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Serenity is a 2005 space western film written and directed by Joss Whedon. It is considered a continuation of the cancelled Fox science fiction television series Firefly, taking place after the events of the final episode. Set 510 years in the future, Serenity is the story of the captain and crew of a transport and cargo ship. The captain and first mate are veterans of the Unification War, having fought on the losing side. Their lives of petty crime are interrupted by a psychic passenger who harbors a dangerous secret.

The film was released in North America on September 30, 2005 by Universal Pictures. It received generally positive reviews and opened at number two, taking in $10.1 million its first weekend, spending two weeks in the top ten, and totaling a domestic box office gross of $25.5 million and a foreign box office gross of $13.3 million. However, it did not make back its budget until its release on DVD. Serenity won film of the year awards from Film 2005 and FilmFocus. It also won IGN Film's Best Sci-Fi, Best Story and Best Trailer awards and was runner up for the Overall Best Movie. It also won the Nebula Award for Best Script for 2005, the 7th annual 'User Tomato Awards' for best Sci-Fi movie of 2005 at Rotten Tomatoes, the 2006 viewers choice Spacey Award for favorite movie, the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form and the 2006 Prometheus Special Award.

Plot

Five-hundred years into the future, Earth's resources have been depleted and humanity has moved to another star system and terraformed many of the planets. All the planets are controlled by the totalitarian Alliance. A frontier justice still holds sway farther from the "core planets", where outlaws like the crew of Serenity can scrape out a living. A young girl is seen questioning the Alliance's practices. She awakens as River, a psychic who is being mentally and physically conditioned by the Alliance. The scientist in charge of the project calls her their star pupil. She is soon rescued by her brother, Simon. An Alliance agent, the Operative, arrives working on behalf of Parliament with unspecified, but obviously high, authority and responsibility. He is charged with tracking down River before she can reveal secrets she's gleaned from high officials' thoughts.

River and Simon Tam are taken as passengers on the Firefly-class transport ship Serenity captained by Malcolm Reynolds, formerly a sergeant in the Browncoats, who lost a rebellion against the Alliance. During a bank raid, Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds insists upon bringing River along for her psychic abilities, despite the protest of her brother Simon. After the crew narrowly escapes Reavers, Simon confronts Mal and decides to leave Serenity at the next port. While Mal negotiates being paid for their bank raid, River arrives at the bar and suddenly proceeds to attack everyone there. Before she has a chance to attack Mal, her brother arrives and shouts a "safe word" that causes her to fall asleep. Despite his anger, Mal allows Simon and River to resume traveling on Serenity. The crew contacts a reclusive techno-geek known as Mr. Universe. Mr. Universe discovers that River's outburst was triggered by a subliminal message in an advertisement that had been broadcast across the Alliance during the previous weeks. He notes that River had whispered the name "Miranda" before attacking.

Shortly thereafter, Mal receives a call from Inara, a former passenger. Suspecting a trap, but realizing that she must be in danger, Mal visits her and is confronted by the Operative. The Operative offers to let Mal go free if he turns River over to him, but thanks to Inara's quick thinking, she and Mal escape the Operative and return to Serenity.

Another of River's outbursts shows the crew that "Miranda" is an outer rim planet, thought to be uninhabitable. River had subconsciously learned about the planet when she came in telepathic contact with a member of Parliament during her training. Traveling to Miranda to learn more would require an almost-suicidal crossing into Reaver territory. Instead Serenity leaves for Haven, a mining colony. On arrival, the crew discovers that the outpost has been ravaged by Alliance forces, with Shepherd Book, another former passenger, having been mortally wounded in the attack. Mal receives a message from the Operative claiming responsibility, and promising more of the same until River is turned over.

Over the crew's protests, Mal orders that Serenity be modified to look like a Reaver ship so they can reach Miranda. After sailing unnoticed through a fleet of Reaver vessels, the crew finally reaches the other side and discovers a normal, terraformed planet with a completely habitable environment — but the sprawling cities are empty, except for decomposed corpses, with no apparent cause of death. The crew discover a log recorded by an Alliance research and rescue team after the disaster. According to the log, the Alliance administered a chemical substance designed to suppress aggression and thus render the planet free of violence. An unfortunate side effect was that the populace had stopped working, eating, or indeed caring about anything and let themselves die. However, approximately a tenth of a percent of the population had the opposite reaction to the drug, becoming extremely aggressive and mentally unstable. They eventually left the planet and became the Reavers.

Mal plans to reveal this secret to all the worlds by using the transmitter equipment belonging to Mr. Universe. Unfortunately, the Operative has predicted this and gets there first. He has Mr. Universe agree to help Serenity and then kills him. As they leave Reaver territory, Serenity opens fire upon a Reaver ship. The ensuing chase by all the nearby Reaver warships causes the previously lone Serenity to arrive at Mr Universe's complex flanked by a large force. A massive battle ensues between the fleets, as Wash pilots Serenity towards the planet with both the Alliance and the Reavers trying to destroy them as well as each other. During the attack, the Operative's ship is destroyed, but he survives in an escape pod.

Serenity crash lands on the planet below and while it suffers massive damage, it appears that the crew is out of danger. As everyone begins to relax, a Reaver harpoon suddenly impales Wash, who dies immediately. Fleeing Serenity to continue their mission, the crew decides to set up a last stand in a small corridor and give Mal the time he needs to send the message. Discovering that Mr. Universe has been killed, Mal learns from a pre-recorded message on his robotic wife that tells of a secondary transmitter in another area of the complex.

Meanwhile, the crew is losing ground to the Reavers and is forced to retreat, with several sustaining serious injuries. The crew try to close the blast door, but it does not close completely. After Simon is hit by a bullet, River dives through the gap in the blast door, throws his medical kit back through and closes the door. Before she can return, she is brought down by the Reavers.

Mal reaches the second transmitter and finds that it is inconveniently located on a platform surrounded by a large drop. When the Operative enters, Mal shoots the stun gun out of the Operative's hand and attempts to reach the transmitter, but the Operative follows him. A fight begins between the two men. While Mal eventually outwits the Operative, he does not kill him. Instead he disables him and leaves him trussed up to watch the recording from Miranda. Returning to the crew, he is informed that River was trapped on the other side of the blast door with the Reavers. The door opens a moment later to reveal River, standing amidst a roomful of dead Reavers. After a moment, Alliance troops blow in the wall behind her and enter, but instead of giving permission to shoot her, the Operative orders the squad to stand down.

After the crew buries the bodies of their friends Mr. Universe, Shepherd Book, and Wash on Haven, the crew patches up Serenity in a repair yard on the planet Persephone. A scene shows Kaylee and Simon consummating their relationship, when River's head peeks down curiously. Just as they are ready to leave, the Operative makes his own exit, promising Mal they will never encounter each other again. Serenity heads back into outer space, with Mal in Wash's seat at the helm, and River acting as his copilot. The final shot shows the ship flying off triumphantly, until an unidentified piece of metal flies from the back of the ship and hits the camera, leading Mal to ask, "What was that?".

Cast



  • Nathan Fillion as Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds: A former sergeant on the losing side of the Unification War, he struggles to survive free and independent of the Alliance. Captain Malcolm Reynolds was named #18 in TV Guide's "25 Greatest Sci-fi Legends" list in 2004.July 26, 2004 TV Guide, p. 34 *'''[[Gina Torres]]''' as '''[[Zoe Washburne|Zoe Washburne (née Alleyne)]]''': A former corporal who fought under Mal in the war, and Wash's wife. She is fiercely loyal to Mal, whom she addresses as "sir". *'''[[Alan Tudyk]]''' as '''[[Hoban Washburne|Hoban "Wash" Washburne]]''': The pilot of the ship, and Zoe's husband. He often acts as a voice of reason on the ship. *'''[[Morena Baccarin]]''' as '''[[Inara Serra]]''': A [[Companion (Firefly)|Companion]] who formerly rented one of ''Serenity'''s shuttles. In one of the Operative's traps, Mal is reunited with Inara at her training house, and the two escape back to Serenity.
  • Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb: A mercenary skilled with weapons, Jayne is often the "main gun" for jobs and is someone who can be depended on in a fight. He seems dumb, but may be smarter than he lets on. As Whedon states several times, he is the person that will ask the questions that no one else wants to.
  • Jewel Staite as Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye: the ship's mechanic, has an intuitive, almost symbiotic, relationship with machines and is, consequently, something of a mechanical wizard. She is also notable for a persistently bright and sunny disposition, and her crush on Simon Tam.
  • Sean Maher as Simon Tam: Simon is River's loving older brother who helped rescue her from the Alliance. He and River are taken in by the crew of Serenity. A trauma surgeon before the rescue, he serves as a doctor to the crew. His life is defined by his sister's needs.
  • Summer Glau as River Tam: River is a seventeen-year old psychic genius. She and her brother are taken in by the crew of Serenity after he rescues her from an Alliance Academy where her brain was "Toyed with". The Alliance's pursuit of River acts as the film's motive impulse. But, more abstractly, the film is the "story of Mal as told by River".
  • Ron Glass as Shepherd Derrial Book: A shepherd, or preacher, with a mysterious past, Book was once a passenger on Serenity, but now resides on the planet Haven. Mal and the crew look to him for help.
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as The Operative: A ruthless, intelligent employee of the Alliance assigned to track down River and Simon. Although Ejiofor was on the top of the casting director's list for the role, the studio wanted someone better known. Whedon, however, was eventually able to cast Ejiofor.
  • David Krumholtz as Mr. Universe: A "techno-geek" with good relations with the crew of Serenity, especially Wash, Mr. Universe lives with his "love-bot" wife and monitors incoming signals from around the universe.


Production

Development

The film is based on Firefly, a television series cancelled by Fox television in December 2002, after 11 of its 14 produced episodes had aired. When attempts to have another network acquire the show failed, creator Joss Whedon attempted to sell it as a film. Through a business connection, he was introduced to Mary Parent with Universal Pictures, who immediately signed on after watching the episodes on DVD. By June 2003, actors Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin confirmed the deal on the official Firefly forum, as did Whedon in several interviews.

Writing

After Universal Studios acquired the movie rights to Firefly from Fox, Whedon began writing the screenplay. His task was to explain the premise of a television series that few had seen without boring new viewers or longtime fans. He based his story on original story ideas for Firefly's unfilmed second season. Whedon's original script was 190 pages, and attempted to address all major plot points introduced in the series. After presenting the script to Universal under the title "The Kitchen Sink", Whedon was asked to cut down the script to a size filmable under his budget constraints. Universal planned to begin shooting in October 2003, but delays in finishing the script postponed the start of shooting to June 2004.

The opening sequence shifts perspectives several times, from a traditional narrative to that of a schoolroom which is later revealed to be River's disjointed memories. Whedon said in the DVD commentary that the approach works thematically as well, since it depicts River's fractured state of mind. Once the narrative reaches Serenity herself, Whedon uses a long tracking shot of several minutes to establish "safety", as well as (re-)introduce every character aboard ship and touch on their personality and motivations.

Filming

Universal, while on board with the movie, was not willing to spend the typical $100 million for a story set in space. Whedon convinced them he could do it for less money, without filming in Canada, and do it in 50 days, instead of the usual 80.On March 3, 2004 the movie was officially given the greenlight to enter production and was revealed to have a budget of under $40 million. Typically, production of a movie would try to save money by not filming in Los Angelesmarker, but Whedon insisted on staying local, and hiring a local union crew.

Principal photography began on June 3, 2004. Joss Whedon said that the film would be titled Serenity, in order to differentiate it from the TV series. (Whedon also mentions in the Serenity DVD commentary that Fox still owned the rights to the name 'Firefly'). All nine principal cast members from the television series (Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Gina Torres, Jewel Staite, Morena Baccarin, Nathan Fillion, Ron Glass, Sean Maher, and Summer Glau) returned for the movie. Stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski, a student of Jeet Kune Do under Dan Inosanto, created a customised fighting style for Summer Glau to use in the film's fight scenes. It was a hybrid of Kung Fu, kickboxing and elements of ballet, all combined to create a "balletic" martial art.

One cost-cutting item that could not be reused from the television show was the original set of the interior of the spaceship Serenity, which had to be entirely rebuilt using frozen images from the Firefly DVD set. The set for the failed colony, Miranda, was filmed on location at Diamond Ranch High Schoolmarker in Pomona, California.

On September 17, 2004, Whedon announced on the movie's official website that shooting had been completed.

Design



The film appears to have been influenced by the post-American Civil War Reconstruction period, with Malcolm Reynolds facing obstacles similar to those of landless Southerners competing against carpetbaggers and elites, and, it has been suggested, the Reavers standing in for the Indians. Renowned comic book artist Bernie Wrightson, co-creator of Swamp Thing, contributed concept drawings for the Reavers. Other comic book artists who contributed to the production design include Joshua Middleton and Leinil Francis Yu (Visual Companion).

Serenity costumes are influenced by Wild West style: natural materials such as wool, cotton, and leather in drab earth tones predominate. Some clothing also reflects an east, south, and southeast Asian and Indian fusion of color and beauty as well as influences from the American Civil War, late 19th century as well as the 1930s depression era. Mal's suspenders are strongly influenced by a World War II design. The clothing of the Alliance organization within the series (in reality, reused uniforms from Starship Troopers) is monolithically monochromatic, similar to the uniforms of the Galactic Empire in the Star Wars films. Serenity appears to be influenced by Western genre set design, in particular, entertainment programs set in the West during the 1970s and 1980s such as Little House on the Prairie. The cramped interior of the Serenity ship itself appears to be strongly influenced by the "the future looks worn down" precedent set by the famous fictional Star Wars spaceship the Millennium Falcon but devolved even further. In a similar vein to the film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Serenity goes for an occasional underdone look, or "used future", as Star Wars creator George Lucas refers to it.

This future envisioned in Serenity has two political and cultural centers: Anglo-American and Chinese. Characters all speak English and Mandarin, with the latter language reserved for the strongest curse words. While these two are the dominant languages of the film, other languages are also spoken in the Firefly / Serenity universe, including Russian (spoken by Simon during the movie). The safeword phrase that Simon uses to shut River down, "Eta kuram na smekh", is a Russian expression ("Это курам на смех"). Literally, it means, "That's for chickens to laugh at" — a Russian idiom for "That's ridiculous". The Japanese Katakana characters are also present around the universe, most obviously seen in the flowing script on River's desk screen at her school. A sticker with the Arabic word "الدحار" appears behind Jayne's head on a wall inside Serenity's bridge when the crew is discussing whether or not they should go to Miranda.

Visual effects



As the budget for the film was considerably smaller than for other films, practical special effects were used as much as possible: if a CGI composite was required, as many tangible sets and props as possible were constructed to minimize the use of CGI effects. The most technically challenging scene was the mule skiff chase. For budgetary reasons, a gimbal and CGI, much like those used in the pod race in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, were quickly ruled out, creating a challenge for the production team to find an alternative. Instead, the crew fashioned a trailer with a cantilevered arm attached to the "hovercraft" and shot the scene while riding up Templin Highway north of Santa Clarita. Serenity visual effects supervisor Loni Peristere stated in a Los Angeles Times article, "Traditionally this would have been, like, a 30-day shoot. I think we did it in five." Zoic Studios, the CG-rendering company that produced the graphics for the series, had to perform a complete overhaul of their computer model of Serenity, as the television model would not stand up to the high-definition scrutiny of cinema screens (and High-definition video resolution).

Musical score

The film's musical score was composed by David Newman, and performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony under Newman's direction. According to director Joss Whedon's sleeve notes for the album, Newman was recommended by Universal's music executives when he requested a musician capable of "everything". Whedon's directions to Newman for the Serenity theme were that he wanted something homemade and mournful that would let viewers know that they were now "home" and evoke the idea of the pioneer, when everyone only had what they could carry. The official soundtrack was released on CD on September 27, 2005. It is of note that the acoustic guitar version of the "Ballad of Serenity", which was used at the end of the film's credits, is absent from the soundtrack.

Release

Hoping to generate buzz through early word-of-mouth, Universal launched an unprecedented 3-stage campaign to sneak-preview the then-unfinished movie in 35 US cities where the television series had earned high Nielsen Ratings. The first stage of screenings was held in 10 cities on May 5, 2005. The second stage, held on May 26, 2005, added an additional 10 cities and was also the source of controversy when individual theaters began selling tickets before the official announcement was made, leading some shows to be sold out before being announced. The third round of screenings, with an additional 15 cities, was held on June 23, 2005. The screenings proved a success, with all three stages selling out in less than 24 hours, the second-stage screening in Washington, D.C.marker sold out in a mere 22 minutes and the second screening in Phoenix sold out in 8.

Australian audiences were the first outside North America to get preview screenings. After an exclusive Sydneymarker test screening, Melbournemarker held a public screening on July 21, 2005. This was followed by a film festival screening on the Gold Coast on July 22, 2005. Public preview screenings were held in Adelaidemarker and Sydneymarker on August 1, 2005, and Perthmarker on August 4, 2005. Further screenings were held in Victoriamarker, Tasmaniamarker, and Queenslandmarker in late August. There had been a screening of the unfinished film in February 2005 at the British Film Institute in London. This version of the film had a temporary score, including movements from Braveheart, as well as some unrendered effects and scenes which were later deleted. The audience comprised industry professionals and fans.

A showing of the finished film billed as the "Gala Premiere" was held at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on August 22, 2005, followed by an interview with Whedon the next day, and preview screenings across the United Kingdom and Ireland on August 24, 2005, in Londonmarker, Birminghammarker, Manchestermarker and Dublinmarker. Several of the screenings in all the countries featured the attendance of Joss Whedon and the film's cast, followed by a Q&A session with the audience. Whedon also attended two Q&A sessions after sold-out screenings of the finished film in Melbournemarker and Sydneymarker on September 12, 2005 and September 13, 2005.

The trailer also generated considerable buzz on the internet. It was uploaded on April 26, 2005 and by April 28, 2005, it topped the Yahoo Buzz Index. On October 5, 2005, Universal made the first nine minutes of Serenity available online. A browser plug-in allowed the viewer to see the opening of the film in full-screen broadcast quality (bandwidth permitting). The clip was removed a few weeks later.

Serenity was also the first motion picture to be screened digitally, fully DCI-compliant.

Marketing

Several tie-in products were released to promote the film; The novelization of the film was written by Keith R. A. DeCandido, and published by Simon & Schuster imprint Pocket Star Books on 2005-09-01. Serenity: The Official Visual Companion was written by Joss Whedon, published by Titan Books, and released on September 1, 2005 in paperback. It contained the film's screenplay, along with other supplemental features such as concept art, film images, and a map of the universe. A role-playing game titled Serenity, published by Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd, was released in 2005. This was followed by Serenity: Out in the Black by Tracy and Laura Hickman.

A three-issue comic book series titled Serenity: Those Left Behind was released from June through September 2005. It was intended to bridge the gap between the end of the television series and the beginning of the film. The comic was written by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, illustrated by Will Conrad and Laura Martin, and published by Dark Horse Comics. The story focuses on the crew of Serenity taking a salvage job from Badger following a botched theft on a backwater planet, and the pursuit of River by the ominous blue-gloved men seen in the television series. In March through May 2008, a new Serenity miniseries, titled Serenity: Better Days, was released, relating a heist where everything goes right and the crew finds themselves in a rare place: on easy street. The adventure takes place "before the movie and before certain people were iced"; i.e., in the timeframe of Firefly.

R. Tam sessions

Universal also employed a viral marketing campaign, producing five short videos that were released on the internet between August 16, 2005 and September 5, 2005. These short films, known as the "R. Tam sessions", depicted excerpts of counseling sessions with the character River Tam while she was being held at a "learning facility" known only as "The Academy". The counselor in these sessions is played by Joss Whedon himself. Taking place before the events of the film or the television series, the videos shed some light on the experiments and torture "The Academy" conducted on River. They "document" her transformation from a shy child prodigy to the mentally unstable character of the television series.

Home video

Serenity was initially released on home video in North America on December 20, 2005. It was released on Region 1 DVD, UMD, and VHS, and the DVD quickly went to #1 in sales on Amazon.com. It also spent two weeks in the top ten on Billboard's Top DVD Sales charts, peaking at #3. As of January 15, 2006, the DVD/VHS rentals of the film had grossed around $9,190,000. Included as extras on the DVD are an audio commentary by Joss Whedon, deleted scenes and outtakes, and several short documentaries. These documentaries include "Future History: The Story of Earth That Was", "What's in a Firefly", and "Re-Lighting the Firefly". Also included is a short introduction to the film by Joss Whedon, and an easter egg that features a small featurette on the "Fruity Oaty Bar" commercial. NASAmarker astronaut Steven Swanson, a fan of the show, took the Region 1 Firefly and Serenity DVDs with him on Space Shuttle Atlantis' STS-117 mission, which lifted off on Saturday June 9, 2007. The DVDs will permanently reside on the International Space Station as a form of entertainment for the station's crews.

The film was released as a two-disc set in Australia (Region 4) and parts of Europe (Region 2) on February 8, 2006. This version included new features, in addition to the supplemental material found on the North American (Region 1) release. At present, disc 2 is exclusive only to Australia and Benelux — Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and New Zealand. It was released in Germany as part of the special edition However, other international territories may decide to release the 2nd disc as well. Added material for disc 1 includes "A Filmmaker's Journey: Journey with Joss from Script to Screen", which is available on all international DVDs, but not the US version. Added material for disc 2 includes a Joss Whedon Q&A session filmed at Fox Studios in Sydney, extended scenes, and two documentaries entitled "Take a Walk on Serenity" and "The Green Clan". An "exclusive collector's tin" version of Serenity was released for the two disk edition by the EzyDVD chain of stores in Australia.

Serenity was released on HD DVD on April 18, 2006, and was one of the first films to be released on the format. It ranked in the later 100s on Amazon.com in top selling DVDs. Given the low demand for HD DVDs at that point, this is quite notable. The disc included all of the bonus features found on the original Region 1 disc. As of November 29, 2006 Serenity was the fifteenth highest-selling HD DVD. After the title key for Serenity was copied from a software player (as documented in Muslix64's doom9 forum thread) and posted on the internet as a riddle, the film soon became the first HD DVD release to be released on the BitTorrent network on January 12, 2007. The pirated release was a 19.6 GB 1080p VC-1 .EVO file with 5.1 DDPlus encoded sound. Although many other releases soon followed after the discoveries in muslix64's thread, Serenity's marked the beginning of widespread HD DVD pirating.

A two-disc Collector's Edition DVD of the film was released for Region 1 on August 21, 2007. According to Whedon, the excellent sales figures for the "Normal Edition" DVD allowed this release. The DVD included all of the once-Australian-exclusive bonus features, sans the Joss Whedon Q&A session filmed at Fox Studios in Sydney, and with new content including a DTS 5.1 surround track, a second commentary with Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Ron Glass, the R. Tam sessions (dubbed "Session 416"), and the Sci-Fi Inside: Serenity documentary. Universal Pictures redesigned the film's official website to reflect the new DVD set.

On Tuesday, December 30, 2008, Serenity was released on Blu-ray Disc.

Charity screenings

Beginning in January 2006, fans (with Universal's blessing) began organizing charity screenings of Serenity to benefit Equality Now, a human rights organization supported by Joss Whedon. By mid-June, 41 such screenings had been confirmed for cities in Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, and the United States, and as of June 19, 2006, there were 47 scheduled screenings. The project was referred to as "Serenity Now/Equality Now" on the official website, is often referred to in shortened form as "Serenity Now", and was coordinated through "Can't Stop The Serenity". The event was repeated in 2007 (where it reportedly raised considerably more than the original 2006 screenings) and 2008. Over $250,000 has been raised for Equality Now since 2006. Another repetition of the event is planned for 2009 with a goal of raising $155,000. As of May 1, 2009, 42 cities were registered for CSTS 2009 in 4 Countries and 24 US States.

Reception

Box office performance

Despite critical acclaim and Internet buzz, Serenity performed poorly at the box office. Although several pundits predicted a #1 opening, the film opened at #2 in the United States, taking in $10.1 million its first weekend, spending two weeks in the top ten, and closed on November 17, 2005 with a domestic box office gross of $25.5 million. Movie industry analyst Brandon Gray described Serenity's box office performance as "like a below average genre picture".

Serenity's international box office results were mixed, with strong openings in the UK, Portugal and Russia, but poor results in Spain, Australia, France and Italy. United International Pictures canceled the film's theatrical release in at least seven countries, planning to release it directly to DVD instead. The box office income outside the United States was $13.3 million, with a worldwide total of $38.8 million, slightly less than the film's $39 million budget, which does not include the promotion and advertising costs.

Critical reception

Serenity received mostly positive reviews from film critics, with 81% positive ratings at the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes. Ebert and Roeper gave the film a "Two Thumbs Up" rating, and The San Francisco Chronicle called it "a triumph", while The New York Times described it as a modest but superior science fiction film. Science fiction author Orson Scott Card called Serenity "the best science fiction film ever", further stating "If Ender's Game can't be this kind of movie, and this good a movie, then I want it never to be made. I'd rather just watch Serenity again."

However, some reviewers felt the film was unable to overcome its television origins, and did not successfully accomplish the transition to the big screen. USA Today wrote that "the characters are generally uninteresting and one-dimensional, and the futuristic Western-style plot grows tedious" while Variety declared that the film "bounces around to sometimes memorable effect but rarely soars".

Awards

  • Film of the year awards from Film 2005 and FilmFocus.
  • IGN Film's Best Sci-Fi, Best Story and Best Trailer awards and runner up to Batman Begins for the Overall Best Movie
  • Won the 7th annual 'User Tomato Awards' for best Sci-Fi movie of 2005 at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Won Nebula Award for Best Script for 2005.
  • 2006 viewers choice Spacey Award for favorite movie.
  • Voted as the best film of 2006 by the writers for the website Box Office Prophets and it came 12th Best film of 2006 in the website's readers poll.
  • Won Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at the 2006 Hugo Awards.
  • SyFy Genre Awards 2006:
    • Best Movie Runner-Up
    • Best Actor/Movie Runner-Up: Nathan Fillion
    • Best Actress/Movie Runner-Up: Summer Glau
  • SFX magazine's best sci-fi movie of all time.


In other media

On February 20, 2009 NASAmarker announced an online poll to name Node 3 of the International Space Station, and NASA-suggested options included Earthrise, Legacy, Serenity, and Venture. At the March 20, 2009 poll close, 'Serenity', led those four choices with 70% of the vote, though the winner of the poll was 'Colbert', a reference to late night comedy show host Stephen Colbert (The node was eventually named 'Tranquility'). Multiple internet sites have asserted that that name is a nod to the Whedon-created fictional spacecraft, while Fox News observed simply that it "shares the name of a spaceship in the cult favorite television series 'Firefly'".

Themes and cultural allusions

While the film depicts the Alliance as an all-powerful, authoritarian-style regime, Whedon is careful to point out that it is not so simple as that. "The Alliance isn't some evil empire," he explains, but rather a largely benevolent bureaucratic force. The Alliance's main problem is that it seeks to govern everyone, regardless of whether they desire to belong to the central government or not. What the crew of Serenity, and specifically Mal and his lifestyle, represent is the idea that people should have the right to make their own decisions, even if those decisions are bad.

The Operative embodies the Alliance and is, as Whedon described, the "perfect product of what's wrong with the Alliance". He is someone whose motives are to achieve a good end, a "world without sin". The Operative believes so strongly in this idea that he willingly compromises his humanity in furtherance of it. In contrast, Mal is, at the movie's beginning, a man who has lost all faith. By the end of the movie, however, Mal has finally come to believe in something — individual liberty — so strongly that he becomes willing to lay down his life to preserve it. Whedon has said that the most important line in the film is Mal's contented promise to the Operative at its climax: "I'm going to show you a world without sin", as he shows him the Miranda footage. Whedon's point is that a world without sin is a world without choice, and that choice is ultimately what defines humanity.

Joss Whedon said in the DVD commentary track that the planet "Miranda" was named for Shakespeare's Miranda in The Tempest, who says in Act V, scene I: "O brave new world, / That has such people in't!" The Alliance had hoped that Miranda would be a new kind of world, filled with peaceful, happy people, and represents the "inane optimism of the Alliance".

The Fruity Oaty Bar commercial is partially inspired by Mr. Sparkle, the mascot of a fictional brand of dish-washing detergent, who was featured in The Simpsons episode "In Marge We Trust". Whedon also mentions, in a hidden feature on the Serenity DVD, that when the Fruity Oaty Bar commercial was being designed, he constantly asked the animators to redesign it and make it even more bizarre than the previous design, until it arrived at the version presented on screen.

Sequels

Fans of Firefly had hoped that if Serenity were successful, it might lead either to a revival of the television series or a film franchise (colloquially referred to as the "Big Damn Trilogy", or BDT). The former was always unlikely, since Fox still owns the Firefly television rights and Joss Whedon reportedly refused to work for Fox again (though he has since agreed to write and produce the television series Dollhouse for the network). Fans' hopes for further theatrical films appear to have been partially dashed by Serenity's mediocre box office showing. Whedon has stated that if a sequel is made, he hopes to address the character Book's backstory and deal with Jubal Early, a bounty hunter character assumed dead at the end of Firefly. The first major sequel rumor began on December 1, 2005, when IGN Filmforce reported that Universal had expressed an interest in making a Serenity TV movie for broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel (which is owned by Universal), and eventual DVD sale. It was expected that commissioning of a television sequel would be contingent on strong DVD sales of Serenity. In a January 2006 interview, Whedon doubted the chances of a sequel. On June 23, 2006 a number of fans organized and spread word of "Serenity Day", on which all fans were proposed to purchase a copy of Serenity in an attempt to convince Universal that a sequel would be profitable. The significance of this day was that June 23, 2006 was the one-year anniversary of the third and final advance screening of Serenity prior to its release, as well as Joss Whedon's birthday. The impact of the event could be seen from Serenity reaching #2 in the Amazon DVD Charts, the highest ranking the DVD had reached since January 16, 2006.

On October 1, 2006, Whedon posted a comment to the Whedonesque.com website, responding to a rumor that he was currently working on a sequel to Serenity. He wrote,
"There's no sequel, no secret project regarding Serenity or somesuch and I'm not even sure how anyone thought there was talk there.
I've seen Nathan and Tim (and Summer and Alan) recently because they're my friends because I'm so, yeah, awesome.
So let's put that to bed and smother it with a pillow."
Whedon's response to the rumor consequently sparked many websites to publish articles stating that he would never work on a sequel to Serenity. Whedon again returned to Whedonesque.com to respond to the new stories and wrote,
"Holy Mother of Oats!
I turn my back for five minutes (that's how long it takes to admire my lovely back) and the interweb goes banoonoos!
Isn't there any ACTUAL news to get wrong?
Sorry about all this; it might be best if I just stay off the computer for a while....Here's a thing: when Firefly was cancelled, my heart got broke.
Sounds a bit much, but it changed me.
Not even Serenity could patch that wound.
I'm wearier, warier -- after all those years as a movie writer, you'd think I'd be prepared for another lesson on my unimportance in the scheme of things, but I wasn't....All these rumor of projects or the death of projects...
When the two worlds align and something actually happens, whatever it is, you guys know I'll be on this site as soon as I'm allowed to be.
And I'll be very very clear.
There is no news.
Not never, just now."


In an interview at the 2007 Comic-Con, Whedon stated that he believes hope for a sequel rests in the sales of the Collector's Edition DVD. In an August 2007 interview with Amazon.com prior to the Collector's Edition DVD release, Whedon stated "It's still on my mind, I mean, but I don't know if mine is the only mind that it's on." He later said "You know, whether or not anybody who's involved would be available at that point — everybody's working, I'm happy to say — is a question, but whether I would want to do another one is not a question." On October 4, 2007, Alan Tudyk suggested in an interview that Universal was considering another film due to DVD sales. Although Joss Whedon later discounted Tudyk's statement as being "wishful thinking", Tudyk is still hopeful a sequel will be made.

Notes and references



See also



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