Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon
Produced by: Barry Mendel
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, and Ron Glass

Joss Whedon knows a thing or two about resurrection. He brought Ripley back from the dead in Alien Resurrection, brought Buffy the Vampire Slayer to television after her box office death as a film, then literally brought her back from the grave when the show moved from The WB to UPN, and when Fox unfairly and wrongfully pulled the plug on his brilliant Sci-fi Western Firefly, Whedon worked his magic to bring it back too—not on another network, but on the silver screen. The result of his passion is Serenity—one of the year’s best films.

It’s the year 2507, and Earth has grown far too crowded. A new solar system was discovered—filled with planets and moons that were quickly teraformed so that they could support human life. As these settlements grew, a fascist interplanetary government called The Alliance waged a war against independence-minded Browncoats for control of this sector of space. The Alliance won and now rules with an iron fist. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, there are also nomadic ships of cannibal mutants called Reavers that go from planet to planet and massacre settlers.

Trying to stay one step ahead of this new government and these savages is the crew of the Firefly-class starship Serenity. Her captain, Mal (Nathan Fillion), is a former Browncoat. So is the first officer—a spunky fighter named Zoe (Gina Torres)—who happens to be married to the ship’s cocky but funny pilot, Wash (Alan Tudyk). Keeping Serenity flying and in one piece (not an easy job) is the young engineer, Kaylee (Jewel Staite). And then there’s a man named Jayne (Adam Baldwin) who hates Mal being in charge almost as much as he loves hand grenades and big guns.

The crew gets more than they bargained for when they take on some new passengers. One is a doctor, Simon (Sean Maher), whom Kaylee takes an instant liking to. The other is his psychic sister named River (Summer Glau). Simon has rescued her from an Alliance controlled laboratory where she was being programmed to be a martial arts master and assassin. It seems that key members of the government were in the same room with River and, fearing that she may have discovered a horrible secret locked in their minds, the Alliance sends an equally skilled killer (Chiwetel Ejiofor in an amazing performance) to bring her back dead or alive.

Whedon’s first foray into feature film direction is as ambitious as it is glorious. His writing is superb—giving us fully developed heroes and villains who must decide what it is they believe in, and whether or not these beliefs are worth dying for. In a typical Hollywood action or Sci-fi film, the audience knows that the stars are never in any real danger. But this is not your typical Hollywood film, and fans of the director’s Buffy and Angel know that no character, no matter how cherished, is ever safe. As he gives us mind-blowing space battles to rival anything in Star Wars or Star Trek, and a final stand-off that calls to mind John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, our eyes are glued to the screen, our hands are gripping the armrests, and our hearts are racing within our chests.

I’ll admit that I was a fan of the Firefly television series (I even bought the DVD box set), but you don’t need to have seen even a single episode to be drawn into Joss Whedon’s world. This film is a gift to the legions who have supported the director’s work over the years, but it’s so much more than that. This is a present to all movie-goers everywhere. Whedon knows that we go to the cinema to be entertained, and it is impossible not to be entertained by Serenity.

I hope this is but the first of many voyages to come.

4.5 out of 5 stars