecting and wanting to see them again in a week instead of forgetting about them after two hours. Gina Torres as Zoe is a tough first officer, Jewel Staite is the scatterbrained, lovelorn mechanic, Kaylee. Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk round out the crew with their portrayals of the loveably insubordinate ballistics expert and the calm, skilled pilot, respectively.
A few of the relationships were underdeveloped. Leading man Fillion and another Serenity passenger, Inara (played by Teri Hatcher look-alike, Morena Baccarin) clearly had had a relationship in the past, but it’s never fleshed out, with the notable exception of a hilariously awkward post-break-up conversation they have over the ship’s videophone. River, who is able to develop her quiet character in between fights with subtle facial expressions is unable to develop much of a relationship with her brother, Simon (Sean Maher).
The fight scenes are well done—likely a result of Whedon’s years of work on Buffy. They’re made even more impressive by the grace of 24-year-old Summer Glau, whose first career as a prima ballerina helps her make a high roundhouse kick look both beautiful and believable on a 100-pound girl.
All in all, Serenity is a thoroughly good time, and if it takes off on the big screen, many more movie-goers may start requiring more than big guns from a big-budget action movie. That wouldn’t be a bad thing for movie-goers, and it certainly won’t be a bad thing for Whedon, who I hope has more than a few offers in his future.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Tivo re-runs of Firefly on the Sci-Fi Channel. Maybe I’m a sci-fi kind of girl after all.