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Published on June 21st, 2008 | by simeon

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Serenity

Years ago, Star Trek found new life after network cancellation, and gained new legions of fans through syndication, films, spin off series, and countless novels.

While networks have often had a love/hate relationship with Science Fiction shows, few can debate that shows such as Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, Buffy, and The X-Files have proven to be profitable investments for the studios that created them.

Sadly for fans and viewers alike, for every hit there are at least three failures such as The Lone Gunmen, Space Rangers, and Earth 2. Then you get the shows such as Enterprise, Crusade and Firefly that get cancelled before their time, leaving legions of fans to ponder what might have been had the shows been allowed to continue their productions.

When FOX cancelled the show Firefly after a handful of episodes, fans were outraged. The show had developed a loyal following, but did not meet what the studio was after, leaving it as just another failed series.

Thanks to strong DVD sales, the shows creator Joss Whedon was given the chance to bring his series to the big screen and after months and months of delays, the film Serenity has finally been released.

I would like to say at the outset that while I was not a fan of the show, I did catch it in reruns and grew to appreciate much of the quality that was in the show. With my new found appreciation of the show and amidst the wave of growing hype around the release, I attended an early screener of the film several weeks back anxious to see what the excitement was all about.

The film revolves around the crew of a Firefly class ship named Serenity whose Captain Mal (Nathan Fillion), is a former soldier who survived the battle of Serenity Valley during a period of galactic unrest. Mal makes a living as rogue trying to stay ahead of the Alliance and various threats such as the deadly cannibalistic Reavers.

The story involves a young girl named River (Summer Glau) and her physician brother Simon (Sean Maher). The two are fleeing the Alliance where River was being honed to be a weapon of amazing abilities.

In the aftermath of a mission where the deadly Reavers arrive, Mal and the crew find themselves fleeing an Alliance assassin, who has brought the overwhelming might of the Alliance to bear in an effort to capture River.

Of course Mal with no love of the Alliance will not allow this even though many in his crew see new harm in saving their necks by turning her over. As the film unfolds it leads to the discovery of why the Alliance is so desperate to keep the knowledge River has obtained a secret and a deadly confrontation between the crew, the Reavers, and the Alliance.

As much as I tried to like this film, I was unable to. The film plods along for almost 90 minutes before getting to any sustained action, and when it finally does arrive, it is so by the book and underwhelming, I felt cheated. Two gigantic fleets converge and I think we are going to get a grand battle. Instead, the film gives us about 90 seconds of action only to take the story to a bland locale in a poorly decorated and conceived set.

After sitting through such a large setup, and enduring a cast that often is about as exciting in this film as watching paint dry, I thought something more should be done. I would have expected this from a show that was on television, but for a film version, it was lacking much of the energy that is needed to maintain a feature films.

I am not saying that the cast are bad actors, far from it, but they spend a lot of the film with a dear in the headlights look that underscores that this is first and foremost a TV. show. As such, the cast and many of the sets and effects seem underpowered in the transition to the screen.

The entire length of the film, I thought I was watching an inexpensive television series rather than a major studio release. As such, I had a hard time caring for the characters.

A few nights ago I watched another episode of the series on the Sci Fi Channel and I was amazed at how interesting the characters were, how engrossing the story was, and how much humor and action it had. While the film attempts to convey this, much of it falls flat. Serenity will make a good film series with a bit more effort, but as it stands now, the film is little more than a TV movie of the week for die hard fans only. This is sad as with a bit more polish it could have, and should have been much, much more.

2.5 stars out of 5


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