The whole Firefly/Serenity thing is an odd beast to say the least: Fox hands Joss Whedon, fresh from the monumental success and moderate success of Buffy and Angel respectively, some money to make his space opera opus, Firefly; he makes it as an idiosyncratic mix of sci-fi and western, complete with occasional deviations into Chinese; it flops and is promptly cancelled, but the DVD sales allow Whedon to convince Universal to let him turn the failed television series into a movie. Despite what has so far been a lukewarm but consistent box office reception, the fan response seems to be that the little TV show that could pisses all over the $100 million plus Star Wars prequels. Admittedly not a high watermark, but still…
I really enjoyed Serenity. It, perhaps unsurprisingly, has the slight whiff of an esoteric television adaption with some characters and references left unexplained, but still does a fine job of standing alone as an entertaining sci-fi adventure. It was funny when it was meant to be funny, exciting when it tried to be, and all of the characters hit all of the buttons they were supposed to. A certain other person known for their last few botched attempts at sci-fi should watch Serenity to see how a good script works.
Something that really blew me away is that this movie cost a paltry (for a modern sci-fi movie, at least) $39 million, and it looked better than most $100 million movies that get crammed into the multiplexes every summer. Through selective but effective use of CGI to do what wasn’t possible to do practically and to enhance actual sets, Whedon got more bang for his buck than any virtual stuntman or blue screen set that I’ve ever seen. At one point there’s a brief but intense space battle which, without trying to turn this into a Star Wars bash again, looks at least as good as the opening battle of Revenge of the Sith, which itself probably cost as much as the whole of Serenity.
So this one gets my hearty recommendation, and I’m sure anyone with a passing interest in sci-fi is planning to see it anyway. The theatre that I saw it in was disappointingly empty for a Friday night showing of a new film but since those that were there had good things to say at the end and seemed to be very into it, I’m hoping that the loyal fanbase and some positive word of mouth can carry this onto bigger things (a second series would be nice, for a start). Now I just want my Firefly DVDs to hurry up and get delivered.