by Joss Whedon



158pp/$19.95/September 2005

Serenity:  The Official Visual Companion

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The majority of the text in Serenity:  The Official Visual Companion is the shooting script for the film "Serenity," based on Joss Whedon's short-lived television show "Firefly." In addition to the script, the book contains a lengthy interview with Whedon, background material, and copious stills from the film "Serenity," released on September 30.

The interview, conducted by Abbie Bernstein, is wide-ranging with regard to Serenity, from the "Firefly" and its cancellation to the efforts to bring it back as a film to the experience of Whedon directing his first theatrical release.  Bernstein's questions are mostly included as a brief guide to the rest of the interview, but Whedon's answers are extremely detailed.

Surrounding the interview are several sidebars about Whedon's attitudes towards specifics aspects of filmmaking, including music, perspective, and lighting.  There is also an all-too-brief background of the five-hundred years separating Serenity from our own time.  This latter could have been fleshed out a little more.  Similarly, brief outlines of the characters and their specific backgrounds would have been nice, even if Whedon did not reveal anything but tantalizing secrets about their mysteries.

The script is close to the one appearing in the edited film, with a few minor exceptions.  Almost all of the cuts, however, are of of material which is redundant and presented in a better way elsewhere in the script.  There is one case where a line is missing from the shooting script, but appears in the final version.  In the film, it resolves something which could have been slightly ambiguous and would have heightened tension.  The script is more interesting for its lack of that line.

As noted, the script is heavily illustrated with images from the film, as well as short photo essays demonstrating costume and ship design.  In many cases, notably the make up used by the Reavers and details of the ships, the book's readers will get a much more detailed look than anyone watching the film, even when it comes out on DVD.

Another nice feature is the inclusion of short (too short) sidebars in which the nine principal actors discuss their characters and the characters relationships.  These are rarely more than two hundred words or so and leave the reader wanting more.  Something along the lines of Jewel Staite's essay for Jane Espensen's Finding Serenity would have been a particularly nice inclusion.

If there is a problem with the book, and this is only a minor problem given the book's inclusion of the entire shooting script, it is that some of the photos are accompanied by captions which provide a little too much information about what happens in the movie.  The captions, therefore, should be avoided until the film is seen or the script is read.  However, given the book's raison d’ętre, such a complaint is hardly major at all.

Serenity:  The Official Visual Companion is a nicely designed book which provides another entry into Joss Whedon's 'verse while at the same time serves to merely whet the reader and fan's appetite for more information about these worlds and the hopes that Whedon will find the support to provide additional forays into the worlds of the Alliance and the frontier.

Purchase this book from Amazon Books 

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