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Joss Whedon
Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk
Writing Credits:
Joss Whedon

The crew of the ship Serenity try to evade an assassin sent to recapture one of their members.

Box Office:
$39 million.
Opening Weekend
$10,086,680 on 2188 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
French Canadian DTS 5.1
Japanese DTS 5.1
German DTS 5.1
Italian DTS 5.1
Castillian DTS 5.1
French Canadian
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 12/30/2008

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Joss Whedon
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Joss Whedon and Actors Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Ron Glass
• U-Control Interactive Feature
• “Alliance Database”
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• “Future History” Featurette
• “What’s In a Firefly” Featurette
• “Re-Lighting the Firefly” Featurette
• Joss Whedon Introduction
• Extended Scenes
• “Take a Walk on Serenity” Featurette
• “A Filmmaker’s Journey” Featurette
• “The Green Clan” Featurette
• “Session 416” Segments


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Serenity [Blu-Ray] (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 12, 2020)

Hollywood turns TV series into movies all the time. However, they usually adapt successful TV series.

That pattern changed with 2005’s Serenity, a flick based on Firefly. Aired during the 2002-2003 season, Joss Whedon’s project lasted only 14 episodes before it got the axe.

Hollywood taketh away, but Hollywood also giveth. Whedon doggedly refused to give up on his creation, and he received ample support from the dedicated fans of the series. This resulted in a second chance, one that took place on the big screen with 2005’s Serenity.

Set a few hundred years in the future, Serenity quickly notifies us that overpopulation forced humans to colonize a new solar system. Some core planets formed the center of this and became an apparently enlightened civilization known as the Alliance.

However, the outer worlds were less easily tamed, and the two sides clashed. This led to battles between the Alliance and the Independents.

Alliance scientists take psychic subjects and turn them into skilled warriors. River Tam (Summer Glau) is their star pupil, but they lose her when her brother Simon (Sean Maher) reclaims her.

Simon takes her onto Serenity, the ship on which he serves as doctor. Led by Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), the crew acts as rogues for hire, and during the first mission we see, they rob a settlement. This goes poorly when violent mutated beings called Reavers arrive, and they barely escape.

After that we learn more about River’s abilities and her issues. We also find out that an Alliance operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) pursues River and that she possesses a secret that could damage the Alliance government. The film follows the Serenity’s pursuit of the truth while they attempt to avoid the operative and stay alive.

A film like Serenity encounters one major potential problem. It needs to make sure that new viewers understand its setting and scenario but it doesn’t want to bore established fans with excessive retelling of material they already know.

Since I’d not seen Firefly before I viewed the film, I didn’t know how well Serenity accomplished the latter, though I get the feeling fans loved it, so I assume they didn’t mind the movie’s “baby steps”.

I do know that Serenity handled the set-up quite well. Going into it, I worried that I’d be lost or confused due to my unfamiliarity with Firefly. That didn’t occur. Would the story have made more sense and would I have gotten more out of it if I’d watched Firefly?

Undoubtedly. I clearly missed out on some character nuances and had to play catch-up to a degree. However, writer/director Joss Whedon tells the story well enough to make sure that newbies like myself can focus on the plot and not worry too much about backdrop issues.

Whedon also wears his influences on his sleeve. As I watched the movie, connections to flicks like The Fifth Element, Blade Runner and Star Wars. Mal seems heavily influenced by Han Solo, and other reflections seem clear.

Happily, Serenity never comes across as a rip-off or something unimaginative. It manages to create its own universe and form its own feel. I can’t say it feels completely fresh, but it doesn’t suffer from its references.

Serenity seems darker than some of those influences, however. It presents a more overtly dangerous environment in which we don’t automatically assume the good guys will survive.

Indeed, one of them doesn’t, and that moment comes as a shock. (I don’t think this qualifies as a real spoiler – even with the knowledge someone will die, I doubt anyone will see the actual event in advance.) This threat makes the events more perilous and allows us to become more involved in matters.

Perhaps the only negative I’d attach to Serenity comes from its western leanings. The movie embraces some elements of that genre but doesn’t go far enough to really connect to them.

This leaves us with little more than some oddly awkward lines, most of which come from Kaylee. She gets stuck with groaners like “Goin' on a year now I ain't had nothin' twixt my nethers weren't run on batteries!” I’m not sure why Whedon goes for weird lines like that, but they don’t work.

Otherwise, I find a lot to like about Serenity. It creates an interesting setting along with good characters and a lot of fine action. It doesn’t reinvent the sci-fi genre, but it stands on its own and provides a strong effort.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio A/ Bonus A

Serenity appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an erratic presentation.

For the most part, sharpness seemed positive. Sporadic instances of softness materialized via interiors or wide shots, but these didn’t deliver legitimately fuzzy material.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering popped up, and I witnessed no edge enhancement. In addition, print flaws remained absent.

Colors tended toward teal or amber. These tended to lean toward the heavy side of the street and seemed denser than I’d anticipate.

Blacks could be crushed and inky, while shadows felt a bit opaque. The image worked well enough for a “B-“ but it didn’t excel.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Serenity seemed stronger, as I expected a lively soundfield from this sort of movie, and that’s what I got. The mix used all five channels actively throughout the flick, and it brought the visuals to life.

Elements emanated from everywhere in the spectrum and blended together smoothly. Battle sequences were the most effective, as anything that involved flying craft created an impressive setting. Other moments were solid as well, however, and the entire package combined to form a rich environment that engulfed us.

Audio quality also seemed good. Speech was natural and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other problems.

Music sounded bold and dynamic, while effects soared. Those elements always appeared accurate and vivid. They suffered from no distortion and offered excellent bass response.

Low-end was tight and deep. This was a superior soundtrack.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? Audio showed greater range and impact, while visuals seemed tighter and more dynamic. I wasn’t wild about the picture but it still bettered the DVD.

The Blu-ray mixes extras from the original DVD linked above and a later Collector’s Edition, and we find two separate audio commentaries, with the first from writer/director Joss Whedon. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that covers adapting the TV series and script/story issues, cast and characters, effects, cinematography and visuals, sets and design, stunts and fight scenes, and general notes.

Whedon infuses the track with a nice sense of humor and even lets us know some of their goofs. He digs into his movie well in this informative piece. Consistently interesting and enlightening, Whedon presents a terrific commentary.

For the second commentary, we hear from Whedon and actors Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Ron Glass. All sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story, characters, cast, performances, and general production topics.

After such a strong solo track from Whedon, I wasn’t sure how much he’d have left in the tank. “Not a lot” becomes the case, as this piece seems decent but not great.

Maybe “decent” serves as insufficient praise, as the commentary remains enjoyable and reasonably informative. However, it lacks the real insight of Whedon’s solo discussion. It becomes a reasonable complement to the first commentary but it doesn’t stand out as especially memorable on its own.

Nine Deleted Scenes fill a total of 13 minutes, 54 seconds. A fair number of these fall into the category of extended sequences, and some simply contribute a little extra exposition.

We learn more about Inara as well as how the Operative found her. Those are the most valuable added moments.

We can view these with or without commentary from Whedon. As with his main track, Whedon continues to give us good notes. He tells us background about the scenes and why he cut them. The commentary merits a listen.

A collection of Outtakes runs six minutes, four seconds. I thought this might include some small deleted snippets, but unfortunately, it offers nothing more than bloopers. I don’t find any of them to be particularly memorable or unusual.

Three featurettes follow, and Future History: The Story Of Earth That Was goes for four minutes, 32 seconds. It shows movie clips and remarks from Whedon.

He tells us a little about the origins of Firefly and then provides a quick history of the worlds it depicts. This is probably old news for fans of the series, but newbies will like it and might want to watch it before they check out Serenity.

During What’s In a Firefly, we hear from Whedon, executive producers Christopher Buchanan and Alisa Tager, CG supervisor Emil Smith, producer Barry Mendel, and visual effects supervisors Loni Peristere and Bud Myrick.

In the six-minute, 33-second piece, we get notes about the flick’s visual effects. It rushes through these quickly and lacks much detail, but it gives us a decent overview of the work done for the movie.

For the next featurette, we get Re-Lighting the Firefly. This nine-minute, 41-second program offers info from Whedon, Buchanan, actors Nathan Fillion, Jewel Staite, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Summer Glau, Gina Torres, Ron Glass, Sean Maher, and Adam Baldwin.

We hear about Firefly’s cancellation and all the work put into bringing it back to life. The program becomes a bit self-congratulatory, but it gives us some decent background.

In an odd twist, the disc come with an Introduction from Whedon stuck in the middle of the extras. He chats for three minutes, 54 seconds.

Created for preview screenings, Whedon discusses the background of the TV series and its resurrection as a movie. Though it repeats information from the last featurette, it acts as a decent historical artifact.

The remaining extras didn’t appear on the original DVD, and U-Control brings an interactive component. It splits into four areas: “Picture in Picture”, “Visual Commentary”, “Digital Tour” and “Mr. Universe’s Compendium”.

With “Picture in Picture”, we hear from Whedon, Fillion, Maher, Peristere, Baldwin, Torres, Tudyk, Staite, editor Lisa Lassek and assistant stunt coordinator Hiro Koda.

They cover story/characters and mythology, various effects, the titular vessel, cast and performances, stunts, and related topics. Some of this material repeats from elsewhere, but the clips give us a mix of good details.

As expected, the “Visual Commentary” just shows the Whedon/actors track as recorded. I never much enjoyed this kind of feature, so I prefer to just listen to the chat without visual accompaniment.

The “Compendium” presents “Decrypted Files” and “Intercepted Transmissions”. These domains offer text elements that offer minutiae about the film’s universe. They’re probably most interesting to diehard fans, but they’re pretty cool nonetheless.

For the final “U-Control” element, we find “Digital Tour of Serenity” – I guess. I tried this on two different Blu-ray players and never got it to actually do anything other than light up an icon on the side of the screen. Hope you have better luck!

For a wealth of information, we head to the Alliance Database. This area splits into four subjects:

“System: Explore local planets and moons and their relationship to the fugitive and the asset”.

“History: Background information on the three foremost events in the history of the system”.

“Classified: Classified information. Access denied”.

“Dossier: Profiles of citizens related to the pursuit of the fugitives and recovery of the asset”.

These mix photos, video and text to provide lots of details connected to the movie’s different elements. These boast a ton of fun notes, even if I couldn’t figure out how to unlock “Classified” – which may be intentional and it’s impossible to access.

Four Extended Scenes fill a total of six minutes, 14 seconds. Nothing especially consequential materializes, but most of the material seems entertaining.

Four more featurettes follow, and Take a Walk on Serenity goes for four minutes, six seconds. It offers notes from Fillion, Baldwin, Whedon, and Tudyk.

As expected, they take us around the spaceship set and tell us about upgrades from the TV version. Some of this seems glib, but we still get a nice view of the location.

With A Filmmaker’s Journey, we find a 19-minute, 55-second reel that features Whedon, Mendel, Buchanan, Glau, Staite, Torres, Baldwin, Tudyk, Maher, Baccarin, Glass, Tager, Koda, Lassek, and stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski.

The show focuses on the move from TV to movies, story/characters, cast and performances, stunts and action, editing and Whedon’s impact on the production. Some good material emerges, but a lot of it repeats from elsewhere – sometimes literally. This is a fairly fluffy piece that mainly exists for promotional reasons.

The Green Clan spans three minutes, seven seconds and includes Whedon as he discusses cinematographer Jack Green and all the family members he brought onto the shoot. This becomes a passable segment.

Finally, Session 416 offers a few clips that add up to eight minutes of footage. It offers footage designed to show River’s development. The snippets provide intrigue.

The Firefly TV series died an early death, but it earned a big-screen revival with Serenity. Based on what I saw here, it deserved that second chance. Exciting, quirky and involving, the movie works well. The Blu-ray offers generally good picture along with excellent audio and bonus materials. Though visuals slightly disappoint, this still becomes a pretty terrific release.

To rate this film visit the DVD review.