With its assorted quips, zingers and comebacks, the dialogue in "Serenity" may be a little too smart for its own good even characters who are dying get off one-liners before they go.
Actually, the film as a whole may be too smart for its own good.
"Serenity" is a big-screen spinoff from Fox TV's canceled-but-not-forgotten series "Firefly," which originally was allowed to air only 11 episodes. Early scenes in "Serenity" try to bring audiences up to speed on the sci-fi thriller's premise, but newcomers may find themselves a little lost.
On the other hand, those who are familiar with the show in some form will be pleased with the movie, which has its expected share of exciting and amusing moments, and which pretty much wraps up the major story line that was left dangling after the program's cancellation. (Of course, it also leaves open the option of more sequels.)
The story is set nearly 500 years in the future, and the title is the name of a ship commanded by Capt. Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), whose crew of "naughty men" has resorted to thievery and smuggling to survive. Serenity has also picked up its share of passengers, including Simon Tam (Sean Maher) and his younger sister River (Summer Glau), whom he recently freed from an experiment designed to create "human weapons."
Consequently, the Tams and Serenity are being pursued by an Alliance assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who will stop at nothing to recover Summer. And the
only path to freedom appears to be through space, which is occupied by Reavers, vicious hordes who kill and consume anyone unlucky enough to cross their paths.
This material cobbles together elements of Westerns, space epics, new-age mysticism and even zombie-horror films. And it's to the credit of screenwriter/director Joss Whedon that it all feels cohesive, coherent and believable.
Whedon does have trouble trying to juggle all the characters ("Firefly" regular Ron Glass doesn't get nearly enough to do), and some of his inexperience as a big-screen filmmaker shows. But he certainly makes the most of his limited budget the digital effects are high-quality. And, as always with Whedon's scripts, the dialogue shines. (The bulk of the best lines go to Fillion's rogueish space captain, though Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk get their share of laughs as well.)
"Serenity" is rated PG-13 for strong scenes of science-fiction/action violence (gunplay, laser blasts, stabbings, fisticuffs and martial arts combat, violence against women, explosive mayhem), brief graphic gore, brief drug content (use of hypodermic needles), some crude sexual references and other sexually suggestive talk, and some brief sexual contact. Running time: 119 minutes.