BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: BLOOD & CHROME (2012)
Review by Dan Keohane
Ok, so I was a major fan of the reboot of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004–2009)… wait, ok, for those under the age of 35 reading this, the version of this groundbreaking science fiction action series starring Edward James Olmos & Company was not the original, it was a re-imagining of the original Lorne Green-led series from the 70’s. At the time (and at my age back then), the original was brilliant and exciting. There was a follow-up series called GALACTICA 1980 (1980, in case the title didn’t cover that) which was so terribly wrong, so sadly-sad it made my 17-year old self sigh in despair and indignation over what they could have done with the series, but did not. Except for one particular episode that told what happened to Dirk Benedict’s original Starbuck character, GALACTICA 1980 would have been so much better if it consisted of only this one episode, and no, I’m not bitter, why do you ask?
The reboot in 2004 completely decimated the original in coolness and effects and weird, minimalist soundtrack, and I couldn’t wait for each episode (on DVD, from Netflix, because there is no cable in my town). Since the new series ended with it’s bizarre-yet-no-less-watchable finale in 2009, there have been a couple of re-do’s of the reboot.
CAPRICA (2009), for one, a prequel which I got a couple of shows into then stopped watching because it was, well, boring. Maybe it got better in later episodes, but I did not give it a chance. When BLOOD & CHROME, another prequel which originally was “aired” as webisodes on the Internet, was patched together as a television movie on the SyFy Channel as a potential pilot for a series (which so far has not appeared…at least I don’t think it has, seeing as my town has no cable), I was intrigued.
With my handy-dandy Roku box, I rented it recently from Amazon.com. And… it wasn’t bad. Unlike CAPRICA, which was more of a noir series based in the GALACTICA universe, but covering the story of William Adama’s (the main character of the original and reboot series) father, BLOOD & CHROME goes back to its roots with Vipers and fiery explosions in the vacuum of space and some pretty decent acting. Now, it’s not the original (the original reboot, I mean, see above), but it gets a B+ for effort.
BLOOD & CHROME tells the story of William Adama first arriving on the shiny-new ship Battlestar Galactica sometime deep in the events of the First Cylon War, as it was referred to in the original 2004 series. In this war, the Cylons—robotic soldiers built by men but which eventually turned against their makers because, if you don’t find something productive for mechanized soldiers with built-in machine guns in their arms to do, they will get restless and start killing everyone—did not yet look like humans and begin infiltrating the ranks of their enemy. They simply flew around in their ships shooting at everybody.
Adama is fresh from the military academy and ready to start kicking Cylon butt. You see, like everyone else, he is a product of the military’s public relations campaign that’s been instilling a sense of optimism about the war and how humankind is faring. When he arrives onboard, he finds a ship full of bitter, angry soldiers who know that things are not going as well as their PR folks have implied.
Assigned to a lowly transport ship instead of a cool Viper (one-man fighter ships used in dogfights with the Cylon vessels, all of which, even back in the seventies, look suspiciously like the X-Wing and Tie fighters from the original STAR WARS films, but that’s OK, back in the day BG was a way to get our STAR WARS fixes during the three years between the Lucas films. And I’m back on the nostalgia kick again sorry..). Where was I?
Oh, Adama is assigned to a transport ship instead of a fighter. Needless to say his first “milk run” to transport supplies to and from the Galactica does not go as he expects, and he and his copilot find themselves in the midst of a covert operation upon which the course of the war with the Cylons is hinged.
The story is interesting, if not a little choppy at times, but this could be the result of multiple webisodes being mushed together to form as seamless a motion picture as possible. It felt like it, with the action rising and falling pretty consistently, too much so. A positive aspect of this, however, is that there’s a lot of action. The dogfight scenes in space and in the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet are quite good – obviously very heavily CGI (versus, say, using miniatures), but so was the 2004 series. I think the visual details are looser and the editing choppier, probably because (and I only assume this) there was a smaller budget and not enough in the till to polish the visuals. Overall, though, the effects are good.
With one exception: the Cylons are exclusively CGI, just as they were in the 2004 series. I had a problem with it then, and still do. How hard or expensive is it to make at least ONE Cylon suit, or a Cylon puppet, something to make our brains think, Hey, that’s really in the same room with them. Because as CGI creations, they do not look real, and so are not as menacing as they could be (compare the Alien suit and animatronic limbs of the xenomorph in ALIEN (1979) to the swimming CGI creatures in ALIEN: RESURRECTION (1997) as a comparison).
The mechanized, CGI-rendered Cylons in the 2004 series were not seen very often, since the human models were the center of attention. In this prequel, they are the only models fighting the humans.
The acting is decent, as well. Luke Pasqualino (THE APPARITION, 2012) plays young Adama with brash enthusiasm—a little over the top at first but he settles down quickly. The producers didn’t pick someone who looked like a young James Olmos, which is fine. Ben Cotton (HARPER’S ISLAND, 2009 and STARGATE: ATLANTIS, 2004 – 2009), as Adama’s reluctant copilot Coker Fasjovik, is the strongest character in the show. Tired and angry and only a week away from finishing up his second tour of duty, he is a good foil to the young, overachieving pilot. The story is stronger for his role. Though Lili Bordán’s Becca Kelly, the true “cargo” on their supply run, played her mysterious character well, the character itself never felt very deep or flushed out. Granted, this is only a single short film and not a five-year series with time to character-build, but knowing this up front she could have been a little more, what, weirder?
Overall, the story of their surprise mission is interesting, but some of the events that unfold, especially when finally arriving on the planet, feel too contrived as reasons for the next rise in action, like Cylon worms they meet in a cave. (Note to writers: having a ship or bus or plane crash in a remote somewhere and only stop just… before… falling into a deadly chasm has become cliché. Stop it. It belongs in the Stop Doing That box along with demon-possessed people turning blue with bulging face-veins – see my review of CASE 39 for further explanation).
The climax is decent, if a little open-ended and inconclusive. Rushed, might be a better word. Again, this might be due to the serialized nature of the original episodes on the web. Doesn’t mean I have to like how the strung-together version finished up.
So, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: BLOOD & CHROME comes much closer to being a contender for a decent new show in the franchise and honoring the original, (and it did a much better job than CAPRICA, in my opinion, with less money and resources), but in order for it to aspire to sit at the big kids’ table with its predecessor, it would need enough writing and money and time to work with. As a standalone film, it is an enjoyable and action-packed science fiction movie that should satisfy most BG fans. Or at least tide them over until the SyFy Channel, or some other network, chooses to make it an actual series.
I give it 3 Vipers out of 5.
© Copyright 2013 by Daniel G. Keohane