Monday, January 30, 2006

DVD Review: Firefly and Serenity

I'm not very discerning when it comes to movies. I'm just as happy watching 'rubbish' like Fast and Furious as I am watching more 'intelligent' movies like, erm... (struggles to think of an intelligent movie) Bladerunner, Crash (2005) or Magnolia.

I'm increasingly getting into watching TV series' on DVD. I don't always have time (or inclination) to sit and watch a whole movie, but I can watch an episode of West Wing, Desperate Housewives or 24 while eating my dinner, with plenty of time to write my blog afterwards.

I'm not quite sure how I came across Firefly. I think it was in the 'if you liked this, you'll probably like this' list on Amazon. When I saw it was created by Joss Whedon (Buffy) and written and produced by members of the Buffy team, I decided to give it a try. I loved it, as did my two boyz Zak (13) and Brook (18).

I'll let Firefly's Captain Malcolm 'Mal' Reynolds' opening lines introduce the show...

Here's how it is: Earth got used up, so we terraformed a whole new galaxy of Earths, some rich and flush with new technologies, some not so much. Central Planets, them was formed the Alliance, waged war to bring everyone under their rule; a few idiots tried to fight it, among them myself. I'm Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the Serenity. Got a good crew: fighters, pilot, mechanic. We even picked up a preacher, and a bona fide companion. There's a doctor, too, rescued his genius sister from some Alliance camp, so they're keeping a low profile. You got a job, we can do it, don't much care what it is.

If it sounds like you'll hate it, you probably will. However, it is intelligently done and, like Buffy, deeply indebted to the world of history and myths. Except this time Whedon is dealing with the myth of America: the Frontier, the Civil War, the rise of the Corporation, etc.

Firefly can be watched on a number of levels. It has enough action and humour to be perceived as a fast-moving action flick. But there is enough depth for futher investigation. There are levels of grey in its characters' moral scale. The villains are not slimy aliens, but humans. Whedon seems to be aware that in 500 years mankind will still be its own worst enemy.

There are the 'haves' who keep to the government rules. And the outlaws who live in 'The Black' - Whedon's frontier third world - where it is possible to exist without the interference (or benefit) of civilization and government. Like Bladerunner (did I mention I love Bladerunner?) the future has a thick patina of dents and grime. Unlike Star Trek, its Federation-like central power (the Alliance) is interpreted as being ideologically fascist and totalitarian. Whedon is (of course) on the side of those who resisted and lost.

Fox (the US channel that originally aired the series) did everything in its power to kill it off, including airing episodes out of order, skipping weeks after only three episodes and, cancelling the show without even airing episodes 12, 13 and 14 (out of 15). But you can see all 630 minutes of Firefly for just £18 (post free) from That's just under 3p a fun-packed minute!

Whedon wasn't happy at Firefly being canned. And neither were the cast. Fortunately (for Firefly fans like me) Joss managed to get Universal Pictures to let him finish off the Firefly series in a movie, using all the original members of the original series.

Serenity is an excellent movie. I took my two boyz to see it on its cinema release. Five minutes into the film, Brook turned to me and said 'They're talking like Manga actors' (poor kid, looks like he's doomed to analyse everything he watches just like his dad!). The film combined a wide variety of film genres, including Manga, Western, Star Wars, Martial Arts and Zombie, all knit into an absorbing, often humourous film. There are plenty of surprises and we all emerged with wide smiles on our faces, vowing to get it on DVD as soon as it was available.

It's available on Region 2 DVD from February 27, but if you've got a multi-region player, you can get it now from for £9.99 including postage.

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