Wannabe Han Solo act
It’s not Serenity now for latest futurist flick
After the supposed demise of the terminally moribund Star Wars series, every studio in Tinseltown started jonesin’ to produce the next geek-fave franchise, and Universal thought it had a shoo-in with Joss (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Whedon’s fanbase-heavy Serenity, based on the FOX series that got taken out into the back 40 and shot halfway through the debut season. Forty million bucks later and with a $10 million opening-weekend return, it looks like the next big thing hasn’t happened yet. Not that Serenity is especially bad; it’s just that it’s nothing special.
Five hundred years in the future, a maverick former rebel and his band of space brigands are on the run from the ominously named Alliance, who sends a soft-spoken assassin (a flesh ‘n’ blood Hal 9000) after them to pluck a waifish killing machine (with a secret, of course) from among their passenger manifest. Trying to outpace him, the crew is forced to venture into a desolate stretch of space occupied by bands of marauding psychos known as Reavers, who look and act like they’d been displaced after 28 Days Later.
I guess the specialness of the whole enterprise is supposed to derive from the fact that the Firefly series was a Western set in space, but after the success of Star Wars that idea became old cowboy hat pretty quickly as it was followed by a Starfleet of space opera knockoffs. Whedon compensates by making the parallels more overt, with an equine-looking spaceship and characters drawling cornpone witticisms. Unfortunately, such lines as “Been more’n a year since I had anything twixt my nethers didn’t run on batteries!” doesn’t evoke the purple sage, just purple prose (and embarrassment for the actress). And, of course, then there’s the dubious upgrade of having the Reavers fill in for the oater trope of bloodthirsty injuns out to lay down with fates-worse-than-death. It doesn’t help that not many folks particularly like the whole cowboy mystique anymore.
While Whedon gets credit for crafting a vehicle that needs no knowledge of the backstory, he unfortunately lacks the cinematic chops to present characters that the uninitiated could care about. Serenity is additionally saddled by a small-screen cast set loose on the big screen, forced to exchange blank-faced clever banter no matter how dire the situation at hand.
Essentially, this is Whedon creating a backstory for Han Solo without trespassing on George Lucas’ intellectual property, even down to a tweak on the Han-shot-first Greebo controversy. I’m sure it will please the fan base, but it delivers nothing to to win any new converts.