Wookiee Movie Reviews presents:
Review by Diana, MaceVindaloo, Rosie, Bunchbox

Director: Joss Whedon

Creator: Joss Whedon

Starring: Nathan Fillion, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Adam Baldwin, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, David Krumholtz

Rating: Super Star Destroyer (intimidates and pleases)

We were really hoping this movie wouldn't suck. You see, the Fox Network canceled Firefly a while back, and ever since, fans (called Browncoats) had been baying for more. They took out an ad in Variety magazine begging Fox not to let it go ... then after it was canceled, websites were posted to diligently spread the gospel of Firefly, groups were formed. They had shindigs, showed up at cons with Jayne's knitted hat, and when the DVD set came out, they campaigned for more by buying as many as they could afford and pressing them on their friends and family. And going online and encouraging others to do the same. "More Firefly Now!" was the call!

Then it was announced that Universal Pictures had given the green light for a movie ... and what's more, if it did well, it would be the first of THREE movies! Firefly fans swooned, then rallied, frothing at the mouth. When previews were opened up to the public, tickets were snapped up in mere minutes. Browncoats were rabid ... but at least they didn't become Reavers ...

The budget for this film was small — $39 million, and apparently, Universal said, "make it work." There would be no big publicity money. Oh gosh, it sounds like Fox and Firefly! But Universal had a point — there were no "stars" in this film, just the cast of the failed television series and a few others. And they were going to use viral marketing, which is defined as any and all strategies (specifically using the Internet) that encourages individuals to pass marketing messages onto other individuals. Growth of the message is theoretically exponential, similar to the way a virus multiplies till it takes over by sheer numbers. They'd "leak" content to Browncoat sites and let it perpetuate. (This is related to the concept and transfer of a meme.) This included film clips of an Alliance baddie interviewing River as she "progressed" through the special program (starring Summer Glau and *gasp!* Joss Whedon), "projects" and "hunts" which could result in prizes, notes from Whedon, sending the actors out to cons, gatherings, film festivals, previews, and just about anywhere they could get exposure and get the word out. The slogan of this new movie is "Can't stop the signal," and they were hoping to prove it to be true.

Finally, a novel came out ... then the movie! And we all sat in the theater and prayed it wouldn't suck!

This so does NOT suck! Serenity has an anthromorphized spaceship with a glowing butt, cool western style clothes, swearing in Chinese, big guns, beautiful maidens not quite in distress, mention of things in nethers with batteries in them, explosions, kick-ass fight scenes (in which the big buff lummox gets his ass kicked by a 90 lb girl, not once, but twice!), cannibals, whomping space battles (Wash flies way better than Han Solo!), bad men who are good, good men who are bad, twangy wild west patois ... aw heck, has everything you need, plus a tightly written script, intriguing story, and the return of a beloved cast, all intact. The fans got what they wanted, more or less ... though there are SOME aspects of the story which fill one with regret, but in a good way. (Yeah, that was almost a spoiler ...)

Speaking of Han Solo, yeah, Nathan Fillion plays Mal Reynolds like Han, but wait — Whedon created Firefly with the concept of the Millenium Falcon as a living space for a whole practical crew who call it home, not just Han and Chewie using the rig. If you're on the fringes of space (the "black" as it's called here), you make your living any way you can, honestly or not. You run into people you don't want to know, and lose friends whom you wish you could hold onto, or maybe wish you'd never met them so you wouldn't have to lose them ... It's the story of a man who has suffered much and lost much, and he gathers people to him which represent the pieces he'd lost of himself. He makes his home in a flying heap with bits breaking down and falling apart, not enough food, and as many steps ahead of the law as he can manage — and it's his choice to do so.

So the incentive to take on paying passengers is great, and you end up taking them on, no questions asked ... and eventually they become your crew and family, so you can't abandon them even when they insist on going and the dangers of having them outweighs the benefits of any coin that comes your way. How far will you go to protect what's yours? How do you know it's yours?

Firefly was easy to love, especially since it was such an underdog with quality everything. In a sense, Serenity is likewise underfunded, and it's a labor of love by the fans, as well as by the cast and crew. The magic number of $80 million was bandied about, with an indication that if this number was achieved in worldwide gross box office, another two Serenity movies would be made. So once again, fans are pressing their friends and family to accompany them to the theater!

Serenity was more than we expected. Yeah, it's a movie instead of a television episode — a real movie! — but even still, the story was hella good, and people who hadn't seen Firefly before enjoyed it. The sets were lush and familiar, the ship was as distinctive as in our dreams, complete with the glowing butt which gives this class of starships its name. It wasn't a disappointment in terms of learning more about the crew and the 'verse; it was a disappointment in that [SPOILER!] some of the actors might not be back. But as we said, it wasn't frivolous. These disappointments worked, as much as we hated that they did.[/SPOILER] Hey, if we survive the hurt, will be all be mighty??

Of the non-TV characters, the Operative — the bad guy — is actually very creepy, but also came across as really, really smart, noble, pure. He's played really well by Chiwetel Ejiofor, and actually, none of us could think of anyone else to have cast in this role. We loved his clothes, especially that gray suit. We did notice his sword was kind of Uruk-hai-esque, very functional, very minimalist. Nothing wasted on ornamentation or weight. Mr. Universe was played by David Krumholtz, who played the hermit-like communications dork just way too well! We also appreciated his LoveBot™, who was played by an actress with the porn-princess-name, Nectar Rose. We know that every geek who slavered over the campaign to bring this movie to fruition KNEW that Whedon was honoring THEM through the character of Mr. Universe! (We also know he's the quintessential ex-boyfriend ... thus his retreat with the LoveBot™, eh? Now you know what happened to him.)

Though the movie is about River and what the Alliance had done to her (note to SW groupies ... "Alliance" here are the bad guys), the underlying current was much more about Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his heart and soul. It was interesting how Mal really had to be such a bastard making all of the really tough command decisions, even putting his crew — his family! — in direct danger, just to be able to the the right thing. They can't understand because they aren't in his shoes, but it really is lonely to be a commander. You can't be a Mr. Nice Guy to be in command — of anything. A boat is not a democracy. Mal is not the captain because he bought the boat; they don't follow him just for the chance to make money. They follow him because they believe he knows the way ...

Well, maybe that's too deep ... Go see this movie in the theater — remember the magic number of $80 million! — and you'll wonder why other movies are made for bloated budgets with actors we've seen over and over again in parts that may or may not be that good. Once in a while, a jewel shows up, covered in all manner of dross, and it will not only entertain you, but give you purpose and might even save your soul! Okay, that was going too far, but it's good fun, thought-provoking, and if you make enough noise, not only will you not stop the signal, but we might get two more movies! And boy, we sure are hoping they don't suck ...

Sing it to the karaoke banjo bit at the end of the credits!
Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me ...

Photos from www.serenitymovie.com

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