He Said: ‘Serenity’ sets stage for sequels | PostIndependent.com

He Said: ‘Serenity’ sets stage for sequels

While words like “derivative,” “cynical” and “silly” don’t sound like ringing endorsements, they count as high praise for science fiction on the big screen anymore.The important thing is to consider the alternative: I’m not sure whether “Serenity” is more fun because of what it is or what it isn’t.Since I think I’m leaning toward the latter, I’ll start there; if I illuminate any sins “Serenity” sidesteps that remind you of other sci-fi flicks from recent years, it’s purely intentional. “Serenity” isn’t a remake or a reimagining, a sequel or a prequel, and most important, it’s not a movie that takes itself too seriously.Free from the aforementioned chains, “Serenity” has room to spread its wings and be itself: Smart-aleck science fiction that sprang from a cult television show with the most complete realization of an otherworldy future since the likes of “Alien” in 1978.The only thing I found wrong with “Serenity” was its frenetic pace. The movie quickly catches the uninitiated up to where “Firefly,” the short-lived Fox series that forms its basis, left off. But it’s a little too quick, and “Serenity” plunks viewers down into the middle of its fully formed universe.The movie’s namesake is the dilapidated cargo ship captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (actor Nathan Fillion) and his crew have flown on odd jobs of questionable legality since “Firefly” was on the air. Mal, it turns out, is on bad terms with both the Alliance (a new world order of the U.S. and China colonizing outer space to ease overcrowding) and the Reavers, outer-space desperadoes who chop up their own faces.If all this is sounding like another plucky sci-fi underdog, it might be intentional – and flattering. Matter of fact, there’s probably nothing detractors can say about “Serenity” that critics couldn’t have said about the original “Star Wars” back in 1977, long before George Lucas fell in love with his own mythology and started taking it all so seriously and ruining the franchise with horrid prequels. It’s got the same dingy, weathered look as Lucas’ original trilogy, before every taxicab on Naboo became an objet d’art. “Serenity” evokes westerns as cheerfully and shamelessly as “A New Hope” ripped off Akira Kurosawa.And like “Star Wars” – before it became a religion anyway – none of the cast is likely to be familiar with anybody who hadn’t watched “Firefly.”Mal and his crew – who at least aren’t the stereotypically egalitarian Rainbow Coalition de rigeur since the USS Enterprise rolled off the assembly line – talk cowboy and snipe at one another like longtime co-workers. Mal’s a hangdog Han Solo. His first mate, Zoe (Gina Torres), is as sawed-off as the Serenity and married to the motherly pilot, Wash (Alan Tudyk). Jewel Staite, playing the ship’s mechanic, Kaylee, and man-at-arms Jayne (Adam Baldwin), whom another reviewer aptly described as having a serious boy-named-Sue complex, round out the crew. But, evidently following the television show, it’s the passengers River Tam (Summer Glau) and her brother, Simon (Sean Maher), who keep “Serenity” moving forward.Even if you never watched “Firefly,” keeping up isn’t exactly rocket science. And that’s what I found so enjoyable about “Serenity”: It keeps it moving, keeps it simple and keeps its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.

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