Sound: B- Extras: A Film: A
Not many failed television shows go on to become
feature-length motion pictures, and it would be very difficult to find one that
does it as well as Joss Whedon’s Serenity. Whedon (creator of TV hits Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, Angel,
and Serenity’s sleeper small-screen alter-ego, Firefly) succeeds
admirably in bringing his brand of character-driven, gritty science fiction to
the big screen. Made with a miniscule
budget by current standards, Serenity doesn’t show it. Instead, Whedon and his talented crew show
us a world rendered in loving detail. Serenity
is the name of the spaceship in which Whedon’s characters tool around the
universe (or ‘Verse, as the characters like to refer to it). Unlike the more grandiose sci-fi vision of Star
Wars, Whedon’s world is small by comparison, really only a solar system
with several dozen planets and several hundred habitable moons to go with them.
On the run from the agents of the Orwellian Alliance, the
prime authority in Whedon’s ‘Verse, Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew must
discover the mystery locked inside the head of the psychic fugitive, River, a
one-time captive of the Alliance.
Cleverly mixing the tropes of wild-west and sci-fi, Whedon and company
blend these ingredients into a rollicking ride that remains true to its
television roots but provides plenty of hooks for folks coming to it for the
The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot in
Super 35 and is heavily digital, but for its low budget, still looks as good as
many more expensive films in the genre that offer the same visual
combination. However, Video Black is
not as good as it could be throughout.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is stronger than usual, although in some spots
character dialog trails off, lost in the background music or general action of
the scene. This is partially a function
of Whedon’s tendency to write “real” dialog, where people often mumble or leave
sentences or thoughts unfinished. This
minor problem was less noticeable in the theater version of the film. DTS was rumored for this release originally,
but did not happen at the last minute.
However, you can hear how rich and thick this sound and sound mix is, so
it is the only major weak point of this release.
The extras featured in this package are impressive, and
include deleted and extended scenes, a short piece on the history of the
‘Verse, a short piece on the revival of Firefly into Serenity, and Joss
Whedon’s clever introduction to the film when it was pre-screened before its
wider release. Especially fun is the
cast’s reaction to the absolute crush of fans at the San Diego Comic Con. It is pleasing to see that the actors
playing characters that you know and love are also genuinely nice people.
And the performances in Serenity are amazing. Nathan Fillion plays the roguish Malcolm
Reynolds, a haunted veteran of a lost war, and a champion of the underdog. Gina
Torres and Alan Tudyk reprise their roles as the loving couple Zoe and
Wash. Morena Baccarin is luminous as
Inara, the Companion—a high-priced, socially accepted escort, and a smoldering
love interest to the troubled Mal Reynolds.
Adam Baldwin (My Bodyguard, Full Metal Jacket) provides
high-energy as the sociopathic gunman Jayne, a man whose only cause is
seemingly himself, but whose loyalty can sometimes be surprising. Jewel Staite’s Kaylee is the heart of the
ship, providing both the technical knowledge to keep it running and the
youthful hopefulness that lightens the hearts of its crew. Summer Glau nearly manages to steal the show
as the psychic fugitive, River, a girl possessed by dark secrets and the
physical skills of a living weapon.
Sean Maher plays Simon, her brother, and a doctor of great skill. It is his sacrifice of his career, which
allowed River to escape the Alliance. Finally, Ron Glass plays preacher
Shepherd Book, a one-time member of the crew who has settled down on a dusty
backwater to tend his flock. Glass is
simply awesome in this role, and his lack of screen time is one of few quibbles
one can find with the story of this film.
This wonderful core cast, combined with Whedon’s unique
vision, makes Serenity a must-have addition to any sci-fi fan’s DVD
collection. One can only hope that
moderate success the film found at the box office and strong sales of this DVD
package will lend strength and support to the next installment of the
- Scott Pyle