Serenity (film)

Serenity (film)

Infobox Film
name = Serenity

image_size = 200px
caption = Film poster
director = Joss Whedon
producer = Christopher Buchanan
David V. Lester
Barry Mendel
Alisa Tager
writer = Joss Whedon
narrator =
starring = Nathan Fillion
Gina Torres
Alan Tudyk
Morena Baccarin
Adam Baldwin
Jewel Staite
Sean Maher
Summer Glau
Ron Glass
Chiwetel Ejiofor
David Krumholtz
music = David Newman
cinematography = Jack N. Green
editing = Lisa Lassek
distributor = Universal Pictures
released = Australia:
September 29, 2005
United States:
September 30, 2005
United Kingdom:
October 7, 2005
runtime = 119 min.
country = United States
language = English
budget = $39,000,000
gross =
preceded_by = "Serenity" comic miniseries
followed_by =
website =
amg_id = 1:312564
imdb_id = 0379786

"Serenity" is a 2005 space western film written and directed by Joss Whedon. It follows on from the canceled Fox science fiction television series "Firefly", taking place about two months after the events of the final episode. [In the film, Mal says that Simon and River have been on the ship for eight months. In the "Firefly" episode "Trash", Mal says that he first encountered Saffron "'bout a half year back". Therefore, at most two months have elapsed between the series and the film.] 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.Cite web
title=Serenity (2005) - Daily Box Office
publisher=Box Office Mojo
] "Serenity" won film of the year awards from "Film 2005"Cite web
title=Films Of The Year
] and "FilmFocus".Cite web
] It also won IGN Film's Best Sci-Fi, Best Story and Best Trailer awards and was runner up for the Overall Best Movie.Cite web
title=The Best of 2005
publisher=IGN Film
] 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 FormCite web
url =
title = Hugo and Campbell Awards Winners
work = Locus Online
accessdate = 2006-08-27
date = 2006-08-26
] and the 2006 Prometheus Special Award.

"Serenity" is a rare occurrence in the industry: a short-lived TV show continued as a major motion picture. [Cite web
title=The Browncoats Rise Again
publisher=The Daily Standard


Five hundred years in the future, mankind has abandoned Earth and emigrated to a neighboring star system. In the place of national governments, the interplanetary Alliance wields tight political power over inhabitants of the wealthy "central planets", while life on the partially-colonized "Outer Rim" planets resembles the lawlessness and desolation of the American Old West. In the depths of an Alliance facility, Simon Tam rescues his sister River Tam from her scientist captors, who experiment on her with hopes of harnessing her psychic abilities as a weapon. In hiding from the Alliance, the siblings eventually find safe harbor on the spacecraft "Serenity", filled with a ragtag crew that makes a living by taking jobs of varying legality in the Outer Rim.

After a bank heist on an Outer Rim planet is disrupted by a horde of feral, spacefaring cannibals known as Reavers, the crew narrowly escapes back to "Serenity". Simon accosts the ship's captain, Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, protesting River's involvement in the raid and her exposure to danger, and declares that he and River will leave "Serenity" at the next spaceport.

The crew disembarks at a trading post and enters a bar to meet with Fanty and Mingo, the men who hired "Serenity" for the robbery. River wanders into the bar and observes a television advertisement, which causes her to immediately and brutally attack the other patrons until Simon arrives and utters a code phrase, which renders River unconscious. Thoroughly confused, Mal takes River and Simon back to "Serenity", where Simon reveals that River was conditioned to be an Alliance assassin. Mal contacts Mr. Universe, a reclusive techno-geek who analyzes the bar security camera footage and discovers that a subliminal message in the advertisement triggered River's attack. Unknown to the crew, the message was placed by the Operative, a self-described monster with no name or rank, assigned by the Alliance to retrieve River at all costs.

Mal receives a call from Inara Serra, a former passenger, asking for help with local unrest. Recognizing that he is entering a trap, Mal visits Inara and finally meets the Operative, who offers to release Mal if he surrenders River. Mal refuses and, following a vicious struggle with the Operative, escapes with Inara to "Serenity". Aboard the ship, River reveals the existence of "Miranda", an Outer Rim planet deemed uninhabitable by the Alliance and located on the far side of a Reaver fleet. The crew discovers that the Operative has attacked all of "Serenity"'s ports of refuge, killing their former shipmate Shepherd Book in the process. Stricken with guilt and vengeance, Mal overrides his crew's protests and disguises "Serenity" as a Reaver vessel, allowing them to sneak through the Reaver fleet unmolested and land on Miranda, a planet that contains only corpse-filled cities despite being fully habitable. A holographic recording from Dr. Caron, a regretful Alliance scientist, explains that the Alliance attempted to bring peace to the population by filling the atmosphere with a drug designed to suppress aggression. The drug instead suppressed the people's motivation to do anything, and they died of starvation, while "about a tenth of a percent of the population had the opposite reaction"cite video
people = Sarah Paulson (as Dr. Caron)
year2 = 2005
title = Serenity
medium = DVD
publisher = Universal Studios
time = 1:19:08
] and became the hyper-violent Reavers. Mal declares his intentions to broadcast this message to the solar system via Mr. Universe's powerful transmitters, aware of the Operative and the certain trap that awaits them.

As the Operative mobilizes an Alliance fleet above Mr. Universe's station, Mal provokes the Reaver fleet into pursuing "Serenity" and leads it into a massive space battle with the Alliance. With both sides distracted, "Serenity", pursued by a Reaver ship and the Operative in an escape pod, crash-lands on the station, where they are surprised by Reavers, who kill pilot Wash. The crew enters the station and sets up defense positions, while Mal descends to transmit the Miranda message. As the crew's defense crumples beneath the Reaver assault, they retreat behind a blast door, which jams before it can close. With everyone wounded and ammunition low, River dives through the blast door and seals it. In the depths of the station, Mal is attacked by the Operative, whom he narrowly defeats and incapacitates, leaving the man to watch the broadcast of the Miranda message. As a wounded and exhausted Mal rejoins the crew, the blast door opens, revealing River standing victorious amid piles of dead Reavers. Alliance troops burst onto the scene, but the Operative, his faith in the Alliance shattered by the Miranda message, orders the soldiers to stand down.

The crew buries their deceased friends (Wash, Book, and Mr. Universe) and repairs "Serenity". As the ship prepares to leave, the Operative approaches Mal and warns him of possible retaliation by the Alliance. Mal returns to "Serenity"'s cockpit and with his new co-pilot River, blasts into space.


*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 (nee 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 "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 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. [Whedon, "Firefly: the complete series: "Train Job" commentary", track 10] He seems dumb, but may be smarter than he lets on.Whedon, "Firefly: the complete series: "Serenity" commentary"] As Whedon states several times, he is the person that will ask the questions that no one else wants to. [Whedon, "Serenity: Director's Commentary", track 7 "Mr. Universe"]
*Jewel Staite as Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye:
*Cite book
editor=Jane Espenson, Glenn Yeffeth
title=Finding Serenity, anti-heroes, lost shepherds and space hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly
publisher=BenBella books
id=PN1992.77.F54F56 2005
pages=p. 227
chapter=Kaylee speaks: Jewel Staite on Firefly
quote=Aside from playing Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye in Firefly and Serenity

*Cite book
title=Serenity, the official visual companion
publisher=Titan books
pages=p. 78
chapter=The shooting script
quote=Kaywinnit Lee Frye, as sweet and cheerful as she is mechanical [...] Kaylee is opening the doors
] 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.
*Sean Maher as Simon Tam: Simon is River's loving 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. [Whedon, "Serenity: The Official Visual Companion", pp.21, 24.]
*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.



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.Whedon, "Serenity: The Official Visual Companion", p.17] 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. [Cite web | date=2003-06-13
title= Captain on Deck! hello to all
publisher=Official Firefly Forum
] [Cite web | date=2003-06-06
title= "Serenity Saloon" is open fer bidness
publisher=Official Firefly Forum
] [Cite web | date=2003-06-06
title= "Serenity Saloon" is open fer bidness
publisher=Official Firefly Forum


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."Serenity Collector's Edition DVD cast commentary] 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 a schoolroom setting, which turns out to be in River's mind, and so on, with information constantly stimulating the viewer's mind. 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",Whedon, "Serenity: Director's Commentary", track 1 "Living Weapon"] as well as (re-)introduce every character aboard ship and touch on their personality and motivations.


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.Cite news
date = October 9, 2005
first = Mary
last = McNamara
url =,0,2503431.htmlstory
title = Hollyworld: Down-home directing
work = Los Angeles Times
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] On March 3, 2004 the movie was officially greenlighted to enter production and was revealed to have a budget of under $40 million. [Cite web|first=Gabriel|last=Snyder|year=2004-03-21|url=|title='Firefly' feature alights|publisher=Variety|accessdate=2006-07-02] Typically, production of a movie would try to save money by not filming in Los Angeles, 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').Cite web|year=2004-03-03|first=Gabriel|last=Snyder|url=|title=Whedon's 'Serenity' greenlit|publisher=Variety|accessdate=2006-07-02] 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. [stated by Summer Glau in several interviews ( [] , [] )]

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 School in Pomona, California. [Cite web|year=2006-04-19|first=ThereUR|url=|title=Dead city of Miranda/modern American high school||accessdate=2006-07-02] (The building into which the Alliance ship is crashed is the DRHS Band and Orchestra's rehearsal room.)

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


The film appears to have been influenced by the post-American Civil War Reconstruction period, [Cite web|url=|title=CollectorMania in Milton Keynes|last=Authors|first=Multiple|year=2006-05-13|publisher=|accessdate=2006-09-26] 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.Cite web|url=|title= Reflections on Film TV Cult Friday Flashback 11|last=Muir|first=John|year=2005-09-30|publisher=|accessdate=2006-09-26] [Cite web|url=|title= Firefly a Liberal Checks In|last=Conger|first=Wally|year=2005-08-18||accessdate=2006-09-26] Renowned comic book artist Bernie Wrightson, co-creator of "Swamp Thing", contributed concept drawings for the Reavers. [Cite web | last = Epstein | first = Daniel Robert | date = c. 2005-09-30 | url = | title = Interview with Joss Whedon | work = Suicide Girls|accessdate = 2006-05-19] 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 [Cite web|url=|title= Official Costumes|last=None|first=Radegund|year=2006-08-29||accessdate=2006-09-26] 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 2 design. [Cite web|url= |title=Even Space Cowboys Hanker to Look Shiny|last=Skaro|first=Jo|year=2005-07-00||accessdate=2006-09-26] The clothing of the Alliance organization within the series (in reality, reused uniforms from "Starship Troopers" [Cite web|url=|title=Firefly the Complete Series|last=Koukoulas|first=Steve||accessdate=2006-09-26] ) 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"Cite web|url=|title= Movie Review|last=Tyler|first=Joshua|year=2005-09-29||accessdate=2006-09-26] but devolved even further. In a similar vein to the film "", "Serenity" goes for an occasional underdone look, or "used future", as "Star Wars" creator George Lucas refers to it.Cite web|url=|title= Genius in the Shadows|last=Gibner|first=Jason||accessdate=2007-01-07]

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. [Cite web|url=|title=Finding Serenity - Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherd and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly |last=Espenson|first=Jane|year=2005-09|publisher=|accessdate=2006-10-13] 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". [Cite web | last = eyeofhorus|date = 2005-09-13 | url = | title = "Having a beer with Joss" | work = Serenity Oz ( | accessdate = 2006-05-19]

Visual effects

Since the budget was not very large, 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.Whedon, "Serenity: Director's Commentary", "What's In A Firefly"] 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 "", 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). [Cite web | last = Miller| first=Gerri|url =| title = Inside 'Serenity'|accessdate = 2006-07-09] Cite web | date=2006-01-24 | url= | title= Interview with Zoic Studios' Visual Effects for Serenity | | accessdate=2006-07-09]

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. [Whedon, "Serenity: Director's Commentary", Track 3 "Aboard Serenity".] 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.


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. sold out in a mere 22 minutes and the second screening in Phoenix sold out in 8. [Cite web|url=|title=More Serenity Screenings Announced, Sell Out Immediately|year=2005-05-12||accessdate=2006-07-11] [cite web|url=|title=Serenity Screenings Sell Out|year=2005-05-01|publisher=slashdot|accessdate=2006-07-11]

Australian audiences were the first outside North America to get preview screenings. After an exclusive Sydney test screening, Melbourne 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 Adelaide and Sydney on August 1, 2005, and Perth on August 4, 2005. Further screenings were held in Victoria, Tasmania, and Queensland 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, [ [ Serenity] at the Edinburgh International Film Festival] followed by an interview with Whedon the next day, [ [ Reel Life: Joss Whedon Live Onstage Interview] at the Edinburgh International Film Festival] and preview screenings across the United Kingdom and Ireland on August 24, 2005, in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Dublin. 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 Melbourne and Sydney 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. [Cite web|url=|title=Serenity Trailer Now Online!|year-2005-04-26||accessdate=2006-07-11] [Cite web|url=|title=Serene on the Screen|year=2005-04-28|publisher=Yahoo Buzz Index|accessdate=2006-07-11] On October 5, 2005, Universal made the first nine minutes of "Serenity" available online. [ [ Serenity preview now closed ] ] 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. [cite web|url=|title=Free Screening of "Serenity" at ETC on Nov. 7, 2005; First Screening of Fully Compliant DCI Feature|date=2005-10-28||accessdate=2008-07-15]


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. [Cite web | url = | title = Serenity (Mass Market Paperback) | accessdate = 2008-02-09 | publisher = Simon & Schuster] "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 entitled "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 entitled ' 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 ', 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. [ [] (The site's FAQ states that it was not involved with the making of these videos in any way.)]

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 [Cite web | url = | title = Serenity DVD Amazon sales rank tracker | publisher =] 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.Cite web | url = | title = "Top Renters for Week Ended January 15, 2006" | publisher =|accessdate = 2006-03-12] 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 [The easter egg is included on the U.S., European and Canadian editions.] that features a small featurette on the "Fruity Oaty Bar" commercial. [Entitled "We'll Have A Fruity Oaty Good Time", it can be found by going to the main menu, selecting but not activating "play movie", then pressing the left button. A design on the right will highlight. Press play. [ DVD Easter Egg found on Serenity (Widescreen)] ] NASA astronaut Steven Swanson, a fan of the show, [ [ BREAKING ATMO - Meet Your Browncoat Astronaut ] ] 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. [ [ Blogs » Blog Archive » Board Game, Sci-Fi to Ride Shuttle Atlantis to ISS ] ]

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, and Luxembourg. It was released in Germany as part of the special edition [Cite web |url =|title = German Special Edition on] 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 (EXCLUSIVE Collector's Tin) (2 Discs) @ EzyDVD] ]

"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 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, [ [ welcome slashdot ] ] the film soon became the first HD DVD release to be released on the BitTorrent network on January 12, 2007. [ [ Coming Soon! ] ] 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. [cite web|last=Whedon|first=Joss|authorlink=Joss Whedon|url=|title=Serenity: Special Edition DVD to be released in July||date=2007-03-01|accessdate=2008-05-26] 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. [ [ Serenity (US - DVD R1) in News > Releases at DVDActive ] ] [ [ Universal Studios Home Entertainment :: From Universal Home Entertainment: Serenity Collector's Edition on DVD August 21, 2007 ] ] Universal Pictures redesigned the film's official website to reflect the new DVD set. [ [ Serenity DVD – Serenity movie - firefly serenity movie ] ]

Charity screenings

Beginning in January 2006, fans (with Universal's blessing) began organizing charity screenings of "Serenity" [Cite web|url=|title=Can't Stop The 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" [sic] . [ [ Can't Stop the Serenity ] ] The event was repeated in 2007 (where it reportedly raised considerably more than the original 2006 screenings; [ [ Can' | The Global Event ] ] ) [ [] ] another repetition of the event is planned for 2008 with a goal of raising $150,000.


Box office performance

Despite critical acclaim and Internet buzz, "Serenity" performed poorly at the box office. Although several pundits predicted a #1 opening, [Cite web|last=Karger|first=Dave|year=2005-09-29|url=,6115,1111625_1_0_,00.html|title=Back in Commission|publisher=Entertainment Weekly] [Cite web|last=Gray|first=Brandon|year=2005-09-29|url=|title=BOX OFFICE FORECAST|publisher=Box Office Mojo] [Cite web|url= |title=Box Office Forecast|publisher=Box Office Report] 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 totaling 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". [Cite web|last=Gray|first=Brandon|year=2005-10-17|url=|title='Fog' Tops Soggy Weekend|publisher=Box Office Mojo]

"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. Universal 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, [Cite web|url=|title=Serenity (2005) - International Box Office|publisher=Box Office Mojo] 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 a "fresh" rating of 81% [ [ Serenity (2005)] at Rotten Tomatoes] from the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles reviews from a wide range of film critics. Ebert and Roeper gave the film a "Two Thumbs Up" rating, [ [ Ebert & Roeper, Reviews for the Weekend of October 1 - 2, 2005] ] and "The San Francisco Chronicle" called it "a triumph",Cite web|last=Hartlaub|first=Peter|date=2005-09-30|url=|title='Serenity' earns director Whedon spot on sci-fi's Mount Rushmore|publisher=San Francisco Chronicle] while "The New York Times" described it as a modest but superior science fiction film. [Cite web|last=Dargis|first=Manohla|date=2005-09-30|url=|title=Scruffy Space Cowboys Fighting Their Failings|publisher=New York Times] Science fiction author Orson Scott Card called "Serenity" "the best science fiction film ever", further stating "If "Cite web "> last = Card | first = Orson Scott | authorlink = Orson Scott Card|date =2005-09-30 | url = | title = "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything" | work = | accessdate = 2006-05-19]

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".


*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: [Cite web|url=|title=SyfyPortal Awards|accessdate=2006-10-08]
**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. [Cite web |url=|title= 'Serenity' Beats 'Star Wars' in Best Sci-Fi Film Poll |accessdate=2007-04-03 |format= |work= ] [Cite web |url= |title= Serenity named top sci-fi movie|accessdate=2007-04-03 |format= |work= ] [Cite web |url=|title= Serenity crowned top sci-fi movie|accessdate=2007-04-03 |format= |work= ]

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. [Whedon, "Serenity: Director's Commentary", track 11 "Miranda"] 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.Whedon, "Serenity: Director's Commentary", track 17 "Fighting for Belief"]

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. [Whedon, "Serenity: Director's Commentary", track 2 "A Better World"; Whedon, Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, p. 21.] 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, "Serenity: Director's Commentary", track 10 "Posing a Threat".] 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." Whedon's point is that a world without sin is a world without choice, and that choice is ultimately what defines humanity.

There are a number of religious references in the series, perhaps most notably to Christianity. There are two references to the "seven deadly sins". When the operative kills the government scientist in the beginning of the movie he tells him that his sin is "pride". Later, when Mal is fighting the Operative, Mal tells him he is "a fan of all seven" (but at the moment, he chooses wrath). There is a Biblical reference after Mal tells Mr. Universe about the Miranda tape. Mr. Universe asks The Operative (who is standing right behind him while he is talking to Mal) for his "thirty coin", referring to the thirty pieces of silver that Judas was paid to betray Jesus. In addition, a number of characters are overtly religious: Shepherd Book describes himself as a Christian, Inara pays homage to a Buddhist statue, and, in line with Jewish tradition, Mr. Universe breaks a wine glass during his "marriage" with his love-bot Lenore.

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". [Whedon, "Serenity: Director's Commentary", Track 14, "Learning the Secret"] 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, "Serenity: Making of Fruity Oaty Bar on Serenity DVD"] 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.


Fans of "Firefly" had hoped [Cite news | author = Daniel Terdiman | title = Fans of sci-fi 'Serenity' follow their bliss | publisher = | date = 2007-08-03 | url = | accessdate=2006-06-20] 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). [Cite news | author = Rebecca Murray | title = Nathan Fillion Talks About "Serenity": On Working with Joss Whedon and "Firefly's" Cancellation | publisher = | date = 2004-12-06 | url = | accessdate=2008-01-30] The former was always unlikely, since Fox still owns the "Firefly" television rights and Joss Whedon reportedly refused to work for Fox again [Cite web|year=2005-07-25|url=|title=Completely completed SERENITY screens at Comic-Con! And...|publisher=Ain't It Cool News|accessdate=2006-06-24] (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". [Cite news | author = | title = Interview : Joss Whedon | publisher = | date = | url = | accessdate=2008-02-07] 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". [Cite web|url=|title=Exclusive: A Serenity Sequel?||accessdate=2006-07-01] In a January 2006 interview, Whedon doubted the chances of a sequel. [Cite news | author = "Empire" | title = Serenity And Beyond - Exclusive: Whedon on Firefly's future | publisher = [] | date = 2006-01-09 | url = | accessdate=2008-01-30] 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. [Cite web|url=|title=Serenity DVD Amazon Info Tracker||accessdate=2006-07-01] the highest ranking the DVD had reached since January 16, 2006.Cite web
url =
title = Serenity Day website
accessdate = 2006-06-06

On October 1, 2006, Whedon posted a comment to the 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." [Cite web|url=|title=Whedon Responds to sequel rumors @ Whedonesque||accessdate=2006-10-04]
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 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." [Cite web|url=|title=Whedon Responds to Rumors of Serenity Sequel Death||accessdate=2006-10-06]

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. [Cite news | author = Laremy Legel | title = COMIC CON: Exclusive Interview with Joss Whedon | publisher = | date = 2007-08-03 | url = | accessdate=2007-08-03] [Cite news | author = Emily Christianson | title = Comic-Con 07's Fantatsic Filmmakers: Joss Whedon Goes into 'Sugar Shock' | publisher = | date = | url = | accessdate=2007-08-06] In an August 2007 interview with 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." [ [ Whedon's August 2007 interview with Amazon] (audio file)] On October 4, 2007, Alan Tudyk suggested in an interview that Universal was considering another film due to DVD sales. [Cite news | author = Clint Morris | title = Serenity 2 A New Hope? | publisher = | date = 2007-10-04 | url = | accessdate=2007-10-04] Although Joss Whedon later discounted Tudyk's statement as being "wishful thinking", [Cite web | date=2007-11-04
title=What's in Your DVD Player, Joss Whedon?
] Tudyk is still hopeful a sequel will be made. [Cite web | date=2008-02-01
title=Tudyk believes "Serenity 2" will happen

Notes and references

*Cite book
last= DeCandido
first= Keith R.A.
authorlink= Keith R. A. DeCandido
title= Serenity
date= August 30, 2005
isbn= 1-4165-0755-8

*Cite book
last= Whedon
first= Joss
authorlink= Joss Whedon
title= Serenity: The Visual Companion
date= September 1, 2005
isbn= 1-84576-082-4

*Cite visual
title= Serenity
director= Joss Whedon

External links

* [] - Official website
* [] - Official Australian website
*Imdb title|id=0379786|title=Serenity
* [ "Firefly" and "Serenity"] at Wikia
* [ Interview with "Serenity" visual effects supervisor]
* [ IGN visits the set of the film]
* [ Translations of Chinese used]
* [] - Fan site documents the R. Tam sessions viral marketing campaign

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