To say I was excited about this title would be an understatement. Now, saying that, I can say when I first saw the movie trailer I was far from excited. It seemed like just another 'sci-fi, space' movie that we have seen, oh, so many times. Serenity came out as a finale to the short-lived Firefly series that ran on FX in a completely random order.
Serenity picks up right were Firefly left off, aboard Captain Malcolm Reynolds' (Nathan Fillion) ship The Serenity. Actually, it starts by Simon Tam (Sean Maher) breaking his sister, River (Summer Glau), out of psychiatric imprisonment - which was an event that occurred even before the Firefly series. Shortly after the movie begins they join the rest of the crew - Gina Torres as Zoe Washburne, a former corporal who fought under Mal in the war. Alan Tudyk as Hoban "Wash" Washburne the pilot of the ship, and Zoe's comedic husband. Morena Baccarin as the absolutely beautiful Inara Serra, a companion who rents a vessel off of the Serenity. Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb, a mercenary skilled with weapons who is always listening to the highest bidder. Jewel Staite as Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye, the cute and spunky ship's mechanic, who has a very large crush on Simon. You also get a short sequence with Ron Glass as Shepherd Derrial Book, who played a crucial role in the series. The whole crew is important and plays their essential roles throughout the movie.
Throughout the whole movie the crew is on the run, trying to survive and trying to earn an honest living, well maybe not honest - but still a living. As River proves herself to be a 'trained weapon', the crew realizes there is more going on with the Alliance (government of the inner planets) and the universe as a whole, and they must stand firm instead of running. With the Alliance hot on their tails, Captain Mal must deal with the issues of the crew (one, big, dysfunctional family), the assassin on their tail, and the many other frights of deep space.
The movie is action packed, funny, and enjoyable all the way through. The acting is top-notch and each character brings exactly what they need to the table. The only issue that one might run across is for people who have not seen the Firefly series. Without first seeing the Firefly series, all the characters, especially the Shepherd and Inara, seem to have no depth. The relationships aren't as layered as they should be, and all the tragedy or accomplishments won't bring out the emotion they should. Basically, the nine out of ten I'm giving this movie is only this good if you've seen the series.
Being a movie that strives on presentation, Universal had to deliver. Lucky enough, we get a presentation that's pleasing to the eyes and sweet (enough) on the ears. The picture quality is amazing. Every scene is three dimensional offering plenty of detail. Colors stand firm, shining brightly and correctly - blues, reds, and yellows all very distinct. Most of the movie is dark - as it's set in space - and it really plays off of all the dark colors. Blacks do crush at times, losing detail, but for the most part they stay incredibly strong. From beginning to end, you can tell the movie is high definition, and it stands leagues ahead of the standard DVD version.
The audio, although deep, can be troubling at times. The vocals, especially towards the beginning, echo and are hollow. They also, consistently try to outshine the rest of the sound that is produced. About fifteen minutes into the movie, the vocals settle down and come into their own. The audio does have it's bright spots though. Action sequences are vibrant, using all five speakers to the fullest. The ship's engines roar, and guns fire loud and proud. Overall the audio does have it's issues, but it is pleasing overall.
One of the biggest advantages for Serenity on Blu-ray over HD DVD is the extra features. Universal delivered Serenity on HD DVD as the 'standard package' but by time the Blu was prepped for release, Serenity had already seen the special edition on DVD, meaning all those extras were ready to transfer to the Blu-ray release. I knew what I was in for once I listed the features in the right column, and it took nearly as long as it did to write the review.
EDIT: Although these features below are considered to be in High Definition, some of the PiP video will run at upconverted 480p while the movie presentation will remain in full 1080p (end edit).
Serenity was treated very nicely for a movie that only raked in $25 million and was the continuing chapter to a failed television series. You'll have hours of extras to keep you entertained - and don't get overwhelmed and forget to enjoy the movie.
Serenity is a rare jewel that was treated like it was a dirty, old rock. After the show was aired in a random order, the movie saw saving grace by Universal - and still didn't get the publicity it deserved. For those of you who love Sci-fi, this is a must see, and if you are a Firefly fan, this is a must own.