Sunday, May 14, 2006

[DVD] Serenity (2005)

The back story of Serenity and its TV series Firefly is what stuff like soap opera is made of. Created by Joss Whedon, popular creator-scribe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel television series, the Firefly television series was yanked from the airwaves by Fox midway through its first season, but as all real life fairy tales go, the series was released on DVD, and became an instant cult classic. Hence, the movie was born given the built fan base.

And having not watched the Firefly series, I think Serenity is a satisfyingly good sci-fi movie which can stand alone. Although it will take some getting used to the characters, it'll not take too long before you get into the swing of things to enjoy what this movie had to offer. Serenity refers to the Firefly class of spaceships in an era of the future where planets are colonized and banded together as an Alliance, with a band of rebels opposing the oppression of a totalitarian regime. Think of Star Wars scenario of an Empire with its Rebel Alliance, and Star Trek with its ship and crew in focus, combined.

We follow the adventures of Captain Malcom Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his crew of merry men and women (doctor, navigator, pilot, ex-lover etc) as they undergo a rescue mission of one of their own, River Tam, who's a psychic turned dangerous weapon, or so they think. While they unravel the mystery and secrets of what River knows, they must outrun the ruthless Allaince's assassin who's after River, as well as fend off the deadly vicious creatures known as the Reavers.

The Reavers are extremely dangerous folk, and I kinda liken them to Star Trek's Borg - they keep coming like zombies, and are known to rape and murder. The pacing is kept very tight, with witty dialogue flying all round. Humour is peppered throughout and you'll never know when it'll hit, even up to the very last frame (no, I'm not kidding here).

The production sets, though most are CGI, are really very pretty to look at, and the advanced world they live in, is an amalgamation of American and Chinese, so much so that the characters also spout (sometimes intelligible) Chinese phrases. There are memorable moments in the movie, though the action fights are quite ordinary, save for River's battle with the Reavers which seem to beat Aeon Flux's and Ultraviolet's hands down. Her storyline did thread very closely to resemble that of Leeloo's in Fifth Element though.

Filled with deep characterization, Serenity will make you want to get your hands on the TV series to indulge in more adventures of the space crew. After watching this 2 hour movie, it's no wonder why Firefly has fast become a cult favourite. Too bad the movie didn't get a wide release locally (only a GV Surprise Screening and another one-off at Prince), which will probably serve to extend its popularity here. Good, interesting Sci-Fi, must watch.

Code 1 DVD comes chock full of extras. There's a full length feature film commentary by Joss Whedon, plenty of deleted scenes with Whedon's commentary, lots of outtakes, an laced-with-humour introduction by Whedon, three documentaries - 1. Future History: The Story of Earth That Was, 2. Re-lighting the Firefly, and 3. What's in a Firefly, and an easter egg too, which showed the creation of that weird Fruity Oaty bar advertisement containing the sublime message ala The Manchurian Candidate.

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