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Five hundred years in the future the galaxy will look a lot like the
wild, wild post-Civil War-era American West, after the civilized inner
Reynolds motley crew includes his second in command, the tomboyish alpha-girl Zoe (Gina Torres), the leaf-on-the-wind Zen-willowy pilot (and Zoes husband)
The film is written to be accessible to diehard Firefly fans (who are legion and passionate) and Firefly virgins alike. Whedons love of his work and for his fans shines through every scene. Reprising the original television cast, the crew of the hawk-shaped space ship Serenity (named after the Battle of Serenity, a great personal Waterloo-like loss which haunts Captain Mal) fight and bluff and wisecrack their way through one tight fix after another. Some of the self-referential jokes may be lost on Firefly neophytes, and for them the plot may bog down in unbridled soap operatic complications and drawn-out exposition of excessively colorful personalities. Not to fret, all comers will be rewarded by this revisionist-western-in-a-space-opera.
There is an abundance of plot backstory. In Firefly Mal has taken in a young doctor, Simon Tam (Sean Maher), and his unstable, telepathic younger sister River (Summer Glau). In Serenity Simon is even more of a prig, and highly protective of his sister, River, She, in turn, tends to have frighteningly easy access to other peoples deepest inner pain and is herself, as a consequence of this and other mysterious killing-fields-of-Cambodia personal history (or government-ordered psychic implants?), too traumatized to be left alone for very long.
Into this gray hat versus gray hat melodrama come Mals old love interest Inara (Morena Baccarin), the white hat metaphysician Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) (also reprised from the television series), and a brand-new black hat super villain The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Rivers deepest secrets are revealed. The voyage to Miranda leads directly to the ultimate, epic battle of Serenity and to shedding light on the exact nature and source of the Reavers, those wrathful, cannibalistic, bogeyman warrior-demons. The epic warrior quest into the heart of darkness proves a large and sumptuous cinematic banquet, and Serenity promises to become the major sci-fi media event of the season.
Alluding to or embellishing upon other highlights in the history of science fiction, including Blade Runner, The Matrix, On the Beach, and The Day the Earth Stood Still -- and offering rather weighty commentary on the corporatized evil empire of twenty-first century America-led imperialism -- Whedon has hitched his philosophical wagon to a shooting star. As Shepherd insists, it doesnt matter what you believe, only that you believe.
- Les Wright