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"Serenity" Movie DVD - Collector Edition - Chud.com Review

Monday 3 September 2007, by Webmaster

The Pitch

“Burn the land and boil the sea; you can’t take the sky from me.”

The Humans

Nathan Fillion (Waitress), Alan Tudyk (Death at a Funeral), Adam Baldwin (My Bodyguard), Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin, Ron Glass (Barney Miller), Sean Maher, Jewel Staite, Gina Torres (Cleopatra 2525), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things), David Krumholz (Superbad), Sarah Paulson (Diggers)

Unbeknownst to the cast, the Firefly reunion was just an excuse for Joss to show off his vacation pictures.

The Nutshell

Once upon a time there was a TV series set in the distant future, about a spaceship and her colorful, diverse crew. The actors had exceptional chemistry and the writers were some of the best in the business. The show’s premise imagined outer space as an untamed frontier, analogous to the western expansion of the United States. However, the network’s executives never understood it. They meddled endlessly— rejecting the original pilot episode, moving the airtime all over the schedule and finally, abruptly, canceling the series altogether.

And that would have been the end if it hadn’t been for the fans, many of who had never had the chance to see the show in its initial broadcast. Thanks largely to a concentrated grass-roots effort, studio interest in the property was revived and the entire cast was brought back, along with most of the original creative team. A continuation, in the form of a big-budget, widescreen theatrical motion picture, miraculously became reality. Its financial success led to several sequels, a handful of TV spin-offs, and a sprawling merchandising empire. Today, 40 years since it all began, household ears still ring to the names of Captain Kirk and Mister Spock.

If there’s any comfort to be found in judging Serenity’s box-office performance, perhaps we should consider it curiously appropriate that the beautiful losers of Joss Whedon’s Firefly concluded their adventure on their own terms, as a proud, sacrificial blip of individuality amid a crushing summer-movie season. In a year when the Star Wars franchise proved to have lost sight, irretrievably, of the things that made it great, here was a proper space adventure packed with engaging characters, suspenseful action, and a killer sense of humor.

The Lowdown

What remains to be said about The Movie That Proved Sci-Fi Convention Awareness Isn’t Everything? Nick covered it HERE, Devin went in-depth HERE, and Russ tackled the original DVD release HERE. You’d think that’d be enough, wouldn’t you? Well, it’s been a couple years so hopefully this piece won’t seem too redundant.

Bottom line? I dig the flick. I prefer the show — viewers familiar with both will note that the central ‘Western in space’ concept is dialed down dramatically from the TV incarnation, and many of the characters get short shrift. I agree with my compatriots that Adam Baldwin’s Jayne steals every frame in which he appears, and that the confrontations between Mal (Fillion) and the Operative (Ejiofor) are everything a balls-out Han Solo-vs.-Darth Vader throwdown could have been. I’ll also allow that kooky little River is best in small doses, though novice actress Glau rises to the occasion with an impressive performance.

For my own spoilery part, I’m most disappointed with the truth about the Reavers. The big revelation doesn’t seem to square with what little we learned in the series, and while it’s provocative (and central to the plot) I kind of prefer the idea that they were just folk gone bonkers in the face of the ultimate existential crisis.

The Package

First, a word on the awesome box design— with this and the Flash Gordon case, Universal is on a roll this year. Although the artwork is a bit busy and jumbled, it’s a dramatic improvement on the previous edition. There’s actually a picture of the damn spaceship now.

Serenity is presented in a transfer identical to the previous disc. It was bold of Whedon to go full ‘scope for his feature debut, but on home video the aspect ratio creates a problem. Suppose you want to watch the TV show first, then continue on to the film? The show was composed at 16:9; the idea of ‘scope is that it’s bigger and wider than a regular screen but on home video, letterboxed at 2.35:1, it actually ends up smaller despite its greatly increased detail. Pretty good inducement to go high-definition, I guess.

On to the extras. Call me crazy, but with a 119-minute feature presentation and a combined 110 minutes of supplemental content, wouldn’t a movie-only Disc One have been a better use of space, especially with the new DTS track? A ’Play All’ option for the mini-docs would be nice too—there’s surprisingly little overlap amongst them.

With the exception of the cast commentary, which was recorded this spring, all supplements are 2005 and reflect the giddy optimism of the pre-release period. Said commentary is solid; the intervening years have allowed the participants to calm down a bit and even express a bit of frustration with the way the film was received by the paying public. Included are all the items from the original disc, plus some that were previously Web exclusives or TV specials. Session 416, a mock-doc series of interviews charting River Tam’s descent into madness, is fascinating to see in full-resolution, if only for Ms. Glau’s real tears. The Green Clan is an all-too-brief profile of cinematographer Jack Green, whose experience on numerous Clint Eastwood productions was invaluable to the look of the movie. Ever more than before, the Joss Whedon Introduction video is in desperate need of some sort of preamble to establish its context. English subtitles are provided for all material except the solo Whedon commentary.

8.5 out of 10