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HTF DVD REVIEW: Caprica

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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted April 20 2009 - 04:02 PM




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Studio: Universal
Original Release: 2009
Length: 1 hour 33 mins
Genre: Science Fiction/Drama

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Color/B&W: Color

Audio:
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1


    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    Rating: Unrated (Nudity, Sexuality, Violence)

    Posted Image Posted Image





  • Release Date: April 21, 2009

    Rating: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    Starring: Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Paula Malcomson

    Executive Produced by Ronald D. Moore and David Eick
    Written by Ronald D. Moore and Remi Aubuchon
    Directed by: Jeffrey Reiner





    Caprica is the pilot episode for the upcoming Sci-Fi Channel series that acts as a prequel to the just-completed Battlestar Galactica. While it’s made by several key members of the same creative team (Ronald D. Moore in particular), there are many striking differences. If Galactica was a depiction of “the last five minutes of a civilization” after the bombs have dropped, Caprica is a depiction of the final hour BEFORE the bombs drop, and an examination of why the tragedy will come to pass. Galactica began with the statement “The Cylons were created by Man.” Caprica, then, is the explanation of that statement. And in terms of writing and directing, this first episode is certainly intriguing. The tone and the camera work is a lot smoother (excepting some deliberately rough virtual reality sequences), and the feeling overall is more of a classical melodrama or tragedy. Ronald D. Moore begins this story with its own tragedy already in motion, and then uses the fallout from that to show not only how Cylon intelligence is formed but also the origins of the one God/many gods dichotomy seen in Galactica.

    SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH, SO READ ONLY AFTER WATCHING IF YOU WISH TO BE SURPRISED: The story for the new series follows the aftermath of an apparent terrorist bombing in the middle of Caprica’s capital city, in which the daughter of powerful computer magnate Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) and the wife and daughter of mob attorney Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) are killed. The plot hinges on Graystone’s discovery that his daughter had encoded her memories, her DNA and almost everything about herself into a digital copy. If he could download that copy into a physical body, he might be able to actually bring his daughter back from the dead. So the arrogance initially implied about the creation of the Cylons is actually compounded by man’s attempt to conquer the threshold of death. The performances by the leads are fairly good, particularly Stoltz and Paula Malcomson, with Stoltz skating the same fine line between empathy and ruthlessness seen in characters like Ben Linus on Lost or Tony Soprano. Not everyone else in the cast does as well. The younger cast members simply can’t stand up to the intensity of those playing their parents much of the time, and early scenes of the kids in a virtual reality sex/violence club simply don’t ring true. The “V Club” itself is another issue. Shot in the same theater as the Galactica Opera House, the pilot opens with images of nudity and violence that are clearly intended to be shocking and/or provocative but instead result in more of a “huh?” reaction than anything else. (And it’s not like we haven’t seen this stuff before in many films over the past twenty years.) At the same time, the pilot does establish what could be some interesting plot threads that may play out over the 18 additional episodes ordered by Sci Fi. There are some interesting meditations going on here about class and race, as well as about the difference between a family that actually cares about each other and a family that thrives on appearances. And the whole thing ends with what I can only describe as a virtuoso CGI shot that presages interesting things to come in the series.

    The DVD release of Caprica is intended to give audiences an advance look at the series, which will not debut on the Sci Fi Channel until January 2010. So while the iron is still hot from the conclusion of Galactica, Universal is making the pilot film available now for those fans who would like to see what’s coming next. (This will be followed by the release of the complete Galactica series along with Season 4.5 this summer, and then a Galactica flashback telefilm in the fall.) Another interesting part of this is that the actual series has not begun production yet, so the feedback from critics and fans may well have some impact on what gets filmed up in Vancouver starting in another month or two.


    Posted ImageVIDEO QUALITY: 2 ½/5 Posted Image Posted Image ½

    Caprica is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that provides a good variety between the cold look of the Graystone mansion and the warmth of the lower class Adama household. The show is being recorded on HD cameras rather than film cameras, which lead to occasionally mixed results. Some footage looks terrific – particularly the contrast between the characters in the Matrix-styled virtual world and what they really look like when they take the headsets off. Other shots are a little dicier – specifically a CGI establishing shot of the Graystone mansion that doesn’t quite come off. But the transfer does provide a sleeker, more classical look to this series than the rough, post-Armageddon stylings of the mother series.

    Posted ImageAUDIO QUALITY: 3/5 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    Caprica is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English. Much of the mix consists of dialogue and effects in the front channels, but there is some use of the surrounds for atmosphere and music. The “V-Club” scenes are obviously more active, and the subwoofer gets an occasional call to duty. Some dialogue was a bit unclear to me, and I accessed the subtitles a few times to catch up, but for the most part, the words are clear.


    Posted ImageSPECIAL FEATURES: 2 ½/5 Posted Image Posted Image ½


    Caprica comes with a commentary track, a few deleted scenes, almost 15 minutes of video blogs, and, inexplicably, an episode of the Sci-Fi Channel series “Ghost Hunters” that I did not watch.

  • Feature Commentary with Ronald D. Moore, David Eick, and director Jeffrey Reiner - This is a scene-specific group commentary with the guys discussing what makes this show different from Galactica and what choices were made during the writing and production of the pilot. They cover a lot of ground here, particularly discussing some deleted scenes that are not included even in that section of the special features.

  • Deleted Scenes– (7:10 total, Non-Anamorphic) – A few deleted scenes are included here, one of which would have disclosed a crucial plot point much earlier in the movie, and two others of which establish possible plot threads that may get used later in the series. (One case, showing an additional avatar in the “V Club” doesn’t make much sense, and doesn’t seem likely to be brought back in the series, but you never know...)

  • Video Blogs - (13:09 total, Non-Anamorphic) – Four brief online video blogs are included here (“What the Frak is Caprica?”, “The Director’s Process”, “V-Club” and “The Birth of a Cylon”). There’s not a lot of material here, mostly the usual mutual compliments between Ronald D. Moore, Jeffrey Reiner and some of the cast. The blogs make the point that Reiner’s directorial style involves using multiple cameras at the same time to shoot a complete scene much more quickly (and allow for more variety.) (As I understand it, the actors on set were able to improvise and work within their scenes, since the cameras were already going on both sides of the room, meaning that there wouldn’t be any issue of trying to match one side to the other.) The younger actors give a tour of the “V-Club” that feels a little forced, and the final blog finds director Reiner wandering the set of the big CGI shot, making jokes about the various sci-fi props and equipment seen in evidence.

  • Ghost Hunters “Hometown Haunts” - (43:49, Full Frame) - A complete episode of the Sci-Fi Channel reality-type series about poltergeist investigators is included here for promotional reasons. As this has nothing to do with Caprica, and as I was completely turned off by the opening minutes, I did not experience the whole thing. I encourage anyone, particularly fans of this series, to offer their own opinions about the show in this thread.

    Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. When the first disc is initially started, the viewer is presented with an optional series of non-anamorphic previews including Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series, a teaser for the new Warehouse 13 Sci Fi series, the Universal Blu-ray preview, a teaser for Caprica, and the anti-smoking ad seen on most Universal DVDs these days.

    I should also note here that I have been given a couple of weblinks for those interested in looking a little further into this title. Caprica on DVD 4/21/09 is an official website, with unlockable clips that fans can find each day. There is also a YouTube channel with material at YouTube - Broadcast Yourself..

    IN THE END...

    Caprica is definitely not the same series as the recently departed Battlestar Galactica. It has some flaws, particularly in the performances of the younger cast, and in some ideas that don’t quite work. But there is something interesting going on here, and given some time, the creative team and a strong adult cast led by Eric Stoltz may be able to do some interesting things here. (I should note that the 2003 miniseries that rebooted Galactica had its own issues, which were quickly ironed out as the series took shape.) This DVD is well-crafted and intriguing enough to merit a rental for interested casual observers. I don’t think I need to say the same to fans of Galactica as I’m sure they already have it by now.

    Kevin Koster
    April 20, 2008.


  • #2 of 5 OFFLINE   Dave Scarpa

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    Posted April 20 2009 - 11:42 PM

    I really did not expect to like this but I did. It was cast fairly well Esai Morales is perfect for the Josef Adama, and Eric Stolz fits the mad scientist role well. I think the premise is intriguing how the first Cylon was actually a 16 year old Girl. I'm interested in how it all fits into the mythology of Galactica and will watch when it becomes a series in the fall. I only Rented the disk I'll wait to see if I like the series enough to get the Pilot (Minus the Breasties) on the 1st season set.
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    #3 of 5 OFFLINE   Colin Davidson

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    Posted April 21 2009 - 04:55 AM

    Kevin -

    Thanks for the review, well most of the review since I did not read the spoiler paragraph. It was going to be a blind buy today but given your video and audio ratings I will wait until an HD release comes about. I will at least rent it to see it.

    Thanks again.

    #4 of 5 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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    Posted April 21 2009 - 05:44 AM

    I picked this up today and expect to run through it either tonight or tomorrow night. I'm a bit surprised at the tech ratings, though. You'd expect Uni to pull out all the stops for the release, with the hype and marketing behind it.

    #5 of 5 OFFLINE   David Levine

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    Posted April 21 2009 - 06:07 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dave Scarpa
    I'm interested in how it all fits into the mythology of Galactica and will watch when it becomes a series in the fall.

    It debuts sometime in 2010.