According to Adam Baldwin, Jayne's mini-gun is nicknamed "Lux", after LuxLucre, devoted fan Kerry Pearson's message board handle. Pearson, who died of complications of diabetes, was best known for creating fan art featuring characters from Firefly in a South Park cartoon style.
In the cargo bay, just after a Reaver is shot, some of the crates behind River have the message "Reusable Container: Do Not Destroy" printed on them. It's an inside joke. The ship set had to be rebuilt from scratch for the movie because the original, from Firefly, was destroyed.
Universal Studios took the unusual step of allowing early previews of the unfinished film. The first preview was in November 2004 in California's San Fernando Valley, when the release date was still early 2005. Further previews happened on May 5, 2005 (10 cities), May 26, 2005 (20 cities), and June 23, 2005 (35 cities). On July 22, 2005, a preview was held in Queensland, on Australia's Gold Coast.
EASTER EGG: From the main menu screen, keep clicking "left" until you light up a triangle with a dot in the center on the right side of the screen. The icon will take you to the full Fruity Oaty Bar commercial. In the DVD commentary, Joss Whedon admitted that he wanted the commercial to be as odd as possible. He said it was heavily inspired by the "Mr. Sparkle" advertisement from The Simpsons: In Marge We Trust The uncredited actor in the commercial and the Easter Egg segment is Robert Michael Lee.
Among the buildings shown in the opening sequence (where voice-over narration describes the "terraforming" process) are the Emirates Towers, key features of the skyline of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. A skyscraper in the foreground of the same shot is based on designs by Sir Norman Foster (Lord Foster), including the Commerzbank headquarters in Frankfurt and the HSBC building in Hong Kong.
The cast had a running gag where they would yell Summer Glau's name whenever any of them flubbed a line or forgot to do something. It originated on Firefly when she forgot her line at the end of a very long and difficult scene. (Nathan Fillion, Morena Baccarin and Sean Maher can be seen doing this on the DVD blooper reel.)
In his DVD commentary, Joss Whedon said Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau and Sean Maher performed many of their own stunts. Glau, a trained dancer, used her dancing skills in River's two fights. For the second fight, the cameraman, who was also a dancer, moved through a gap around the combatants to achieve the movie's dynamic camera angles.
Though the Trade Agent (the elderly man in the Trade Station who unlocks the safe) is played by Weston Nathanson, his voice was dubbed by Joss Whedon. According to Whedon, several of the stand-in voices from the early post-production stage remain in the final film, among them this and Morena Baccarin's voice as the computer at the beginning of the film.
The events of the film take place six months after Firefly: Objects in Space, the final episode of the Firefly TV series. "Those Left Behind," a three-issue comic book series written by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, published by Dark Horse comics, and released during summer 2005, bridges that six-month gap.
The first nine minutes of Serenity were made available online as a promotion in advance of its theatrical release. Between the online release and the theatrical release, the brief cut to Alliance security personnel was changed from blue to red.
In addition to Book's Christianity, which was established during the series, characters also practice Buddhism (Inara lights "incense" in front of a Buddha shrine in her room) and Judaism (Mr. Universe steps on a glass at the end of his wedding). In Firefly: The Message, the Postal Agent was wearing a yarmulke (kippah), which is worn by Orthodox Jews.
According to visual effects supervisor Loni Peristere, the Reaver ships are conceived along the lines of "muscle cars that look like Leatherface," each representing a mask the Reavers wear. [Paste Magazine interview, October 4, 2005]
Originally, Joss Whedon wanted Greg Edmonson, who had scored the TV series, to score the movie. Edmonson couldn't, so Whedon brought in composer Carter Burwell. After discussing the movie and submitting some demos, Burwell left the project due to differing opinions. Music executives at Universal insisted that Whedon hire a more familiar composer. Eventually David Newman was brought on to score the movie.
During Mal's conversation with Inara over the wave, four of Mal's scars are visible. All are from wounds he received during Firefly. The one on his chest was inflicted by Crow in Firefly: The Train Job. The one near his diaphragm is from a gunshot wound inflicted during Firefly: Out of Gas. The one on his side is from his duel with Atherton Wing in Firefly: Shindig. The one on his left shoulder is from the bullet graze in the pilot.
When Simon rescues River from the Alliance Academy Facility, Simon says to the project director about River "She always did like to dance." This is a nod to Summer Glau (River Tam): Summer was a ballet dancer before becoming an actress, after a broken toe ended her career. She often works her dance skills into her roles.
The main inspiration for the Fruity Oaty Bar commercial came from The Simpsons episode "In Marge We Trust", in which Homer Simpson appears in a bizarre Japanese commercial for "Mr. Sparkle" dishwashing detergent. The commercial went through several revisions; with each pass Joss Whedon would simply tell the animators to "make it stranger".
The apparently seamless long single take during the film's opening titles actually does contain one cut, albeit an invisible one: there is a quick pan as Mal and Simon descend a stairwell into the lower decks, which contains a CGI wipe (using the background of the wall) that seamlessly blends the shots together. This was needed since the actors are actually walking onto another set at this point.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
According to a Q&A with Joss Whedon and the cast after the premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, there were at least 20 separate takes of Simon and Kaylee's final make-out scene in the engine room. Take #20 was used in the final cut.
After they find the first body in the white city, a strange kind of stairway with a ramp appears. It's an exact copy of the stairs in Robson Square in Vancouver, BC, Canada, designed by Arthur Erickson.
On Miranda, the crew discovers dead citizens in a sealed room. The body of an old man in a lab coat wearing golden shoes appears just before River starts talking in Chinese. The shoes are Nike Flightposite III basketball shoes designed for Kevin Garnett, introduced around 2001.
According to Joss Whedon's DVD commentary, the most difficult scene for sound was Simon and River's final scene, after Simon is shot. Sean Maher and Summer Glau developed a strong bond during production of Firefly. Sean's acting was so good that Summer kept bursting into tears whenever they attempted to shoot the scene.
According to commentary, the crew made a mistake when building the mule hovercraft seen during the first chase sequence with the Reavers at the opening of the film. Zoe, Mal, Jayne, and River were all riding in the mule during the chase. In dialogue, when Zoe asks Mal why he didn't save the man who begged them to take him with them during their escape, Mal responded that "The mule won't run with five". The production crew had accidentally built the mule with five seats, an initial oversight.
The funeral scene includes several real funeral customs. Zoë wears a white dress, the traditional Chinese color of mourning. Small rocks are placed on the grave markers of Mr. Universe, Book, and Wash, from the Jewish tradition of mourners placing a small stone on the grave at every visit.
Joss Whedon revealed that the reason Wash and Book were killed off in the movie was because Alan Tudyk and Ron Glass could not commit to sequels. Universal Pictures wanted all the main actors who would appear in the sequels to be contractually available, meaning Whedon had to find a way of getting Tudyk and Glass out of the story. (In his original script, before he knew they couldn't commit, all members of the crew survived, with Zoe and Wash promising to have children together.) Despite this Whedon has also revealed that there was a "strong possibility" that Wash and Book would return if a sequel ever was made -- indicating that he had plans to find a way to bring them back. In the Official Serenity Companion, he acknowledged that it would have to be done in a way the audience would buy.