STUDIO: Universal
MSRP: $29.98
RUNNING TIME: 119 Minutes
• Commentary by Joss Whedon
• Deleted Scenes
• Joss Whedon’s Introduction to Serenity
• What’s In A Firefly
• Re-Igniting the Firefly
• Outtakes
• Future History: The Story of the Earth That Was

No time
to be humble. I’m the ideal Serenity reviewer. I’ve never seen Firefly.
I’ve caught only bits of Buffy and Angel, both of which I
disliked instantly. I’m as far from a Joss Whedon fan as possible. I am the
person Serenity needed to reach. And despite the fact that this movie
is a huge, glittering mess, I can’t resist it.

The Flick

Why is Serenity
a mess? It relies on a human MacGuffin, a trick that’s nearly impossible to
pull off. The Scottish distraction device is River Tam, an outlandishly
powerful psychic and badass fighter on the run from the politically dominant Alliance.
fans might know River and her brother Simon intimately; newbies are introduced
in a flashback illustrating how Simon rescued her from the Alliance.

flashback quickly establishes Whedon’s ‘western in space’ universe, but does
nothing to justify River’s power. It also introduces The Operative, an Alliance
assassin played with sad eyes and quiet violence by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The
Operative is every bit as absurd a character as River — he’s Karl Rove with a
soul, a ninja lawyer who’ll console you on loss as you slide down his sword.

You’re tellin’ me we flew across space to end up in San Bernadino?

River draws
the ship Serenity, crew and audience
in tow, towards a political revelation that neatly ties up this fictional
galaxy. Whedon throws out a few big action setpieces in the hope that we won’t
ask too many questions about the girl’s powers, or notice the ungainliness of
the plot.

River and
the Operative form quite a pair. I don’t think Whedon really believes in either
of them. River is frequently sidelined — knocked unconscious or locked up,
only to be trotted out for a fight scene. And I can’t believe that Whedon, an
obviously smart and worldly writer, would put his faith in The Operative. The
wisely ambiguous ending (think Three Days of the Condor. In Space!)
is countered by Whedon’s naïve hope that a man like The Operative might see the

So what
keeps me wrapped up in Serenity? Captain Mal Reynolds and
his crew. Mal is a spiritual cousin of Jack Sparrow, and Nathan Fillion plays
him with an infectious humor. He self-deprecates with an offhand fatalism that makes
the most clunky and calculated plot contrivance seem irrelevant, and is able to
turn compellingly grave in a moment. He propels the film, and makes me wish
that I’d been watching the show from the beginning.

No sequel?
No sequel.

The rest
of the crew meshes perfectly with Fillion. Jayne (Adam Baldwin) and Zoe (Gina
Torres) add extra dashes of grim but funny pragmatism. Zoe’s husband, the pilot
Wash (Alan Tudyk) doesn’t get much screen time, but you’ll remember most of his
moments as highlights.

I’d love
Jewel Staite’s mechanic Kaylee, too, if Whedon didn’t insist on giving her the
worst his dialogue has to offer. "I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my
nethers…"? Yowza. Is there a pill that can cure Appalachian? Whedon’s
specific dialogue rhythms are becoming legendary, but sometimes they run

So I did this and told them they’d be dead in seven days! They bought it!

With more
room to play than TV offers, Whedon lets his crew run loose in some big
sequences. The effects are scrappy and raw, but that fits just fine with the
world they’re supposed to create. A battle with the Reavers (the injuns of this
galactic west) crackles with tension and energy. With a fraction of the budget,
outs Revenge of the Sith as a sterile, boring pile of CGI. It’s got
a pulse and a will to live that entertains and earns my respect.

7.4 out of 10

The Look

The film
is all over the place — color riots, one planet is totally blown out, another
area is super dark. It’s a lot for one transfer to handle, and the disc looks solid
across the board. It’s never exceptional, which is something I’ve been trained
to want out of a studio sci-fi flick. But the film is well-represented.

8.5 out of 10

The Noise

Hey, it’s
a big studio DVD release. Punchy. Crisp. You can hear the dialogue, even the
little bits where Fillion says something under his breath. What else do you
want? DTS? Yeah, me too. Tough.

7.5 out of 10

The Goodies

expected a bare bones release, but then a Whedon commentary was added, pushing
this disc to the top of my list of anticipated releases. (Which is strange,
since I’ve already admitted I’m not a fan. No, I can’t explain it.) What I like
about this commentary is Whedon’s lack of knowledge on some film topics. He
poorly explains how and why using a different shutter angle affects the image,
and he attributes the first motion control effects to Cronenberg’s version of The
, instead of Star Wars. When so many directors
fall over backward to prove they know everything about film, this is

commentary is great. The detail is thick, about where the story came from, how
and why he wrote it as we see it, and Whedon isn’t afraid to give credit where
it’s due. I also laughed several times, which helps when you’re watching a film
for the sixth time.  I also squirmed a couple times, notably when he’d talk about a shot of River that an entire scene was written to contain. But I’d already figured out that something like that had taken place. 

On the Planet of Dr. Caligari.

minutes of deleted scenes are also included, most cut for very good reason. At
best, they add flashes of unnecessary dialogue that will be appreciated by Firefly
fans, and this disc is the best place for them. At worst they display
Whedon’s worst dialogue tendencies. There is one good line: "I’ve got to
go check on the crew, see how the inevitable mutiny’s coming along." The
six minutes of outtakes are great. I heart Nathan Fillion. He’s funny.

featurettes…not so much. Future History runs
down the inspirations for the show and movie, while What’s In A Firefly goes into some of the effects in a typically
EPK fashion. Re-lighting The Firefly
is the expected ode to the film’s very existence in the face of Fox’s
disinterest. It might be interesting to people who are coming to the movie
cold, but if you’re reading CHUD, you already know all this stuff.

The film’s marketing department was quietly dispatched.

there’s Joss Whedon’s introduction to the film, which originally ran before the
sneak screenings that took place months before the film
opened. Call it pandering to fanboys, or call it a heartfelt message to fans.
Having watched this once, I’ll certainly never revisit the clip. But it might
be cool for the average moviegoing audience to see that movies like this don’t
automatically come into being. If that’s the effect, who am I to complain?

8 out of 10

The Artwork

I don’t
have to tell anyone that this movie redefined marketing disaster, and the
aftershocks continue to this lousy piece of Photoshop afterbirth.
"Experience the Ultimate Action-Adventure"? Why not "Arr!"
or "Eat Yogurt"? In comparison, the box art for my screener is a

2 out of 10

Overall: 7.5 out of 10