L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Firefly – The Complete Series [Blu-ray]

 

(Joss Whedon, 2002)

 

 

 

 

 

There is also a Limited Edition Steelbook available in the UK:

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: 20th Century Fox

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Pilot Runtime: 1:26:42.197 (665 minutes in total)

Disc Size: 46,993,282,576 bytes

Pilot Size: 18,200,875,008 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.45 Mbps

Chapters: 21

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 11th, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3331 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3331 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio German 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

Subtitles:

English, Spanish, Dutch, none

 

Extras:

• Commentaries on 8 Episodes

• Here's How It Was: The Making of Firefly (28:39) in SD

• Featurette: Serenity: The 10th Character (9:45) in SD

• Featurette: Joss Tours the Set (1:23) in SD

• Featurette: Joss Sings the Firefly Theme (1:16) in SD

• Alan Tudyk's Audition Tape (1:04) in SD

• Gag Reel (2:40) in SD

• 4 Deleted Scenes

• Trailer for Dollhouse

 

 

The Film: 7.5
After Richard Blaine ran guns for the losing side against the Nazi's in Ethiopia, then fought on the side of the Loyalists in Spain – he spent a=some while in Paris until the Germans marched in. Licking his political and emotional wounds, he opened a saloon in Casablanca where he expected to sit out the rest of the war as a certified cynic. Malcolm Reynolds fought on the losing side in a civil war 500 years from now, and after the Alliance put everything back in order - albeit an insidious, bureaucratic order, with more than a whiff of fascism about it – Mal became a criminal. While Nathan Fillion is no Bogart, and Joss Whedon, as much as I admire him, is not the Epsteins, the resemblance, even if unconscious, is both a plus and a liability. We tend to root for the underdog, and when the hero is a little vague about his own moral convictions – that makes him all the more interesting.

If you read through current reviews of Joss Whedon's short lived television series from 2002, you will see references to Whedon's smart writing, evidenced by the brilliant Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the unexpected cancellation of the show in mid season; the conception of a horse opera in space; a large cast, whose backstories take their time to unwind; the airing of episodes out of order: Two examples - the two-part pilot was the eleventh episode to air, and what should have been the final episode (of 14), Objects in Space, was aired in the 10 spot. Couldn't have helped.

The series takes its name from the Firefly class of starship, of which the Serenity is one of its relics. Mal is the captain. His crew doubles as smugglers that try to stay a step ahead of Alliance federalis. Also in pursuit are a group of vicious predators known as Reavers and whomever else Mal manages to offend in one episode or other. His crew consists of Zoe, his number 1 (Gina Torres); Wash, pilot and husband to Zoe (Alan Tudyk); Kaylee, engineer (Jewel Staite); and Jayne, the muscle whose loyalties are always in question (Adam Baldwin).

In the pilot, they pick up four paying passengers who, by the end of the episode, seem likely to be here for the duration: Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) and his sister, River (Summer Glau); Inara (Morena Baccarin), a registered "companion" – or classy prostitute if you will, who seems to have an uncomfortable recent history with Mal, and a preacher fellow – maybe – named Shepherd Book (Ron Glass). A good deal of the series is motivated by River, a super intelligent creature who had been in the hands of the Alliance for a couple years, where they did all sorts of unspeakable things to get at or enhance her potential. That's why Simon arranged to have her kidnapped into his protection and how Mal came to pick them up.

 


 

Image: 5/7   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

I'm thinking Firefly looks pretty good considering that in 2002 high-definition video was just a twinkle in the eye – and this is made for TV stuff. Not that the series wasn't shot with care, and not that a number of older sitcoms don't look perfectly glorious on DVD. One contributor might be all the CGI and how much it eats away at resolution if big bucks aren't spent: TV material wasn't the likely destination for such money.

It makes sense to me that the producers wouldn’t want to alternate between sharply filmed scenes over here and murkier scenes over there without good cause. That said, there are moments of relative clarity. Then there's the fact that Joss really wasn't going for a picture perfect image, even though he shot the series on 35mm film. Fine detail or awesome resolution is not the objective here - after all, the action takes place on a tramp ship and in bizarre, often dimly lit fantasy locations. On the other hand, contrast (while at times extending beyond the limits of the medium) and color are generally appropriate to the scene and the thrust of the art direction. In those darker scenes, grain is significant, yet blacks remain noiseless after a moment of noticeable noise in the pilot episode during the nighttime battle just as the story gets under way. I didn’t find a repeat performance. Edge enhancement rarely makes itself felt.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/8
I had more trouble than I expected with the dialogue – and, after seven years with Buffy, I would have thought this would have come easier. But, no, it's just a shade whatever the opposite of crisp is. On the other hand, the music and effects were most cool, a nice 5.1 DTS HD-MA upgrade from the 2.0 of the DVD: enveloping, spacious and with all manner of armament fire and ship noises in all the right places. It's not Hellboy, and doesn't aspire to be.

 

Operations: 7
The menu operations take a bit of getting used to, seems there's more clicks needed to get where you want to, especially if your destination is a special feature, but the good news is that a return to the menu brings you back top wherever you left off. There are itty bitty descriptions of destinations. Also nice.

 

 

 

Extras: 6
All the extra features from the 2006 DVD release are imported to the new Blu-ray, including the audio commentaries by a mix of various cast and creative staff on eight episodes and the half-hour making-of featurette, easily the best of the bonus bits, including the new one made for the Blu-ray. The new bonus feature is the Firefly Roundtable with Joss, Nathan, Alan & Ron. It's the only extra in HD, for all its worth, since the lion's share of it is just talking heads in widescreen. Still we all would have complained if it weren't. The boys reminisce about their experiences on the show – and a good time is had by all. The trailer for Joss Whedon's upcoming TV series, Dollhouse, though 4:3, looks good.

 

 

Bottom line: 7
For all its lackluster image and only pretty good sound, this is a fun series. Firefly is entertaining and not without its moral complexities – a Joss Whedon trademark.

Leonard Norwitz
November 12th, 2008

April 19th, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

There is also a Limited Edition Steelbook available in the UK:

 

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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