Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Cinema File #109: "Battlestar Galactica: Blood And Chrome" Review

[Note: Feel free to insert the obligatory use of the term "Frak" anywhere in the following review, at your convenience. - Management]

I love Battlestar Galactica. I love the original series, I love the Ronald D. Moore re-imagining, I love Caprica. Fuck, I even love Galactica 1980. So, when I heard that they were making another installment of the new series canon, a more recent prequel to the remake taking place after the events of the recently cancelled prequel series, I was about as excited as the middle clause of this sentence was needlessly convoluted. Over the course of its development, Blood And Chrome was at various points thought to be a possible pilot for a new television series, or a stand alone movie or webseries, and now that I've seen it, as much as I want this franchise to continue, I can't say I would have been all that enthusiastic to see this particular iteration expanded into anything more than a one shot.

Blood And Chrome follows a young rookie pilot William Adama joining up to fight in the first Cylon War, sent on a secret mission deep into enemy space that will test his mettle against the metal of the increasingly mysterious machines. Everything you need to know about this movie can be learned by watching the first few minutes, where our hot shot pilot has a daring dogfight with a Cylon ship that he only survives through his quick wits and willingness to think creatively, only to have the entire scene be revealed to be a holographic simulation. I'm not just complaining about the introduction of what are essentially holodecks into the famously low tech universe of BSG, but more what this use of them represents, namely the kind of sci-fi cliche that the original Moore series always went out of its way to avoid like the plague.

There are many moments in Blood and Chrome that feel this way, like the people involved with this production have a vague idea of what made Moore's BSG cool, but not necessarily what made it good. Many of the elements are the same, but its as if the heart is missing, the passion for using science fiction to tell stories of human drama no longer present. I never get the impression that anyone involved with this story cares about these characters or this setting beyond the level of fan service. Much of the story seems to parallel a classic scene from BSG: Razor that saw us flashback for the first time to young Adama fighting the old Cylons, in which he discovered a mysterious outpost where the machines were conducting bizarre experiments on captive humans. No doubt this scene is what at least partially inspired this project, but for my money, that ten minutes or so is worth more than this entire movie.

If this had not been related in any way to Battlestar Galactica and simply been a Syfy Channel original movie that just happened to have many of the same themes, than I would certainly consider it better than average. Its just that compared to what has come before it in this franchise, Blood and Chrome feels like a cheat. Though I wasn't a fan at the time of its release, I imagine I feel now about this as many Twin Peaks fans felt when Fire Walk With Me came out, like we were only gonna get so many opportunities to keep playing around in this universe, maybe only one, and instead of doing something worthwhile, they wasted the chance on a story we didn't need to see. Much like that film, which in retrospect I like despite my disappointment at never having the final twist of that series resolved, there are a lot of things I like about this latest BSG inspired effort. There's enough here to keep any fan generally engaged and mostly satisfied, but as the slow realization creeps up on you that this isn't adding anything more to the canon of the series, the whole thing ends up being more than a bit hollow.

Something I must note that I found particularly odd about this production was the casting. Its not bad by any means, and everyone does a fairly good job with what they're given, but I have to question the decision to re-use so many actors from the original Moore series in different roles. There are a lot of familiar faces from Galactica and Caprica, so many that I have to assume there is some reason behind it. Perhaps this was meant as some sort of hint of the mythology that would have been explored had this gone to series, much like what Lexx did with its recurring cast, but as it stands, its just off putting for any fan with a long enough memory. In the original Moore series, anytime we would see someone who we know died previously, or saw them in a time when they wouldn't have been born yet, that was a clue that they weren't human. Am I to believe that all of these people are Cylons, beyond the 12 models we know, in an age where it is heavily implied that the humanoid Cylons outside of the original five weren't even completed yet?

Or maybe they're angels, because you now how well that revelation went down with fans. Or maybe its all just a holographic simulation. Yeah, sorry, still can't get over that. Then again, I suppose if they use this as a flimsy excuse to bring back Moore's Virtuality and give it a 22 episode commitment, I might let it slide. I can't quite say that Blood and Chrome is outright terrible, and if you're a fan of Moore's take on Galactica, there's really no reason not to see it (and come on, there was no way you weren't going to anyway). Just don't get your hopes up. Seriously, frell this dren, or some other such nonsense.

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