Joss Whedon's 'Serenity' Is Still Going Strong

by Tami Katzoff

Cue the “Buffy” theme song – you’re now reading a brand new column called The Weekly Whedon. If you’re new to Whedon fandom, welcome aboard. If you’re an old-schooler like myself… shiny!

Of course everybody’s still buzzing about Joss’ latest directorial effort, “The Avengers.” But since this is the inaugural WW column I’m going to focus on the first film he directed – “Serenity.” It didn’t shatter box office records like “The Avengers” did, and it wasn’t populated with A-list stars, but “Serenity” was significant and ground-breaking in its own way. It was an anomaly, a studio film that was made because fans of a short-lived cult TV show demanded it.

If you’re not familiar with the story-behind-the-story, here’s a brief synopsis: After the early cancellation by Fox of Whedon’s space-western series “Firefly” in late 2002, fans were in an uproar. But instead of griping to themselves they took action, campaigning for the show to be taken up by another network. It didn’t happen, but someone at Universal Studios took notice and decided to make “Firefly” into a feature film that picked up where the show left off. The name “Serenity” came from the Firefly-class ship that was home to Captain Malcolm Reynolds, his crew and guest passengers.

Fast forward seven years to this weekend’s Hero Complex Film Festival, where “Serenity” has the prime Sunday night slot. Other films in the Los Angeles Times’ festival line-up include “Shaun of the Dead,” “A Clockwork Orange” and “WALL-E,” but the “Serenity” screening (plus a Q&A with star Nathan Fillion) was the first event of the HCFF to sell out.

Geoff Boucher, a 21-year veteran of the Times, created Hero Complex and programs the three-year-old film fest. He never shows a movie he doesn’t love or at least want to see on the big screen. He chose “Serenity” because “Firefly” was one of his favorite TV shows.

“Joss created these very fun and interesting characters, who take a lot of left turns on you,” Boucher says. “You’re expecting the show to do what all the other shows do, and then at the last minute it kind of winks at you and spins away.”

Offering an explanation for the enduring popularity of Fillion’s Captain Reynolds, Boucher compares him to Hollywood heroes of decades past. “He is in the grand tradition of being like Harrison Ford in ‘Raiders’ – the guy who lets you see how scared he is, when he’s scared. Or the guy who can get his ass kicked, and the guy who is going to look out for himself, like Han Solo. And all those things set him apart from the boy scouts, the uninteresting do-gooders.”

Of course it doesn’t hurt that Fillion makes for quite a handsome hero. “The ladies tell me he’s good-looking,” Boucher says.

Here at the WW we look forward to the release of the most recent Whedon-Fillion collaboration, “Much Ado About Nothing,” which features many beloved Whedon alums. Check this spot for future discussions about “Much Ado,” “Firefly,” and all things Joss. For now, let us know what you think in the comments section or on Twitter!