Canceled ‘Firefly’ series spawns big-screen ‘Serenity’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Canceled ‘Firefly’ series spawns big-screen ‘Serenity’

Howie Nave

The crew and passengers of the Serenity, from left, Wash (Alan Tudyk), Zoe (Gina Torres), Kaylee (Jewel Staite) Captain Malcom Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), Inara (Morena Baccarin) and Simon (Sean Maher), are caught between warring forces out to dominate the galaxy in "Serenity."

“Serenity,” 5 out of 5 bagels

Finally!! Fans of “Firefly” unite! FOX TV may have canceled our short-lived series, but soon we shall relish in having the last laugh.

OK, so now I lost you, didn’t I? Let me try again.

Creator Joss Whedon’s prematurely axed TV series was a fascinating adventure to watch that should have been given a chance to find its home of viewers. Instead, Universal Pictures has taken the ball and is running with Whedon’s series, hoping to turn it into a series on the big screen. Too bad for FOX.

But what’s so special about another sci-fi flick that couldn’t make a go of it on the small screen? I mean, “Star Trek” had a longer shelf life than “Firefly,” but it took a decade to give that series a new life. They didn’t have the luxury of DVD sales back then, or even video sales, to gauge the excitement of just how popular that TV series was. It was just a matter of time before the studio heads realized they had a potential built-in fan base of millions chomping at the bit to get more.

Only 11 episodes found their way onto the FOX network, with the complete box set (14 in all) being available on DVD. Trust me, once the movie opens, expect video stores to be swamped with customers wanting to rent or purchase “Firely.” Call it a slow burn, if you will, but the movie version sizzles.

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Written and directed by Whedon, “Serenity” picks up where the series left off, but – and I emphasize “but” – one need not be familiar with the series to understand what is happening here. Set in the future some 500 years from now, “Serenity” is the name of a Firefly-class cargo ship named after the final battle in the rebellion against the Alliance. No, I am not talking “Star Wars” here, but rather a nod to the Old West, except events take place in the future. In fact, “Serenity” owes a great deal of gratitude not just to that franchise, but also to “Indiana Jones” and the “Alien” franchise. The same feeling that you felt when first experiencing those science-fiction classics will recharge your memory banks watching this one.

And, just like those movies that launched the careers of unfamiliar actors, so does this movie. Suffice to say that the actors here are far from being household entities. The cast consists of Nathan Fillion, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Summer Glau and Adam Baldwin. OK, so maybe Adam is familiar, but that’s due more to association than anything else, really.

What’s more important is the interaction between the characters. Because there is no stand-out superstar here, the movie relies on its story development rather than just simple CGI effects. I almost wish that Joss had directed the sequel back-to-back, like Peter Jackson did with the “Lord of the Rings” series, so we could still have the actors in their innocent stage before stardom makes them too cocky and their salaries become overblown, which would prohibit them from returning. Plus, the actors would get to stay in their characters fresh if they were shooting both movies at the same time.

The crew is a perfect blend for just about everybody to enjoy here. Serenity (the spaceship) is captained by Mal Reynolds (Fillion). He’s sort of like Han Solo’s twin entity, more a pirate than a hero, eeking out a living by robbing government institutions. Then there’s River (Glau), who becomes the secondary plot of the movie as the mysterious psychic girl rescued from an Alliance research lab that was conducting experiments on her to turn her into a secret weapon. The Alliance, desperate to prevent her from releasing the information locked up in her memory, has dispatched an assassin (Ejiofor) to bring her back.

To say that Joss has a lot riding on his movie is an understatement. This is his directorial debut. The studio is banking on the fact that if “Serenity” does, in fact, clean up at the box office, a sequel will follow and who knows after that? Franchise? Joss is responsible for bringing us “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on the small screen and its spin-off, “Angel.” Joss knows the value of storytelling, and succeeds on the big screen as well.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv Comedy Club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada. He co-hosts the morning show on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8 and weekends on KMTN television here in South Lake Tahoe.