3 out of 10


Star Wars Knockoff Tells Tale Of The Trite

In a surprise move, TV executives cancelled "Firefly" in mid-season, even more surprising in an industry where even the cheapest phoney space opera inevitably picks up a core of dedicated geeks, looking for an alternative to the impossible dream of getting laid. In a dedicated effort to beat the cancellation, those behind the series managed to circumvent the discontinuation by making a movie that followed on from where the series stopped. So what made this one so special to receive such unique treatment? Maybe as it was because it was so "unspecial"...

Although there is an argument to suggest that "Serenity" has provided a plot and special effects that are better than "Star Wars", the similarity is beyond stunning with the enemy being here "The Alliance" rather than "The Empire". In place of Leia, a butt-kicking Princess of Aldebaren with "the Force" who is rescued from torture and prison by her brother, it is River, the butt-kicking Princess of Grunge with "psychic ability" and they flee with the help of a cynical, but loveable rogue pilot and his temperamental spaceship, "The Serenity". Indeed, it even features a scene in a space bar, just like the Cantina on Lucas's Mos Eisley and a holographic distress message as well as a character called "Shepherd" who lives in the desert spouting neo-religious maxims and an evil, black dude (Chiwetel Ejiofor) dressed in black called "Operative", doing his Darth Vader best as he sword-fights the good guys on gantries over a precipitous drop.

While the clinically ugly River (Summer Glau) wanders around barefoot with lines as mystic as "I'll show them", Simon Maher as her brother, Dr Tam, has tacky testosterone-filled trouble with Captain Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) on such hackneyed questions as who gives the orders onboard. Filled with lines as stale as, would you believe it, "I'm outa here", the entire lousy dialogue must have sounded so-present, that thuis why writer Joss Whelan must have tried to jazzed it up with some American frontier-speak of the mid-1880's like "She's torn up plenty, but she'll fly true". Add in comments about doing "runs", it all sounds as if he wrote it all by cut-and-paste from the scripts of all the other lame Sci-Fi shows on "Space Channel", even to the point of having the mandatory techno-geek, here called Mr Universe (David Krumholtz), thrown in to make sure that there is someone with whom to identify for the video-gaming "trekkie" loosers that watch this sort of trash regularly.

There can't be any faulting the special effects which are far beyond any in other such flicks, but, in this regard, "Serenity" is sadly indicative of where Hollywood is going. As more and more money is spent on better and better special effects, so the quality of acting from ever cheaper and more talentless unknowns becomes worse and worse. For Ron "Empty" Glass who plays Shepherd, for instance, "Serenity" seems to have marked the end of a very long and very useless career, chalking up less than one movie every three years. Compounding these faults, are the simple breakdowns, not least in continuity such as when the spaceship Serentity lands nose down, the interior is still as perfectly horizontal as the floor of the studio where it was filmed.

In one way, it is reassuring to know that regardless of whether dictatorial Governments may come and go, at least there will still be a Walmart in 500 years from now, for, at one point, Captain Reynolds whips out one of their standard ratchet screwdrivers from his back pocket. Indeed, in open contrast to all the CGI, the sets of the Serenity look seriously turn-of-the twenty-first-century.

Above all, however, "Serenity" fails to hit the spot for one simple reason: science fiction is supposed to warn of what might be, yet the concept of the all-powerful state is so increasing becoming a part of our workaday life that it is little more than reality with some flashy kit.

With a budget of $40million turned into barely $30million at the box office, it is understandable why the TV executives cancelled the show. Even so, their actions still baffle me. How this tosh ever first escaped the studio readers trash bin is a mystery, let alone the civil courts at the hands of George Lucas' lawyers.

"Paxilon Hydrochlorate" For The Brain!

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett