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Serenity (2005) - 4K Blu-ray Review

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Serenity (2005)

Back in the early Noughties, Joss Whedon was synonymous with punchy genre series that, more often than not, dealt with strong female protagonists and thrilling plots. As if cursed by his own success, Whedon tried to branch out from vampires and slayers to the sci-fi with the Fox series Firelfy. But we were all riding (and perhaps blinded) by the wave of Buffy and Angel, and criminally Firefly was not afforded the audience it deserved. It was cancelled after merely 13 episodes.

"One actually doesn’t need to have seen the TV show to be sucked into this world quickly"


Whedon admits to being personally injured in this remarkable series’ failure, and determined, by hook or by crook, he was going to bookend this story with the payoff he thought it deserved. He found a willing studio in Universal and in 2005 set to task on finishing his story.

Set in the year 2517, Serenity rounds out the story of Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and the crew of the Firefly-class freighter Serenity. An eclectic and disparate cluster of misanthropes you’d never meet again. Two of the latest aboard Reynold’s ship are Simon and River Tam (Summer Glau)—two escapees from the Alliance (the series’ Big Bad); an oppressive galactic government who was using River’s abilities for their own gain. Hiding in the outer rim, struggling to feed themselves and keep the ship in service, this fringe dwelling crew are discovered when a program planted in a TV ad triggers River’s program. A government assassin (the excellent Chitewel Ejiofor) is sent to collect her, and will kill anyone in his way.

Whedon kicks off the start of this movie with a masterful one shot, worthy of Scorsese. With this one scene, he reintroduces the bulk of the series’ characters, the background of who they are, and why they are doing what they’re doing, and sets us off for an action-packed enjoyable ride. One actually doesn’t need to have seen the TV show to be sucked into this world quickly; although, having seen the show will make it all the richer.

This film was where this reviewer solidified his belief that Whedon was a rare film director that could not only handle large cast and subplots, but make them work like gangbusters. His handling of action scenes, fight scenes, and effect are always about the characters and resonate emotionally for it. They are thrilling, imaginative, and surprising in parts, and looks like a film shot on double its tiny 35 million dollar budget.

The actors, as they were in the show, give it their all and endear themselves to your memory very quickly. For those that saw the show, it is Glau’s River that evolves the most. In the show, what she becomes is hinted at, but in Serenity River is unleashed. Her kookiness is built upon with some gob-smacking displays of athleticism that equals her portrayal of very mentally broken young woman. It’s a truly a remarkable performance that deserves more credit. Lead Fillion is no stranger to success, having gone on to star in Castle and now The Rookie, but as Reynolds he too plays a broken character that hides his pain and past behind sarcasm and grit, almost channeling Harrison Ford.

There is finality for the cast from the series, with not all of them making it to the credits. This is not an unusual eventuality for a Whedon tome, but having loved the series it hit a little harder for this fan. All the deaths scenes are handled with aplomb. In addition, there is an obviously tight bond between this cast that translates organically and emotionally on screen as they say goodbye.Serenity (2005)

The effects, for the time, are first rate, especially knowing the budget. They have dated somewhat in the following decade and change since its’ release (I address this more in the 4K section) but bang for your buck value in the visuals are there to see for all.

Unfortunately and criminally, just as the TV show it honored, this film tanked at the box office. It barely made back its budget, and if you know anything about movie making, parity of budget at the box office means the film lost half that out of its bank account, when you account for advertising, distributor and cinema fees.

Serenity deserved to reward the hard work and passion of those who made it. I hope the fact that it exists is some kind of validation for what they achieved. It is almost universally critically praised and has a passionate, if small, group of followers (browncoats) for good reason. It is well worth your time, and easily in the top ten of this reviewer’s top ten sci-fi movies of all time. It’s that good. Go get it.

5/5 stars

Serenity (2005)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Universal Studios
Available on Blu-ray
- October 17, 2017
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Mandarin
Audio:
English: DTS:X; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; French: DTS 5.1; French (Canada): DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1; Japanese: DTS 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

VIDEO:

Okay, this is a transfer up-scaled from apparently a 2K scan. The result is inconsistent. It ranges from jaw-droppingly good to change levels of grain. There are some stellar and detailed close-ups of the stars, and some orgasmic skies and space vistas. Blacks are dense and yet detailed. But there’s a mix of scenes that smack of de-noising and then show a detailed filmic straight after. The mule vs reaver’s scene stuck out like a sore thumb. Having said this (spoiled bloody reviewer, I am) this is a beautiful looking picture that has some really wow moments throughout its run. It’s a mild upgrade of the Blu-ray and HDR just pushed it over the line to worth the change. Not reference quality and a stark contrast to the E.T. disc I reviewed before, but not bad.

AUDIO:

Superb. Your speakers will need a massage after this excellent DTS-X 7.1 mix. It is extremely verbose. Dialogue is centre focused and crisp as all get out. Surrounds are punished with thumping directionality. It’s immersive and a grand listening experience. This mix has serious balls.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Feature Commentary with Writer / Director Joss Whedon & Cast Members Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Ron Glass

Special Features:

  • No new 4K features. All ported over from the previous Blu-Ray (also included) and with a digital download. Not unique in today’s lack of supplements for 4K.Feature Commentery with Writer / Director Joss Whedon

    Alliance Database
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Joss Whedon
  • Outtakes
  • Future History - The Story of Earth That Was
  • What's In A Firefly
  • Re-Lighting The Firefly
  • Joss Whedon Introduction
  • Extended Scenes
  • Take A Walk On Serenity
  • A Filmmaker's Journey
  • The Green Clan
  • Session 416
  • U-Control Access

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3.5/5 stars

Serenity 2005

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, and some sexual references.
Runtime:
119 mins
Director
: Joss Whedon
Writer:
Joss Whedon
Cast:
Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Genre
: Sci-fi
Tagline:
They're armed. She's dangerous.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Yes, I've read a poem. Try not to faint."
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 30, 2005
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 17, 2017
Synopsis: The crew of the ship Serenity try to evade an assassin sent to recapture one of their members who is telepathic.

Serenity 2005

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