Movie Review
Serenity poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published April 25, 2005
US Release: September 30, 2005

Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Nathan Fillion , Gina Torres , Alan Tudyk , Morena Baccarin

Running Time: 119 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $25,335,935
117 of 143
If you took the sci-fi element of Pluto Nash, mixed it with the outrageousness of Steel, and added in the really bad dialogue from Paycheck, Serenity would be the result.
Serenity is based on a short-lived Fox series called Firefly, which was created by Joss Whedon of Buffy fame. The cast is all unknown actors, and considering I was never a fan of Buffy, I was a bit skeptical about Serenity. There?s a certain tolerance on television with this genre, and movies are vastly different in structure (and I'm not much of a fan of science fiction).

The film started off very much like The Chronicles of Riddick (C). The special effects were out of a video game, the story setup was Sci-Fi Channel-caliber material, and the acting was over the top. I thought this was simply going to be a very mediocre flick, but by the end of the first act it had hit me that I hadn?t seen a movie this bad in a long time.

Set 500 years in the future, the movie is about a crew on a ship named Serenity who, on their course, pick up two people who are running away from the Alliance. Together, they try and stay alive, and in the process they help the girl they picked up find a planet named Miranda.

This was a very awkward experience. I didn?t know anything about its premise beforehand, and I still didn?t know much by the end of the movie. The film heavily relies on fans of the show who are already accustomed to the story. Any movie should tell a general audience what they need to know without relying on any previous knowledge, and this feature fails in that first step.

If you took the sci-fi element of The Adventures of Pluto Nash, mixed it with the outrageousness of Steel, and added in the really bad dialogue from Paycheck, Serenity would be the result. The movie is set so far into the future that you?d want to see what the surroundings look like, and yet you can barely get a glimpse of anything. There?ll be a quick shot of civilization and then we immediately fade away to a specific room (almost in the fashion of Star Wars), which is presumably to hide the caliber of the special effects. And the sets look like a sound stage, which makes it hard to believe most of the situations.

The layout is so geared for television that it?s hard to believe anything that is going on. The way the characters talk comes off like a sci-fi series replete with ?cute? one-liners and confused facial expressions, and characters saying and asking the obvious. The girl searching for planet Miranda picks fights, pulls unheard-of fight moves, and knocks anyone down ? she is nearly invincible, and masters the art of a monotonous facial expression. When she speaks, she usually just says ?Miranda,? suggesting that it?s where she wants to go. The depth of her character is about in line with everyone else in the story, and the movie plays as if we should know who these characters are ? the only thing missing is an introductory "Previously on Serenity..." narration.

The exact release plan for Serenity is unknown at this point but Universal's faith will probably show in the number of theaters they decide to release it in. I'm having a hard time believing that the movie will catch on beyond its loyal cult audience, as this is the kind of material anyone can see on television for free, and in only a 42-minute time frame (without commercials) versus 120. Serenity is looking to be a top contender for one of the worst movies of 2005.
Lee's Grade: D+
Ranked #117 of 143 between In the Mix (#116) and Cursed (#118) for 2005 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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'Serenity' Articles
  • Serenity Fails at the Box Office
    October 12, 2005    Most cult movies and TV shows don?t last long or do very well at the box office. Mainstream audiences don?t want ?niche? programming; all they desire are paintings in very broad strokes. -- Scott Sycamore
  • Scott's review D+
    October 3, 2005    Non-fans {of Firefly} are not going to be captivated at all by this lame and lightweight tripe. -- Scott Sycamore
  • Friday Box Office Analysis (9/30)
    October 1, 2005    It seems {Serenity} mostly attracted the diehards of the series, which doesn?t boast well for its durability; its Saturday holdup will say quite a bit about its appeal. -- Lee Tistaert
  • Serenity B.O. Forecast / Crowd Report
    September 30, 2005    This is one of those rare movies in which my predictions are all over the map; I?m not confidently locked on $4.5, 6 - 7, or 8 million for opening day (I?m ready for anything). -- Lee Tistaert
  • Not so Serene: The Review That Burst a Beehive
    September 29, 2005    After the review was posted, links to his review started showing up all over the internet, and Lee was bombarded with hate mail, most of which was so vulgar and confused that it was hard to take seriously. -- Stephen Lucas