Back Shelf Beauties
by Willie Waffle

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Every once in a while, I need to put on my technicolor nerd coat, show my true self, and rave on and on in a way that will make it even harder for me to get a date as I drool over a new Sci Fi movie (For the record, I do not live in my mother's basement and I have kissed a girl). After raving about Serenity, it might be a good three to four years before any woman will give me another chance, unless there is a sequel. Then, I might be lonely for a long, long time.

Based on the short lived TV show, Firefly, Serenity features Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm Reynolds - grizzled veteran and survivor of a nasty civil war between an intergalactic central authority, The Alliance, trying to create a perfect society and those like Reynolds who felt such thinking was dangerous and inhumane. Sadly, Reynolds' side lost, so he and his crew live on the outskirts of society like pirates as they eek out a living from crime, try to avoid the authorities and take on cargo no one wants found.

The ship's doctor, Simon Tam (Sean Maher), and his strange, psychic sister, River Tam (Summer Glau), want to leave Captain Mal and the crew as they always planned, but, after discovering River has obtained valuable and potentially dangerous information that could shock the universe, The Alliance has sent an assassin, The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor), to find her before anybody else does, and do what is necessary to keep that information quiet. Now, Mal wants to keep her safe, but it is the type of challenge that threatens everyone's life on board the ship Serenity, and could change their lives forever.

What does River know? Can Mal and the crew ensure her safety? Do they want to?

I can't believe I am saying this, but I think Serenity could be the new Star Wars. It's hard for me to avoid the comparison because Serenity reminds me, in a good way, of the first Star Wars movie back in 1977 (now called Star Wars IV: A New Hope). The motley crew of the Serenity ship is a group of well meaning rogues fighting an imposing, technologically advanced, evil, despotic authority attempting to stop dissension through violence and intimidation. Even The Operative reminds you a little bit of Darth Vader, while the captain has a tough Han Solo-type swagger and quick, bickering comebacks to make you laugh in the heat of the moment. In short, Serenity is amazing, even if you don't like Sci Fi movies. It's a fantastic film with a great story, great action and classic characters.

Writer/director Joss Whedon has created a compelling universe full of villains and heroes; harrowing action sequences including battles, hand-to-hand combat and old fashioned gun fights; a sharp script with extraordinary dialogue that reveals the personalities and backgrounds of each of the characters; wonderful sub-plots to get every character involved in the story; and Whedon doesn't shy away from turning the TV show on its head. I was impressed with his fusion of Sci Fi and Western themes (just like Star Wars or Star Trek), right down to the dialogue spoken by characters who could easily be found in an old John Wayne movie or Deadwood; and Whedon always knows when to throw in a quick joke or comeback that has plenty of attitude, but brings much more than forced, phony attitude to the scene. Most of all, Whedon shows Serenity is far from a big budget episode of Firefly. It's a movie that makes sense and entertains the hard core fans as well as newbies who have never heard of Firefly, while taking a deeper step into the future with the storyline and characters, who could be Whedon's biggest assets.

Fillion proves to be a fantastic leading man who can kick some booty and knows how to show a little vulnerability in the right moments. While he has had a rough and tumble career on some failed and mocked television programs (Was I the only person who could stomach Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place?), it might have made him ready for this moment. Fillion makes Mal into a likable, heroic figure desperately trying to hide it as he lives a bitter, betrayed and haunted life after the civil war. He is the father to an eccentric family-like crew, but somehow fears getting too close to happiness and risking disappointment again. The rest of the characters are brought to life by a wonderful supporting cast who all bring something special to their smaller characters and fill out the movie like wonderful side dishes complement a great steak (or in Fillion's case, as the ladies have pointed out to me, beefcake).

Ejiofor is quietly imposing as the emotionless, focused killer who doesn't overwhelm you until he shows you what he can do (vividly made apparent in the movie's opening scene). At that point, you, justifiably, feel scared, while Glau has a great ability to simultaneously make River naïve, while also possessing great depth and ability beyond her years. It's a character Whedon has created before (Sarah Michelle Gellar should send Whedon a weekly gift begging for a new Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie), but it's Glau's ability as an actress that sustains it. Meanwhile, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin and Jewel Staite each get a special moment to make fans happy, as well as the actors themselves who don't want to be pushed aside if this becomes a movie franchise.

Serenity is an amazing Sci Fi movie with plenty of heart, great writing and awesome action scenes. Whedon did a great job setting up a possible Serenity sequel, so I hope and pray Universal will greenlight a new story and give the gang a chance to entertain us again. I'll be sitting in the front row for that one.

4 Waffles (Out Of 4)

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