The oppressive Parliament controls human civilization, willing to engage in any atrocity for the sake of a dubious greater good. A teenage girl, developed as a psychic super-weapon and traumatized by some mysterious event, is broken out of Parliament custody by her brother, and the two become part of the fractious crew of the mercenary ship Serenity. This crew is made up of veterans of independent colonies who fought in an unsuccessful war against the Parliament. Captain Malcolm Reynolds is …eluctant to stick his neck out for the two refugees, but events eventually force him to take a stand.
Sure, this can be read allegorically as a conservative’s worst nightmare (the nanny state as galactic empire). But let that be. Writer/director Joss Whedon has done something pretty remarkable here. In the first place, the movie is completely accessible for those (such as myself) who never saw the TV show from whence it sprang. Secondly, the Malcolm Reynolds may be a familiar type (the jaded cynic with the heart of gold, hello To Have and Have Not and Casablanca), but is far more convincingly merciless than Han Solo ever was. The special effects, though occasionally betraying their computer origins, are for the most part very successful. But the best part is the writing. Instead of the portentous pronouncements of the Star Wars films, Whedon has here created a convincingly futuristic dialect that incorporates (fittingly) some of the turns of phrase one associates with the western. Wow. A space opera whose script has a discernible style. We don’t see that often, kids. And though there is plenty of humour, when tragedy hits, it hits hard.
BOOM! The audio’s volume is high and mighty, and the space battles and other big audio moments thunder from the speakers on all sides. There is never any distortion, though, either in the explosions or the dialogue (with the latter never drowned out by the nicely rendered music). The placement of the effects is generally excellent, though there are a couple of instances of the surround going overboard (for example, one sees the Serenity landing in the middle distance, but the engines are roaring in the rear speakers).
The colours are vibrant, the contrasts excellent. Same for the deep blacks and accurate flesh tones. There is no visible grain, and edge enhancement isn’t a problem either. The image is razor sharp. Great. A home run, then? Not quite. Every once in a while, there is a slight pulse. It doesn’t happen often, and isn’t sever, but is still noticeable when it happens. Call it a triple, then.
The extras (at least on the review copy) do not include a commentary. What you have is a batch of deleted and extended scenes and outtakes, and three featurettes. “Future History: The Story of the Earth that Was” helps contextualize the movie, “What’s in a Firefly” is a look at the special effects, and “Re-Lighting the Firefly” traces the project from cancelled TV show to movie revival. Though promotional, the featurettes are helped immeasurably by the smart comments of Whedon. He also contributes a four-minute introduction to the disc. There is also a still gallery. I’m giving the menu a default rating of 2.5 stars because there was no menu at all on the review copy.
Brisk, exciting and moving, and not ponderous at all. Remember when the Star Wars movies were like this?
Special Features List
- 3 Featurettes
- Extended and Deleted Scenes
- Joss Whedon Introduction