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HD-DVD Review: Serenity

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“Earth that was could no longer sustain our numbers, we were so many. We found a new solar system, dozens of planets and hundreds of moons. Each one terra-formed a process taking decades, to support human life, to be new earths. The Central Planets formed the Alliance. Ruled by an interplanetary parliament, the Alliance was a beacon of civilization.”

The Serenity, a ship commanded by Captain Malcom Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), scours the solar system looking for work. Mal and his crew allow Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) to accompany them, paying for his passage as the ship’s medic. Simon has only boarded the Serenity with one purpose in mind, rescuing his sister River (Summer Glau) from the alliance. Little does anyone know, River is actually part of an experiment that may or may not put anyone near her in grave danger.

By saving River, Mal has put the safety of his crew in jeopardy. The alliance is relentlessly seeking Mal and River, killing anyone in their path. The alliance employs their best operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to apprehend their property and return her back into custody. By protecting River, Mal starts to uncover much more about her and the world in which he lives. He finds that she carries a secret that the alliance would stop at nothing to keep, but needs to be exposed.

Serenity is a film that I had not seen until I watched the HD-DVD. I had no idea what I was missing. The movie itself is a home theater gem. Serenity is a title that is completely underrated as a film and as a reference title; on any format it is a must own. The CG is incredibly realistic and is rivaled only by Star Wars. I had not heard of Serenity until its DVD release, but I’m glad I waited to see it because the only real way to watch it is in HD-DVD.

Captivating! The one word or less description of this movie. Starting off with colors so vibrant and visuals so crisp and smooth, this film kept my eyes glued from start to finish. The action is incredible and Joss Whedon has found the ultimate canvas for his picturesque world in HD. Just seeing the sweat bead down Nathan Fillion’s face made me stare in amazement. The world and its characters created by Whedon are absolutely magnificent and Serenity could shape up to be one of the premier franchises for years to come. The film has sparked some major fans to petition for the return of the cancelled television series that inspired the film, Firefly; and rightfully so.

The bass reverberated through the room like a freight train. The film flexed the muscles of every speaker. The tailspin sequence almost made me nauseous as the screen and sound were spinning uncontrollably. This has become one of my favorite films for showing off my home theater, and for good reason. It is films like Serenity that give the HD-DVD format a future. While HD-DVD is still young, after watching one and then watching another, standard definition DVD seems blurry now. With this film setting the HD-DVD benchmark for Sound and Video quality, the only question that remains is ‘What is next?’

[Author’s Note: The film grade is gauged against any film while the Picture and Audio grades are gauged against other HD-DVDs. HD-DVD Value refers to whether or not the film is worth re-purchasing or re-watching in this new format.]

The Upside:
The best space film since Star Wars.
The Downside:
Will we see another Serenity?
On The Side:
There is an inside joke printed on some of the crates in the cargo bay. Some of the crates have the message “Reusable Container: Do Not Destroy” printed on them. The original set for the ship, from the show Firefly was destroyed (even though creator Joss Whedon swore he’d make use of it again), and therefore could not be reused for the movie (the set had to be rebuilt from scratch).

Breaking Down the HD-DVD:
The Film: B

The Picture: A
The Audio: A
HD-DVD Value: A

HD-DVD Stats:
Release Date: April 18th, 2006
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Maher
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Writing Credits: Joss Whedon
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, and some sexual references.
Country: USA
Run Time: 134 min.
Studio: Universal (official site)
Trailer

By Brian Gibson, Associate Editor of Film School Rejects

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  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    I am not ready jump in on HD DVD (the official way of writing it, no hyphen), or Blu ray for that matter. But I must chime in on the movie. I was a fan of the short lived series that Fox screwed with, including airing episodes out of the intended order. That helped kill it right from the start. If you watch the series, keep in mind, The Train Job was what was aired for the premiere.

    I saw this in the theater 2x and have watched the DVD a few times since. It exceeded all of my expectations. Wonderful, epic, action packed, great dialog, it was an absolute blast. One of the most entertaining flicks I’ve seen in awhile.