Saturday, October 31, 2009
Welcome to our weekly Blog DVD Review. Today we take a look at Universal Home Video's Battlestar Galactica: The Plan. Battlestar Galactica is a current remake of the '70s sci-fi series. See Seth's Blog DVD Review of Battlestar Galactica: The Plan :
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (Universal, $26.98)) is a direct-to-DVD follow-up of the acclaimed Sci-Fi Channel original series, whose run concluded this year. The movie follows the action of the Cylons - robots (both mechanical and human-appearing) bent on the genocide of humanity - through the course of events of the first two seasons. If you're not already a fan of the show, you can stop reading right here: This one's strictly for the existing fans.
Warning: All remaining parts of the review will assume at least a passing familiarity with the plot of the show through its four seasons. I'll try to avoid excessive spoilers of both the feature and the TV run, but if you have no clue what I'm even writing about you're going to be doubly confused watching this feature.
Really, this feature - directed by show star Edward James Olmos - isn't even a follow-up so much as a clean-up. The show left several plot issues not entirely explained or even in a position to be left to the imagination, and so this feature goes back to fill in the gaps. The timeline of The Plan spans the events of the miniseries and first two seasons of the show. There's nothing from New Caprica or beyond, but as I happen to dislike the events after that arc was resolved anyway, it's perfectly fine by me to exclude that part.
In the process you get a major amount of new material for two characters, Anders (Michael Trucco) and Cavil (the amazing Dean Stockwell). You also get a flushing out and rehabilitation for one of the least-discussed models, Simon (Rick Worthy) plus some explanation for the conflicting nature of the Cylon model Eight known as Boomer. (Grace Park). Really, the entire thing is a two hour back-story info-dump. Really, that's the problem. There's no cohesive narrative. If you're not a BSG fan there's absolutely zero appeal to watch the movie, and nothing to hold you riveted if you choose to anyway. It's for fans only.
Though unrated, the DVD presentation is clearly for mature audiences only though the packaging doesn't state this. Aside from the near-genocide of the human species and militaristic violence, there's also a particularly disturbing act of violence by one of the two Cavils towards the end, plus some nudity and sexual situations. Without having to clean the show up for cable, things get slightly dirtier. The aforementioned adult situations are for the most part done fairly well contextually, but still, if just for the violence alone you'd have to be insane to let a small child watch this, and the packaging probably needed a better warning. Universal backed down from a plan to include an edited down "for-broadcast" version of the episode, leaving only the unrated full cut on the set. This was probably a mistake, in hindsight.
There's one disc in the set - the full feature being a movie running just short of two hours. The artwork is similar for the set as with the season releases, with lots of dark colors and silver tones, Because the film focuses so much on the Cylons, all characters depicted on the front cover are Cylons. The disc is blue, and in general fits in with the design scheme of the show's previous releases. Solid job by the artwork folks - it's appreciated. Video quality is an interesting issue: The movie features a combination of new footage interspersed with occasional old footage. The old footage looks just *slightly* out of place. More out of place is suddenly watching characters age forward or backwards five years in some scenes. Audio is a wonderful 5.1 surround track. The show has always made wonderful use of music, and it really shines on the multi-channel audio format. Obviously you can skip ahead via chapter stops - otherwise it'd be quite maddening to navigate a two hour feature.
The set also comes with loads of bonus features (otherwise it wouldn't be a Galactica set). Spanning the full length of the movie is a commentary by the feature's main writer Jane Espenson alongside the movie's director (and series star) Edward James Olmos. You get to hear their respective takes on why they did what they did in this movie's production. The episode is directed beautifully, though the writing does have one or two issues with scene flow. Overall it's quite a nice listen.
You also get a feature talking about Olmos' path from show star to show director, the social relevancy of the show (particularly in its first two-plus seasons), and interview with the cast. Also included are deleted scenes, plus features on creating the destruction of the Twelve Colonies, a lengthy one about the visual effects that went into the film, as well as one that talks about the Cylons and their portrayals. One of the main things to watch in this and the other features is the unrestrained praise for Dean Stockwell.
Dean (who I've been a huge fan of ever since the Quantum Leap days) slowly has all of the evil intents and purposes of the Cylons placed onto his shoulders, so that by the time we get to this feature he's easily the overwhelming source of the evil of the Cylon race. Add in to that having to portray a second, nicer, version of himself in this same movie, and you get a phenomenal performance by an exceptional actors. This one theme - that Dean Stockwell IS awesome - is hammered home more than just about any other single point it seemed to me, and I have to concur.
As much as I loved the first two-and-change years of the show, as much as I happen to love the acting of Dean Stockwell, and as much as I'm happy to see some depth added to the second-tier Cylons (Simon in particular), there's something about this movie that just doesn't feel right. Really, it's not a stand-alone feature at all so much as a companion piece to the first two seasons. If anything, the idea order for watching the series would be to watch the miniseries and seasons 1 and 2 plus Razor. When you get to the point where they want to airlock the dual Cavils, stop and watch this DVD. Once done, finish the series. That's really the idea viewing order, and the one that makes the most sense chronologically, thanks in part to the way the opening and closing scenes frame the film.
But as a stand-alone feature, based solely on its merits and without the cushioning of the TV show itself? It's incoherent, and there's too much going on with too little exposition. This, more than just about any other film release of a TV show I've ever seen, really is just for the fans. If you're a fan (with no inhibitions towards violence or moderate sexual content, pick this up NOW. If you're not a fan, or those two content issues are deal-breakers? Avoid it like the plague; you'll only get a headache. I personally liked it, but only because I already knew what was going on. If you're a fan? It is 4/5 Stars. If you're not? It is 2/5 stars. Hence, my final score below...
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher
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