SERENITY COLLECTOR’S EDITION Studio: Universal Original Release: 2005 Length: 1 hour 59 mins Genre: Science Fiction/Action Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 English DTS 5.1 French Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Group Commentary Rating: PG-13 Release Date: August 21, 2007 Rating: / Starring: Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Chiwetel Ejiofor Written and Directed by: Joss Whedon Serenity is the resurrection and continuation of Joss Whedon’s science fiction western television series Firefly. It’s amazing to think of the amount of good fortune it took to get this film made, considering that Universal was picking up a property discarded by another studio, as well as taking the gamble of making a movie from a cancelled television series that didn’t complete its first season. This speaks nothing of the quality of the show – just a note of the odds against such a film being made in the first place. And yet, the film was made, and we now have a shiny new 2-disc Collector’s Edition, loaded with additional features past the original single-disc release from December 2005. The film itself is a fun ride through Joss Whedon’s futuristic western universe. It has clearly been designed to bring the newcomers in while rewarding the fans of the series with a proper sendoff for their characters. Having never seen the series myself, I experienced this film as a newbie, and I was still able to easily follow the plot and the characters. I enjoyed the story, as well as Whedon’s ability to mix comedy and drama in surprising ways. The new DVD contains a mixture of older material and new features. The complete original DVD release has been included, along with features from the international DVD releases for R2 and R4. For this release, Universal has added four elements. First, they have added a 5.1 DTS audio track. Second, they have added a new scene-specific group commentary with Joss Whedon and several cast members. (This commentary also receives a subtitle track, but this feature is not listed on the DVD packaging.) Third, they have added a black and white video feature that apparently stems from internet promotions. Finally, they have added a 21 minute Sci-Fi Channel promotional piece. The result is a pretty loaded pair of platters that will reward both the casual viewer and the fan of the original Firefly series. VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5 Serenity is presented in a solid anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. There is a large range of colors on display throughout, from desert scrub exteriors to digital space battles, and all the colors come through vividly. Blacks are solid in the space sequences, and fleshtones feel accurate through an extremely diverse cast. In short, this was a pleasure to watch. AUDIO QUALITY: 4 ½ /5 ½ Serenity is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English, a new 5.1 DTS mix in English, and 2.0 mixes in French and Spanish. The DTS mix is full-throated to be sure, with plenty of gunfire and spaceship engine effects to keep the subwoofer busy throughout. This is a fairly loud film, and yet the dialogue sequences play just as well as the chases and gunplay. This film is a good example of a piece that can benefit from having a solid DTS soundtrack. By the same logic, it might be a good idea to screen this film in the afternoon or early evening – a late night screening with the speakers turned up may get you reacquainted with your neighbors... SPECIAL FEATURES: 4.5/5 ½ Serenity is packed with special features, spread over two discs. Let’s take them in order. Disc ONE contains, along with the movie itself: Feature Commentary with Joss Whedon - This is Whedon’s scene-specific commentary from the original 2005 DVD release. Feature Group Commentary with Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Adam Baldwin and Ron Glass - This is a new commentary recorded with all the participants watching the film together. It’s a fun commentary, with Whedon’s specific references balanced by a lot of mutual appreciation and kidding around. It’s easy to tell that these guys were having a lot of fun seeing the film again and just being with each other. One drawback is that there are a lot of instances of crosstalk, which can make it hard to understand what is being said. Not to fear – Universal has included a fourth subtitle track, specifically of this commentary. This subtitle track is not mentioned in the packaging, but you can find it by scrolling through the subtitle options. Deleted Scenes– (14:40 total, non-anamorphic) This non-anamorphic collection of deleted scenes and scene extensions comes from the original DVD release. You can watch the scenes with or without Whedon’s commentary. There’s a lot of additional character flavouring here, but nothing that I found truly crucial to understanding the story. Extensions – (6:45 total, non-anamorphic) Several extended versions of extant scenes are included here, along with an improvised shuttle dialogue. As with the deleted material, there isn’t anything really crucial. The extensions have previously been seen on international releases, but not here in the US. Outtakes (6:05 total, non-anamorphic) – This non-anamorphic collection of blown takes includes a few moments of inspired lunacy by Nathan Fillion and a whole lot of flubbed dialogue. For those who want to stick to the PG-13 rating on the disc, be warned that there’s quite a lot of profanity here. This is another feature from the original DVD release. Take a Walk on SERENITY (4:36, non-anamorphic) – This brief tongue-in-cheek tour of the expanded ship sets comes from international DVD releases. It’s a way to both get a better close-up look at the sets and hear a lot of one-liners from the tour guides. The Green Clan (3:08, non-anamorphic) – This quick look at cinematographer Jack Green’s family comes from international DVD releases. As it turns out, several other Green family members worked in the camera crew, including the “A” camera focus puller, the “B” camera operator and the “B” camera clapper loader. Joss Whedon Introduction (3:55, Full Frame) – This brief full-frame introduction is another holdover from the original DVD release. In it, Whedon introduces the film to preview audiences. We’ll Have a Fruity Oaty Good Time (1:39) – This brief look at the featured commercial was apparently an Easter Egg on the original DVD. For this release, the profile was added to the standard features. This already would be a pretty packed DVD, but as an old 70’s commercial used to say, “Wait! There’s more!” Disc TWO contains the following features: A Filmmaker’s Journey (19:56, non-anamorphic) – This non-anamorphic making-of featurette comes from international DVD releases. It’s a pretty standard featurette, including the usual on-set footage and interviews, intercut with clips from the film. There’s an emphasis on the stuntwork done by the lead actors, including the dancing and fighting abilities of Summer Glau, as well as the ability of Nathan Fillion to be convincingly beaten up on multiple occasions. Future Earth: The Story of Earth that Was (4:33, non-anamorphic) – This is a quick non-anamorphic look at the fictional backstory behind both the TV series and the moon. This was included on the original DVD release. Re-Lighting the Firefly (9:42, non-anamorphic) – This is essentially a briefer look at the process of bringing the TV show back to life. This was another featurette that was included on the original DVD release. What’s In a Firefly? (6:34, non-anamorphic) – This brief featurette, also from the original DVD release, discusses the work done by ZOIC and other facilities to create the digital worlds and spaceships on display in the film. Session 416 (10:81, Full Frame) – This black and white full frame video of Summer Glau’s various interrogations (if you can call it that) apparently stems from the internet promotions done for the film in 2005. To my knowledge, this feature has not been included on DVD before. (I may be wrong about this...) Sci-Fi Inside: Serenity (21:47, non-anamorphic) – This is a fairly light promotional piece that aired on the Sci Fi Channel at the time of the film’s premiere. As an interesting note, the footage of the cast and Joss Whedon being interviewed comes from the same interview session as was used for many other special features on this disc. To my knowledge, this featurette has not been included on any other DVD to date. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. IN THE END... Serenity is a truly enjoyable science fiction adventure, made with a lot of love by the original creator of the TV series Firefly. The new Collector’s Edition adds to the enjoyment by including several featurettes only seen in other parts of the world, along with a new 5.1 DTS track, a new group commentary, and a pair of special featurettes that had not been included on any of the prior DVD releases here or abroad. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s worth your time. If you have seen it, or already own the earlier DVD, this one is at least worth a rental. Kevin Koster August 22, 2007.