Serenity (2005) - Widescreen Edition

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Science Fiction / Thriller
Universal || PG13 - 119 minutes - $29.98 || December 20th, 2005
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-12-16


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Joss Whedon
Writer(s): Joss Whedon (written by)
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Ron Glass


Theatrical Release Date: August 19th, 2005


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director Commentary
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Introduction by Joss Whedon
  • Re-lighting the Firefly
  • What's in a Firefly?


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Browncoat v. A fanboy of a defunct space-western TV series called "Firefly", lasting one season on the Fox network. "Firefly" later would rerun on the SciFi Channel and spawn a feature film, which too, did not catch on with the public at large.

As a novice, someone who has never seen Whedon's cult-fave "Firefly" show, I had some reservations about a feature film based on it. I am, though, familiar with Whedon's other works like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel", both of which I quite enjoyed (in fact, I own every season on DVD), but I never understood why the fans were so gun-ho about it... And I still can't see why after watching the movie spin-off, Serenity.

The biggest problem I had lies, in part, with the very beginning where Simon rescues his little sis, River Tam (Glau), from the clutches of the Universal Alliance, and onto the Serenity ship commanded by maverick Mal (Fillion), a man who has his own ways of runnin his "boat". Part one of my problem, right there. This is a space western and the dialogue, no matter how good the actors are (I'll get back to that), is tough to get used to. The second part is we are somewhat introduced to the crew of the Serenity but over the next 90 plus minutes, never actually get to know them or what they're about. So right there, because I had never watched "Firefly" I'm already behind and it seems Whedon does not care, or perhaps has the talent, to bring the newbies some actual character development. Of course this has to be done carefully so not to upset the fans (as it would certainly be too repetitive).

It wasn't until around the 80-minute mark where the story took hold of me at all but by then I didn't care all too much. And there's the whole thing... I've read some of the comments on the IMDb boards and most suggest the newbies check out a couple episodes before making a harsh judgment, unfortunately I believe a movie should hold on it's own without the crutch of a previous source. Take for instance the Lord of the Rings trilogy or even any of the Harry Potter films: I had never read a single word of the books and yet -- with the exception of a few flaws in regards to Potter -- I found each film to be very good, showcasing the characters nicely and yet die hards still ate up every minute. Perhaps that's an unfair comparison as taking a current show and the original cast, then translating it to the big screen is a tough job, but if you want a film to be accepted the most you can, you better make sure you can.

On the positive side, the film has some decent visual effects and the main plot "twist" is cool. However, with a cast that has, primarily, a TV background, it was like watching some kind of two-hour series premiere or a direct-to-DVD release (which this should've been). More items to be inclusionary to the fans than an outsider.

In the end, Serenity felt like a TV movie, not a feature film. As it stands, it isn't bad, but I had a hard caring for these characters and the events that would effect them. Add to that a villain who scares me as much as my Chris Farley bobble-head doll... well, actually, that is pretty damn scary so never mind. But I digress, I'm glad the Browncoats got their fanboy film to slobber over, but don't expect the rest of us to join in. I can understand when a show is taken out before it's prime so it's nice to see the characters once again in the hopes it launches a feature film franchise, but in order to get converts, you must convince them that there's something worthwhile to convert to.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Director Commentary - Writer/director Joss Whedon steps into the recording booth and gives a lively track about the process of getting the film onto the big screen and how Universal stepped up to the plate after his TV series, "Firefly", was canceled by Fox. For a solo commentary, Whedon does a good job mixing some interesting trivia with his love for these characters and the story.

Deleted/Extended Scenes - All told, there are 9 deleted or extended scenes lasting in total nearly 15-minutes. Don't know how much these scenes would've added to the final product, but a few of them were interesting and might've shed some light for the non-fans out there. For instance in "Operative Tracks Mal", we get some background into who Malcolm Reynolds is and a little deeper into who the crew on the Serenity is. Not saying this scene alone would've turned the movie around for me, but it is a help. Another interesting cut scene actually shows Mal and Inara escaping from the Operative. Nothing great, but still interesting to watch.

Outtakes - For my money, I always enjoy watching the outtakes as it catches the cast members off guard and, most of the time, shows the unity between them as some break out into the giggles based upon the look or vocal tone of another.

Future History: The Story of Earth That Was - In this short featurette, we find what writer/director Whedon's inspiration was to create the "Firefly" series. During the third season of "Buffy", he read a book called "Killer Angels" which is about the battle of Gettysburg and from there is transformed into what the Browncoats know and love.

What's In a Firefly - Covers the special/visual effects of the movie such as the hover craft chase sequence and Serenity's tail spin. I would've wanted some more depth as it only, relatively speaking, briefly covers the visual effects shots, but for what's given, it's alright.

Re-Lighting the Firefly - This shows how "Firefly", in the midst of complete elimination, was brought from the ashes by Whedon's (and the Browncoats) desire to find a new home or, as it came to be, put it on the big screen. There's also some footage of the cast at ComicCon in front of 5,000 fans where some footage was to be unleashed.

Joss Whedon Introduction - This intro, I think, was made for some kind of convention (maybe the ComicCon) where Whedon talks about the movie, the Browncoats and getting the word out about the movie in the hopes it'll continue on. But he also mentions how lucky to make a movie based on a defunct TV series with the original cast, which truly is an accomplishment...

While I can appreciate the fans' undying love for "Firefly", I still failed to see why it was a big deal. What about a featurette with perhaps a roundtable session between select Browncoats and Whedon? Something to convince those like myself to go and rent the TV series? Because after watching this set (even with the features), I have no desire to do so.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

Note: Again, since this review is based upon a watermarked copy I received, the sound and picture may not be representative of the final product.

I can't speak to the quality of the sound or picture, just to say despite this being a screener, I still found the sound to be fine and the picture, presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 aspect ratio), was also very good and didn't hinder the viewing at all.

Update: Received a final copy and as suspected, both the sound and picture are indeed top notch. In the sound department, a movie like this would've benefited from a DTS track, but the Dolby 5.1 one is still great.



.::OVERALL::.

Overall, I'm glad the fans of "Firefly" got their movie and perhaps one day a direct-to-video sequel will come down the pike, but for my money, I admit that I still cannot see why the fans are so connected to the show so much. So this review is, obviously, not written for the fans instead for those who have never seen the show. I don't recommend buying the movie but a rental is probably harmless enough... perhaps you'll see what the Browncoats do.