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FIREFLY is another in the long series of television shows that were too good for the medium, dumped in a rotten time slot by an uncaring network, and quickly canceled. Considering this pedigree, itís a miracle that SERENITY ($30), the movie follow-up to FIREFLY was produced at all, let alone, by another studio. I guess a certain amount of Karma must have been on the side of the vocal FIREFLY fans, which were attempting to get the show back on the air. Sitting down to watch SERENITY, Itís not hard to understand why FIREFLY was a ratings-challenged darling of television critics... not only is well written sci-fi, this movie rocks. Personally, I would love to see another follow up movie.

With FIREFLY, series creator Joss Whedon delivered upon the Wagon Train to the stars concept espoused by Gene Roddenberry for STAR TREKÖ producing a real western set in outer space. Set Five hundred years in the future, after mankind has left Earth, SERENITY takes place amongst the stars on the worlds colonized by humanity. There is an interplanetary Alliance that wields an authoritarian power over the centralized planets, while the partially colonized planets on the Outer Rim are more or less desolate worlds that operate in a fashion akin to the lawlessness of the American Old West. The premise of the film follows the crew of The Serenity, a spacecraft that runs cargo, on addition to other less than wholly legal business ventures on the Outer Rim. On board The Serenity is River Tam (Summer Glau), a seventeen-year-old psychic, who was being experimented on by the Alliance, until her brother Simon (Sean Maher) rescued her from an Alliance facility.

For one of their less reputable planet side enterprises, Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) decides to take advantage of Riverís psychic abilities, which is about the only thing that saves him and his crew from an attack by Reavers, a horde of space faring cannibals, who enjoy eating their victims while they are still alive. Making spaceport, River is exposed to a subliminal message in a video broadcast, which reveals the true nature of the Alliance experiments- River was being programmed as a human weapon. Of course, the Alliance becomes aware of Riverís whereabouts and are desperate to get their asset back- regardless of the cost. The cast of SERENITY also features Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Ron Glass, Chiwetel Ejiofor and David Krumholtz.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made SERENITY available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation really delivers the goods in terms of clarity, sharpness dimensionality and image detail. SERENITY has mildly stylized cinematography that isnít going for a glossy, pretty picture look, so some of the film comes across in a decidedly gritty manner. However, the Blu-ray handles everything with relative ease and I found myself very impressed with the visual portion of this Blu-ray release. Colors are wonderfully vibrant and smooth, plus the flesh tones are highly appealing. Blacks are pretty much pitch perfect, while the whites are crisp and stable. Contrast and shadow detail are excellent. The elements from which SERENITY has been mastered are free from flaws. There is a light veneer of grain within the image, which maintains the organic quality of this excellent presentation.

SERENITY is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. No surprise, the sound design is fantastic- operating in that big action movie / sci-fi flick mode from pretty much start to finish. The highly aggressive sound design places the viewer in the middle of firefights and chases, all of them big loud and explosive. Sound comes at the viewer from all sides, with sonic information leaping across the soundstage without effort. Fidelity is pretty terrific, producing convincing in the room sound effects and full-bodied music. The bass channel adds plenty of percussion to the gunfire and explosions, plus all the necessary ground-shaking rumble. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the filmís dialogue is always completely understandable. French, Spanish, German, Italian and Japanese DTS 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Greek and Portuguese.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off is an Introduction by Joss Whedon. Next, there are two running Audio Commentaries included on the Blu-ray Disc; the first is with writer/director Joss Whedon, while the second features Joss Whedon, plus actors Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Ron Glass. Universal's U-Control interface is utilized for an interactive version of the movie that provides in context picture-in-picture, pop-up supplements (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Amongst the U-Control supplements is a picture-in-picture Video Commentary that features Joss Whedon, plus actors Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Ron Glass.

Featurettes include: A Filmmaker's Journey (twenty minutes), Take A Walk On Serenity (four minutes), Future History: The Story Of Earth That Was (four minutes), What's In A Firefly? (six minutes), Re-Lighting The Firefly (ten minutes), Session 416 (eight minutes) and The Green Clan (three minutes). Deleted Scenes, Extended Scenes, Outtakes and an Alliance Database close out the standard supplements. SERENITY is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

SERENITY is a great movie, based upon a great television show that almost nobody knew existed, while it was on the air. The Blu-ray is looks and sounds fantastic and rates as another killer Universal hi-def title. Highly recommended.



Serenity [Blu-ray] (2005)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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