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April 24 2006

DVD Talk reviews the Serenity HD-DVD. Got to love a review that the photographic style "doesn't necessarily look like a crisp and antiseptic Star Trek movie". This is probably the most authoritative review of the HD-DVD to date.

No Fruity Oaty Bar Easter Egg? Surely not.

It's be nice if reviewers could show Serenity love without slagging off Star Trek.
Well, reviewers are around to show personal preference, so I'm okay with it.
I don't think it's necessarily a slag from the reviewer. Each 'verse has its own visual style, suited to its mission statement. I don't think the reviewer denies that. If I may say so, I think Simon made it more of an issue than the reviewer did.
I just thought it was a very clever line. Didn't occur to me it bashed Star Trek (those movies do have a distinctive feel to them as does Serenity).
Does anyone know why Serenity was picked as one of the launch title for HD DVD? Just curious.
It's funny that ultimately many Joss fans pick either the Buffyverse or the 'verse as their favorite, and slightly denigrate--sometimes unintentionally--the "other side." This reviewer is in the Buffy First camp.
Does anyone know why Serenity was picked as one of the launch title for HD DVD?

How about...
this HD-DVD release of Serenity is a must-have for both fans of the movie and HD-DVD owners looking for something fun to show off their new electronic toys.


There you go: released now, early HD-DVD adopters might be inclined to buy this movie when they don't have anything else to watch. In six months, there's no compelling reason for someone who has HD-DVD but not Serenity to buy it. Also, check the reviewers comments about future quality--Serenity is better than DVD, but he hopes HD-DVD gets as much better than this as current DVDs are better than the initial ones. Thus, since Serenity will never have the big draw of a King Kong HD-DVD release, it's a safe choice for the studio if things don't turn out so hot--they'll save the more premium titles for once the market penetration is higher and all the bugs are worked out.
I found the comments about the lighting interesting. It was almost like the reviewer did not get the feel of it. Serenity obviously just missed for him but it was nice that he still felt it was a solid sci-fi movie. Can't please everybody all of the time etc.
I think it's a pretty fair, honest review so I can appreciate it even if I don't neccessarily agree with all of it. I do agree that Easter Eggs are completely pointless, though, and it would be much better to have all the extras on a DVD well organised and visible.

I do think the phrases, "the movie was a tremendous box office flop" and "financial failure" are a little harsh, though. It may not have been the next Star Wars in terms of box office revenue, but it wasn't Catwoman either. I'm sure by now with the DVD the film is at least making a modest profit, which may not be too impressive but it isn't technically a 'failure'.

Also, I noticed that the reviewer kind of implied that he/she thought that the Inara scenes would have worked in the theatrical cut of the film, and I was wondering about this myself, as I haven't seen discussed it here, what do you guys think?

Personally I can understand Joss' reasons for cutting the Inara material, as it slowed down the pacing and wasn't too important to the main plot, but I'm not sure just how important that would be. I personally think it probably would have been okay to include it in the film, and further develop both Inara and, more importantly to the main story, Mal.
I don't think Inara's story had that much bearing on Mal's character. Now, certainly, her returning to Serenity at the end was a key moment for Mal - but that's there. I'd have cut Inara's training house scenes, too. They do look stunning, however, when contrasted to the rest of the film.
Now, certainly, her returning to Serenity at the end was a key moment for Mal


Mmmh, are you sure she returns? :P
Does anyone know why Serenity was picked as one of the launch title for HD DVD? Just curious.

Could it also be that it wouldn't cost as much to convert/compress (whatever) "Serenity" onto HD-DVD format as something with bigger budget visual effects like "King Kong" ?
Of course, I like to think it's because it's a great film and 'Versal is proud having made it and wants all the world to know. That's where I'm at.
How much was spent on effects etc for a flick shouldn't make any difference to the cost of the transfer to HD-DVD. I also think "tremendous flop" is harsh. Any movie that makes back its $40 million budget (or damned close before ancillary) doesn't seem deserving of that phrase.
I also think the "flop" line was too harsh. Had it truly been a flop -- that is, with no critical praise at all AND a horrible box office -- Universal would not have gone with it as its first HD-DVD offering. I'm still of the opinion that the film wasn't well marketed (although we've talked that one to death, so I'm not intending to begin that again), so I rather disagree with the line about the promotion, too. The amount of promotion may have been reasonable for a film with its budget (I certainly wouldn't characterize it as "heavy"), the quality was the real issue. At least he gets something of a dig in about the cover. But I thought it was a balanced review on whole, and in that distant future when I can actually afford HD-TV, HD-DVD Serenity will be my first purchase.
Damn shipping. I've had my HD DVD player bought and paid for a week ago, but it still isn't here. Bah humbug.
Also, I noticed that the reviewer kind of implied that he/she thought that the Inara scenes would have worked in the theatrical cut of the film, and I was wondering about this myself, as I haven't seen discussed it here, what do you guys think?

Personally I can understand Joss' reasons for cutting the Inara material, as it slowed down the pacing and wasn't too important to the main plot, but I'm not sure just how important that would be.


Um, you're not asking how important are pacing and plot...are you?
Pacing and plot are extrememly important. They keep your audience engaged. And you don't ever want to lose your audience. If there is action/horror/drama, sometimes you have to "let the air out" a bit tiny in order to build "pressure" up again.
Sometimes this is done with a little touch of comedy. Shakespeare even did this.
Sometimes it's done with a little romance. But sometimes you don't need it. What you need is to get to the point.
The Inara/Mal scenes were nice to see, but they would have just stopped the momentum of the film dead in its tracks.
I commend Joss for cutting what needed to be cut.
By the way, heard an interview with David Mamet and he talked about this very thing. Way cool interview at KCRW's "The Treatment" with Elvis Mitchell.
: )
Then again, to each his own. I've never felt a movie was too long (often I wish they were longer, e.g. X-Men). Take Unbreakable. A friend of mine can't stand it, because it's so slow and boring (to him), yet it's one of my favorite movies. For my taste, throw the kitchen sink in there, I wanna see it all (LOTR extended editions, woohoo!). Then again, for a broad audience and a successful film, I guess you do have to be more selective.
I actually started to put together an extended version of Serenity of my own, which runs about 10 or so extra minutes, using the US and Australia deleted scenes. It doesn't flow as well, but viewed _purely_ as a 'long' version it has it's merits.
I really don't think the extended Inara bits work. The scene with Sheydra is poor, and her conversation with Mal, while nice, does kind of decrease the tension.
I imagine Serenity was the perfect candidate for the HD DVD release. People interested in having new technology right now are apt to think, "Oh yeah, that movie. Haven't seen it yet. Heard it was cool, so why not buy it now since I have very few other choices at the moment?" If people buy/rent for that reason, it might help make up for not-good box office totals. And like the reviewer says, people who did see it tended to like it. I mean, my father saw it and liked it. That's absolute proof non-fans can like it if they give it a chance. People who buy it for the HD technology when they don't know much about it already are likely to find it a pleasing little nugget. They'll wonder why they didn't see it sooner.
I agree that the pace of Serenity as seen on screens was just right. AmazonGirl's explanation of why is great, I can't add anything to that! So, sorry, Mal/Inara 'shippers, but I think the scenes that were cut were better as DVD extras than they would have been in the film.
To answer my own question, I'm thinking that the reason why they used Serenity as a launch release is similar to the comic on penny arcade for friday. Instead of Phantom of the Opera for women, it's a trick to get Whedonesquers to be early adopters to the technology.
re: a trick to get Whedonesquers to be early adopters to the technology

theyarescientists, I think you may be on to something there. Reading about the picture quality and thinking about watching the film with all that much more definition (individual pores!) did make me salivate. For a moment I even scrapped my current plan to get a cheap-as-hell DVD player because I wore out the drivers in my puter recently...and then I remembered my budget.
I hear you, April. I bought a second DVD player so that I could see the Australian version but I only paid $20.00 for it. Well worth the price!
I would have liked to have seen the Mal/Inara moment outside the crashed ship on Miranda. But I can agree that probably it really would have disturbed the pace. This wasn't the Inara/Mal show. If it had been the series, we would have had time for that. sigh.
Blockbuster online now has the HD Serenity (among four other HD discs) for rental so if HD-DVD drives come out for the PC @ $100 or less, this could be popular.
AmazonGirl, no I wasn't asking if pacing was generally important in a film. I meant how do people feel the Inara scenes would have affected the pacing? Would the momentum of the plot still be sustained or would it have made the film too slow? Perhaps I didn't phrase the question properly, my bad.

But that's what I wanted to discuss. As I said before, I can see why it might have slowed down the pacing slightly, which made me wonder was it an issue of not wanting to bore non-Firefly fans, who may not have been as interested in this extra material, or would they have been grateful to have a little more character development?

Personally I do think it could have worked with some of the additional material put in the theatrical release. Maybe not all of it, like the extended parts of the escape from The Operative at the training house, but I think the scene with Sheydra and the scene directly after the "We're gonna need paint" scene on Haven, when Mal speaks to Inara in her shuttle.

As I said before, I think the film works as it is but I don't think these few scenes would have drastically affected the pacing, and you don't always actually have to sustain the very fast pacing that Serenity had. One film that springs to mind is Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, where the main plot is ignored as the film suddenly veers off into explaining Jen Yu's past and a romantic encounter. I actually really liked this shift to a slightly slower paced story, and was just wondering if people think that's what would have happened to Serenity, and if so, would that really have been such a bad thing?

Also, the scenes are still quite short, adding on maybe five minutes of material may have fleshed out Inara's character a little more. I realise she isn't integral to Mal's journey in the film, but she is a part of it, and dare I venture to suggest that people who hadn't seen Serenity may not have guessed at her significance at all, and because she has relatively few lines could be seen as simply the pretty love interest?

Whilst I wouldn't say I interpreted it that way myself, I just think that due to the fast pace of the film and the fact that Inara wasn't on board Serenity with the rest of the crew at the start (which already gave characters like Kaylee and Jayne to make a strong impression) might have made her character seem quite enigmatic or unimportant. I think the scenes might have explained her importance to Mal is quite a concise way, and enriched his character a little, even though she wasn't central to the main plot.

The scene with Sheydra certainly makes Inara's profession much more obvious than the relatively subtle hints that the theatrical cut had, which would explain the difficulty between them and that there aren't complications between them. I think that scene very effectively highlights many aspects of her character, such as her sensuality, intelligence, progressiveness and yet the fact that she isn't fully satisfied with this coveted lifestyle.

I'm not trying to criticise Joss or suggest I could have improved the film at all, but I just thought the scenes did serve an important purpose and I don't think they would have negatively impacted upon the film in a significant way.
When I got the DVD the first thing I did (after watching the film itself, of course) was look at the deleted scenes. In each case I thought, "That was great! You shouldn't have cut that out!" Then I watched them again with JW's commentary, and in each case having heard his reasons I realised he was right.

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