SERENITY (9/30/2005)
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

My Rating: 9/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 83% Certified Fresh

PLOT: The crew of the ship Serenity tries to evade an assassin sent to recapture one of their members who is telepathic…and perhaps something more…

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In a perfect world, Han Solo would still have shot Greedo in cold blood, not self-defense. Universal would have stopped with “Jaws 2.” Heath Ledger would still be around for at least one more Dark Knight film.

And in that perfect world, “Serenity” would have (and SHOULD have) spawned two more films, each better than the one before, for a trilogy that would be in the conversation for greatest science-fiction franchise ever.

I do not say this as a fan of “Firefly”, the short-lived, devoutly-worshipped television show upon which “Serenity” is based. When I first saw “Serenity” in 2005, I had no idea why the pilot had dinosaurs on the cockpit dashboard. I didn’t know why it was such a big deal to see River Tam, this wisp of a girl, performing intricate fight scenes right out of a Jackie Chan movie. I didn’t know why the characters sprinkled Chinese or Japanese phrases in the middle of their dialogue (sometimes cursing in those languages). Or why they talked like it was the old West instead of hundreds or thousands of years in the future.

Know what? It didn’t matter. “Serenity” is so well-made and well-written that, after the two main opening sequences, I rolled with it. I had an immediate sense of the vast history of this “used” universe and the characters within it. In this world (taking a cue from “Star Wars”), the good guys fly rust-buckets, not sterile starships. It’s a pure visual pleasure from start to finish.

The great story, screenplay, acting (from actors who are clearly enjoying themselves), effective usage of visual effects, genuine surprises, and one bona fide shocker that had audiences gasping and yelling at the screen…it’s all here. Shiny!

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