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# Serenity (movie)

Serenity
Directed by Joss Whedon
Produced by Christopher Buchanan
David V. Lester
Barry Mendel
Alisa Tager
Written by Joss Whedon
Starring Nathan Fillion
Summer Glau
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Gina Torres
Alan Tudyk
Morena Baccarin
Jewel Staite
Sean Maher
Ron Glass
David Krumholtz
Music by David Newman
Cinematography Jack N. Green
Editing by Lisa Lassek
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) September 29, 2005
September 30, 2005
October 7, 2005
Running time 119 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $39,000,000 Serenity is a 2005 science fiction space western movie. It was written and directed by Joss Whedon. The movie takes place in the universe of the cancelled FOX science fiction television series Firefly. It takes place about two months after the final episode, Objects in Space.[1] Taking place 500 years in the future, Serenity is the story of the captain and crew of a transport and cargo spacecraft. The captain and first mate fought together on the losing side of Unification War. Their lives of small crime are interrupted by a passenger with mental abilities who has a dangerous secret. The movie was released in North America on September 30, 2005 by Universal Pictures. It received good reviews. It made$10.1 million during its first weekend. The movie made $25.5 million in the United States and$13.3 million in other countries.[2]

Fans call the movie the "Big Damn Movie" or abbreviated "BDM". This is a reference to a line from the Firefly episode Safe in which Mal and Zoe call themselves "big damn heroes" after rescuing River and Simon.

## Production

The movie is based on Firefly, a television series that was cancelled by Fox in December 2002. Fox stopped the show after 11 of its 14 episodes had been shown.[7] After trying to get another network to show the series, creator Joss Whedon tried to sell it as a movie. He was introduced to Mary Parent with Universal Pictures, who agreed to make the movie after watching the episodes on DVD.[7]

After Universal Studios got the movie rights to Firefly from Fox, Whedon began writing the screenplay. Universal wanted to start making the movie in October of 2003 but problems with the script made them have to wait until June of 2004 to start of shooting the movie.[7] Universal did not want to spend the normal amount of money for a story set in space ($100 million). Whedon told them he could do it for less. He also told them he could do it in 50 days, instead of the usual 80 days.[8] On March 3, 2004 the movie was greenlighted to start being made. It was shown to have budget of only$40 million.[9][10]

They started filming the movie on June 3 2004. Joss Whedon said that the movie would be called Serenity to keep it separate from the TV series.[9] All nine of the main actors 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. On September 17 2004, Joss Whedon said on the movie's official site that shooting was done.

Whedon had to take a television series that not many people had seen and explain the idea of the movie. He had to do this without boring the audience or the fans of the television series. He did this by doing[source?] things in the beginning of the movie. At first, it is a just a voice telling what has happened. It then is shown to be a school room where the voice was that of the teacher. They next showed that this was all just memories in one of the character's mind.

Since the budget was not very large, physical special effects were used as much as possible. They made as sets and props as they could to use less CGI effects.[11] The most technically challenging scene was the mule skiff chase.[11] Because it would cost too much, a gimbal (a hydraulic turntable) and CGI, like the pod race scene in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace could not be used. The production team to find other ways to do things.[8] They built a trailer connected to the "hover craft" in the movie and shot the scene while riding up a highway north of Santa Clarita.[8] Serenity visual effects supervisor Loni Peristere said in a Los Angeles Times article: "Traditionally this would have been, like, a 30-day shoot. I think we did it in five."[8]

One item from the television show that could not be used again was the original set of the inside of the ship Serenity. It had to be built for the movie, using images from the Firefly DVD set.[8] The company that did the graphics for the series also had to change the computer model of Serenity. The television model was not good enough for high-definition cinema screens and HD DVD.[12][13]

## Synopsis

Five hundred years into the future, mankind has left Earth. All the people moved to a new large star system. The system is controlled by the Alliance. Away from the "core planets" people like the crew of the cargo ship Serenity can make a living if they stay away from Alliance ships and the Reavers - space-faring cannibals who raid the planets of "the Rim." One of the Alliance's projects is the creation of a group of warriors with mental powers. The star of this project is teenager River Tam. After her older brother Simon rescues her, the Alliance Parliament sends "The Operative", a man with no name, rank or official existence after them.

About eight months after River and Simon have joined Serenity's crew, the ship's captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds takes River with him to rob a bank. While they are robbing the bank, Reavers attack. After they escape back to Serenity, Simon argues with Mal. Mal decides to leave Simon and River at their next stop. While at their next stop, River starts a fight that is started by a subliminal message broadcast by the Alliance in a commercial. Mal lets Simon and River keep traveling on Serenity while the crew talks to a techno-geek known as Mr. Universe. Mr. Universe lives on a planet inside a giant cloud of objects in space that does not let people see there is a planet there. Mr. Universe watches a video of the fight and finds the subliminal message. He also sees that River said the name "Miranda." Mal gets a call from Inara, a former passenger. He knows it is a trap, but also knows that she must be in danger. Mal goes to her. He is confronted by the Operative. The Operative tells Mal that he will let him go if Mal turns River over to him. Mal refuses and they escape from the Operative and go back to Serenity. The crew finds out that "Miranda" is an unknown planet near the edge of the solar system. To get to Miranda, they would have to cross into Reaver territory. They think this is too dangerous. Serenity instead goes to Haven which is home to another former passenger, Shepherd Book. When they get to Haven, the crew sees that it has been attacked by the Alliance. They also see that Shepherd Book was hurt very bad and dying. The Operative sends a message saying he did it. He said he will keep doing things like it until River is given to him.

Mal orders that Serenity be made to look like a Reaver ship. They get the disguised ship through a fleet of Reaver warships. When they get to Miranda, the crew finds everyone that lived there is dead. There are dead bodies everywhere but they can not tell how the people died. The crew finds a video made after the disaster by an Alliance ship. It tells them that the Alliance made a chemical that was susposed to stop aggression and make the planet free of violence. The chemical worked so well that the people stopped doing everything, including eating, and let themselves die. In a tenth of a percent of the people, the chemical had the opposite effect. It turned them very aggressive and caused mental problems: they became the Reavers. Mal wanted to show this secret to all the worlds by using Mr. Universe's equipment. The Operative figures out where they are going and waits just outside of Reaver space with an Alliance fleet. Knowing that the Operative is likely to be waiting for them, Serenity opens fire on one of the Reaver ships while coming back. The other Reaver ships chase after them. Serenity leaves Reaver space and pass through the cloud around Mr. Universe's planet while being chased by the entire Reaver fleet. There is a large fight between the Alliance and the Reavers. The fight lets Serenity's pilot Wash to fly down to the planet. The Operative's ship is destroyed, and he also goes to the planet in an escape pod.

Serenity crashes on the planet. While the ship is damaged very badly, the crew has survived. Just as everyone begins to relax, a Reaver harpoon hits Wash, and kills him. The crew leaves Serenity and finds a place to fight off the Reavers while Mal goes to get to Mr. Universe and send the message. Mal finds Mr. Universe has been killed and his equipment is destroyed. He finds a message that tells him about a hidden backup transmitter. The Reavers attack the crew, and make them move back. The crew tries to close a blast door, but it will not shut all the way. River dives through the hole in the door and closes it from the other side. This traps her with the Reavers. Mal gets to the other transmitter. The Operative gets there also and they fight. Mal wins but does not kill the Operative. He leaves him to watch the video from Miranda as it is being broadcast. Mal goes back to his crew. As he is told what River did, the blast door opens to reveal River standing unhurt on an large pile of dead Reavers. A group of Alliance soldiers show up but the Operative orders them not to fight because of what he has seen on the video. The crew buried their dead and fixed Serenity. Serenity leaves the planet with Mal in Wash's seat as the pilot, and River as his copilot.

## Cast

• Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb. A mercenary who is very good with weapons. Jayne is often the "main gun" for jobs. He is someone who is good in a fight.[15] He seems dumb, but may be smarter than he lets on.[16] As Whedon says many times, he is the person that will ask the questions that no one else wants to.[17]
• Sean Maher as Simon Tam. Simon is River's brother. He rescues her from the Alliance. He and River are taken in by the crew of Serenity. A surgeon before the rescue, he is the doctor to the crew. His life is all about his sister's needs.[16]
• Summer Glau as River Tam. River is a seventeen-year old genius with special powers. She and her brother are taken in by the crew of Serenity after he rescues her from an Alliance. The Alliance's hunt to find River is mainly what the movie is about. The movie is also the "story of Mal as told by River."
• David Krumholtz as Mr. Universe. A "techno-geek" who is friends with the crew of Serenity, especially Wash. Mr. Universe lives with his "love-bot" wife and watches incoming signals from around the 'verse (universe).

## Themes

While the movie shows the Alliance as an all-powerful regime, Whedon is careful to point out that it is not that simple. "The Alliance isn't some evil empire", he says, but a largely benevolent bureaucratic force. The Alliance’s main problem is that it cannot and should not try to control all the different cultures that are a part of it.[18] The crew of Serenity, and specifically Mal, show the idea that people should have the right to chose for themselves, even if those choices are bad.[19]

The Operative is all that the Alliance stands for. He is, as Whedon described, the "perfect product of what's wrong with the Alliance". He is someone who is a force for good, who wants to help make his (and the Alliance's) image of a "world without sin." The Operative believes so much in this idea that he do anything to make create that world . Mal is the opposite. At the movie's beginning, he is a man who has lost all faith.[20] By the end of the movie, however, Mal finally believes in something—freedom of choice—so strongly that he is willing to die to preserve it.[19][21] Whedon has said that the most important line in the movie is Mal's to the Operative at its end: "I'm going to show you a world without sin." Whedon's point is that a world without sin is a world without choice, and that choice is what defines humanity.[19] The Operative, who does only what he is told to do, and the inhuman Reavers, created by the Alliance's need to control people, are only two examples of this theme.

## Notes

1. In the movie, Mal says that Simon and River have been on the ship for 8 months. In the Firefly episode "Trash", Mal says that he first encountered Saffron "bout a half year back". Therefore, only two months at the most could have taken place between the series and the movie.
2. "Films Of The Year". BBC. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
3. "Serenity". FilmFocus. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
4. "The Best of 2005". IGN Film. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
5. Whedon, Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, p.17
6. McNamara, Mary (2004-10-09). "Down-home directing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2006-07-09.
7. Snyder, Gabriel (2004-03-03). "Whedon's 'Serenity' greenlit". Variety. Retrieved 2006-07-02.
8. Snyder, Gabriel (2004-03-21). "'Firefly' feature alights". Variety. Retrieved 2006-07-02.
9. Whedon, Serenity DVD, "What's in a Firefly"
10. Miller, Gerri. "Inside 'Serenity'". Retrieved 2006-07-09.
11. "Interview with Zoic Studios' Visual Effects for Serenity". NewTek.com. 2006-01-24. Retrieved 2006-07-09.
12. "Firefly mentioned in TV Guide". FireflyFans.net. 2004-07-26. Retrieved 2006-06-24.
13. Whedon, Firefly: the complete series: "Train Job" commentary, track 10
14. Whedon, Firefly: the complete series: "Serenity" commentary
15. Whedon, Serenity: Director's Commentary, track 7 "Mr. Universe"
16. Whedon, Serenity: Director's Commentary, track 11 "Miranda"
17. Whedon, Serenity: Director's Commentary, track 17 "Fighting for Belief"
18. Whedon, Serenity: Director's Commentary, track 2 "A Better World"; Whedon, Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, p. 21
19. Whedon, Serenity: Director's Commentary, track 10 "Posing a Threat"