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Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted February 11 2013 - 10:55 AM

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome jumps onto Blu-ray in an edition that can’t disguise its video game origins.  Fans of the rebooted series may be disappointed to find out that while this new movie looks and sounds similar to the show they remember, very little of the content has carried over.  The picture and sound present a quality image of a low-budget source.  Included in the package is a brace of deleted material and a making-of featurette that explains what was really going on here.




BATTLESTAR GALACTICA:

BLOOD & CHROME

Studio: Universal Cable Productions

Release Year:  2012 (Direct to Internet)

Length:  1 hr 34 mins

Genre:  Science Fiction/Low Budget


Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC (@ an average 34 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 4.0 mbps, up to 5.0 during big scenes)

Subtitles:   English SDH, Spanish, French



Film Rating:  Unrated (Nudity, Language, Violence, Derogatory and Dismissive References to Household Appliances)




Release Date:  February 19, 2013



Starring:  Luke Pasqualino, Ben Cotton, Lili Bordan

Screenplay by:  Michael Taylor

Story by:  David Eick, Michael Taylor, Bradley Thompson and David Weddle

Directed by:  Jonas Pate


Review Rating:    2/5


Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome looks and sounds very much like the SyFy Channel reboot series from which it takes its name.  Following the story of the young William Adama as a rookie pilot about the title ship during the peak of the Cylon War, the new webisode collection takes the series’ approach of handheld camera perspective during both the live action scenes and the many CGI space battles, and it has a similar scoring approach by Bear McCreary.   For those who don’t know Battlestar Galactica, the short version is that it’s a sci-fi adventure in which the last survivors of humanity band together to search for a new home after they are massacred by robots which they created.   Most likely, readers of this forum are already well familiar with both the original 1970s series modeled from Star Wars and the 2000s reboot built from a post-9/11 world.   One might have thought this would have been a slamdunk to work, given that many of the producers are the same as those who brought you the reboot series.  But frankly, it just doesn’t work.  Unlike the series or even the webisodes made during that series, this collection shows its seams at almost every turn.  It’s not just that the cast is undistinguished or that the dialogue feels rote, or even that many of the CGI shots are obviously so.  It’s just that there isn’t enough substance here to justify spending the 90 minutes watching the story.  And the absence of Ronald D. Moore is keenly felt here.  (For those who are wondering, Moore had no involvement with this project.)


It’s understandable why the producers of the 2000s reboot of Battlestar Galactica would want to continue its legacy with a new series.  Having spent over five years working in that universe, it would be appealing to get the band back together to do something new with the material.  And they made a game effort to do so with the prequel series Caprica.  Unfortunately, that series became mired in its own issues, never really met expectations and the SyFy Network chose to cancel it before its first season had completely aired.  In the aftermath of the prequel idea, producer David Eick was charged with generating a new group of webisodes to promote a video game set in the same universe.  The idea was to make some quality cut scenes to place in a battle game wherein the player could see some authentic modern Galactica-style scenes in between various bouts.  (I should note that a flight simulator game with this idea was actually released almost ten years ago, but without the cut scenes to brace it.)  Working with several of the writers who had scripted episodes of the reboot series, Eick had Michael Taylor draft a new script spotlighting a dangerous early mission for young Adama, and SyFy agreed to the notion of filming it and evaluating the material for a potential new Galactica series. 


Given the fact that the Galactica sets were all scrapped after the series finished in 2009, and given the low budget accorded to this project, the decision was made to shoot it on a greenscreen stage, with the sets being added in post-production as CGI creations.   This actually makes a lot of sense if you think of this project as the series of webisodes it was intended to be, rather than the pilot episode the producers hoped it would become.   Once the SyFy people saw the completed project, it’s not surprising that they chose to present it as webisodes, followed by a slightly rawer cut on the Blu-ray under examination here. 


SPOILERS:  So why doesn’t the movie work as a movie?  And what is the idea they were going for?  The basic story starts with young William Adama (Luke Pasqualino) completing his simulator training as a crack Viper pilot and being assigned to the Galactica.  The opening CGI shots of the movie are clear lifts from the Caprica prequel, referencing the creation of the Cylons in that series and leading into the war situation of this collection.  Adama’s narration references his father from that series, and later dialogue continues the reference.  But that’s mostly window dressing.  The actual plot here has Adama assigned as a Raptor pilot with a short-timer navigator/gunner (Ben Cotton), and most of the webisodes concern their first mission – a “milk run” (referencing a classic episode of Miami Vice and a classic line in it from Edward James Olmos) that comes to grief.  This is partly where the webisodes start to go wrong.  We’re meant to believe that Adama is being given a non-hazardous mission, carrying a scientist (Lili Bordan) to a non-hazardous area and picking up some spare parts.  That makes sense, until we find out that this is actually a super-secret mission behind enemy lines, bringing our heroes to a snow planet and an abandoned outpost where the scientist will betray them and they’ll barely get out with their lives.  The problem here is that it makes no sense.  Why would the Galactica assign such a crucial mission to a rookie pilot, and how could they know the scientist would turn on them?    Why does Adama suddenly decide to sleep with the scientist in the middle of the dangerous situation?  Why do the Colonials think this mission is important enough to sacrifice a major vessel to get the scientist planetside when they already know the scientist is going to turn on them?  I could go on, but you get the idea.  We should keep in mind that during the reboot series, a short series of webisodes was done, featuring a younger actor playing Adama on a mission.  But that collection made sense in terms of the mission, and in terms of the information and thematic material that came out at its conclusion.  The new collection only serves to set up what could be a series of adventures of an even younger Adama on the Galactica, but without any sense of the underlying themes of the original series.  This is the reason that Ronald Moore is missed here – had he been present, he might have been able to instill something more pressing than just the gloss.


I should note that the Blu-ray contains an Unrated version of the webisode collection.  All this means for viewers is that a few moments of gratuitous nudity has been included in an early shower scene and one sex scene, and that the dialogue is occasionally laced with salty language.


Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 17th.  The Blu-ray edition contains high definition picture and audio of the unrated cut of the movie, a making-of featurette and about 30 minutes of deleted scenes.  The usual Blu-ray functionality is here, including pocket BLU and BD-Live.   A digital copy and ultraviolet copy can be accessed via instructions found on an insert in the packaging.   The standard definition DVD, which holds the unrated cut and 15 minutes of the deleted scenes, is also included in the packaging.



VIDEO QUALITY   3/5

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome is presented in a 1.78:1 1080p AVC encode that may actually show more detail than the source can bear.  Almost every shot in the collection contains CGI, either to generate the space battles or just to generate the rest of the sets in the Galactica, such as the CIC or the hangar deck.  In some cases, the CGI quality is acceptable, but in others it barely registers past an animatic.   I get the strong feeling that the CGI probably looks best on a smaller monitor, like an iPad or smaller than that.  At 65”, there is no way this kind of work can stand up.  As just one example of this, I recommend checking the big hangar deck scene where Adama first arrives.  Several of the overhead Vipers are lacking in detail and color to a level that I honestly thought I was looking at an animation rather than what was intended as a convincing set.



AUDIO QUALITY    4/5

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome gets a solid English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, which is probably the best thing on the Blu-ray.  The sound effects and Bear McCreary’s score come across well, as you would expect them to.



SPECIAL FEATURES      2/5

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome comes  with two extras:  thirty minutes of deleted material and a making-of featurette that mostly covers the VFX.  There’s also the usual Blu-ray functionality.  Instructions for downloading a digital copy and obtaining an ultraviolet copy of the movie are included in the packaging.   The standard definition DVD edition is also included in the packaging..


Deleted Scenes (29:22 Total, 1080p) (SOME AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Thirteen deleted or extended scenes are presented here, mostly just containing additional beats of dialogue removed from the completed scenes.  As this is workprint material, the scenes are presented in their raw greenscreen form, allowing the viewer to see just how much or how little set the actors had as an environment.  The scenes may be viewed individually or via a “Play All” function.  (On the DVD edition, only 6 of the scenes are available, totaling out at 15:46)


Blood & Chrome:  Visual Effects  (22:58, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This making-of featurette starts with an explanation by David Eick of the video game origins of the project.  Eick admits that the entire collection was supposed to be an online supplement to a video game based on the series, but that they were able to upgrade the project after SyFy saw Michael Taylor’s script.  The featurette goes on to include comments from most of the VFX team, who describe the challenges of virtually building the sets and recreating the Galactica.  Several examples of before/after footage are provided, showing the cast on the greenscreen stage on one side and composited into the VFX on the other.  Given how much work the VFX crew was assigned here, it’s no surprise to hear that the number of shots was over 1000, and it’s also no surprise that on a limited budget with limited time, the VFX crew was not able to pull all of them off.


pocket BLU – The usual pocket BLU functionality is present here.


BD-Live – The usual BD-Live functionality is present, including a few online trailers that play as soon as you put the disc in your internet-connected player.


D-Box – D-Box functionality is available for those viewers who have that capability.


Digital Copy/Ultraviolet – Instructions for downloading a digital copy of the movie or obtaining an ultraviolet copy are included in the packaging. 


DVD Edition – The standard definition DVD of the movie is also included in the packaging.  It presents the movie in standard definition with a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix (at 448 kbps), and presents most of the same special features from the Blu-ray, in standard definition.  (The difference here is that the DVD only has 6 of the deleted scenes from the 13 that can be found on the Blu-ray.)


The movie and the special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish.  The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu. 



IN THE END...

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome proves that it is indeed possible to make a show that looks and sounds just like the rebooted Galactica series of the last decade, and yet still fail to capture the essence of what made that show work.  Seen as a collection of webisodes intended to be viewed as part of a video game, the scenes are more than acceptable.  Seen as a pilot episode of a new series, the collection falls short of being satisfying.  Fans of the series are better advised to stay with the old episodes unless they are extremely curious.


Kevin Koster

February 11, 2013


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Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “ISF-Night” picture mode

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Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver

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PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)

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#2 of 16 OFFLINE   Mark Collins

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Posted February 11 2013 - 04:19 PM

Kevin thanks for the review. I had a question. The cylon fighters are they the old ones from the 70s? The base ships and Galactica do they look like the old show models? I know they used them in Razor which I did enjoy. I always wanted to see what the old show special effects would look like today. Razor sort of did that. Does this movie do more? Is this movie set back in the time of the 70s what they call the first cylon war?

#3 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted February 11 2013 - 07:25 PM

It's set in the 70s mode.  Old style raiders and base ships.  I thought the base ship we saw the most of looked a little small, while Galactica's interiors looked huge.  The centurions didn't quite look like either the old or the new.  More like something in between Caprica and that 70s show.  The movie is set near the beginning of the war, as Adama is a fresh recruit and his father is alive somewhere.



#4 of 16 OFFLINE   Peter McM

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Posted February 11 2013 - 11:27 PM

Gratuitious nudity? We got that in the unrated The Plan, and it had a much bettter story, to boot. I'm borrowing the DVD from the local library, but doubt that I'll put the blu-ray on my shelf.
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#5 of 16 OFFLINE   Jeff Ulmer

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Posted February 12 2013 - 09:46 AM

Once this hits the bargain bin I'll have no problem buying it as I didn't mind the webisodes, but $25 for what should have been a pilot is way to much for what it is. It's too bad B&C didn't get off the ground as a series, as it showed promise. There needs to be more BSG, and working in the prequel era makes a lot of sense, in fact, it's the only place to work.

#6 of 16 OFFLINE   mpompey

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Posted February 15 2013 - 02:27 AM

It's to bad Blood and Chrome didn't make it. There is a ton of material that could be explored. I'm willing to forgive a bad pilot as it takes time for writers and actors to get into their groove. I remember the first season of Next Generation and the episode where the Enterprise crew visits a planet of fighting black people, that no one wants to reference. Maybe they'll do a reboot of FarScape?

#7 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted February 15 2013 - 05:13 AM

I'd agree that there were plenty of bad episodes of Star Trek TNG in the early days.  "Code of Honor" was only one of them.  How about "Lonely Among Us" or worse yet, the complete replay of "The Naked Time" with the brand new title "The Naked Now"? 

But there are some crucial differences to keep in mind if comparing TNG's opening with the webisode collection we have here.    The TNG pilot and first year was a major event for Paramount, for which they were careful to bring back series creator Gene Roddenberry and to cast several recognizable faces in the show.  (Getting Patrick Stewart was a coup they didn't realize they had until later, but even he had already had a solid career.)  Paramount threw significant funds at the new series, as has been detailed out in numerous accounts.  They did not skimp on this pilot, and even as they were doing it, they knew they were building a new series that would go for several years.  TNG had a pilot that was already greenlit to series, so even if the pilot wasn't the best episode, it would still establish the new characters and get things going.


In 99% of television pilots, there is no guarantee that a series will result.  The network usually waits to see what happens when the approved script is filmed - to see if they like the chemistry between the cast, or if the series premise has enough potential to justify over 22 episodes each year.  A bad pilot usually results in the network not going any farther, and most of the time, such a pilot never gets a public airing.   The other thing is that even when a bad pilot does somehow convince a network to try the series, the aired version is radically different from what the network evaluated.  It's not uncommon to have major reshoots of pilot episodes due to recasting, resetting, etc.  And even then, the public can see the aired version and say "Ugh".  I completely agree that even then, you could still see a series take shape afterward and redeem everyone's time.  But it's not that common.  Usually, the most creative period of any series is when it's in its first year - when everyone is figuring out exactly what they are doing.  And then you have a good period when the show hits its stride.  But that only lasts so long, and eventually there is a shark to be jumped...


In the case of the BSG reboot, the initial plan was to do a miniseries event, a bit like the initial TV movie that started the 1970s show.  And the original show was supposed to have been a series of TV movies, kind of like the Columbo movies, where you'd do one a month or so.   Following the good reception of the reboot event, SciFi ordered a brace of episodes to make a full season, and they were off to the races.


In the case of Blood & Chrome, we have a different matter.  The project was not designed as a pilot.  It was intended as a cut-scenes component to a video game, to be viewed either online as webisodes or within the game itself.  When SyFy saw the draft script, they agreed they could consider the collected webisodes as a pilot, and if it was a really good show, they might consider doing a new BSG prequel series.  But they didn't exactly shower this project with funds, nor did they take any steps to indicate they really wanted to do another BSG series.  The producers were forced to shoot everything on greenscreen and use low-rent CGI to complete their sets.  The producers did not have the budget to hire anything more than the most inexpensive of cast members.   To stay with the usual business model, the producers made sure to shoot alternate versions of some dialogue to include harsher language, as well as to include some easily removed bits of nudity.  By doing this, they were able to insure that a Blu-ray/DVD could be released of the webisodes with "uncut" footage.  The surprise here is that SyFy also aired the webisodes - one presumes they did that to see if BSG fans would still tune in years after even Caprica went off the air.


#8 of 16 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted February 16 2013 - 06:40 AM

Here are some clips:


DELETED SCENES

Nuggets:




Mission Prep:

 


BONUS FEATURE – VFX Featurette

The Idea:




Pre-Viz:





#9 of 16 OFFLINE   MattAlbie60

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Posted February 18 2013 - 01:07 AM

In the case of Blood & Chrome, we have a different matter.  The project was not designed as a pilot.  It was intended as a cut-scenes component to a video game, to be viewed either online as webisodes or within the game itself.  When SyFy saw the draft script, they agreed they could consider the collected webisodes as a pilot, and if it was a really good show, they might consider doing a new BSG prequel series.

This is the first time I've heard of the "video game cut-scene" stuff. Is that talked about on the Blu-ray release?

#10 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted February 19 2013 - 04:39 AM

At the beginning of the VFX feature tote, they admit the real purpose of the project.  And if you look at the embedded clip above about "the idea", that's the section in question.  It explains the low budget and all that went with it.



#11 of 16 OFFLINE   Mark Collins

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Posted February 19 2013 - 08:29 AM

Purchased mine from Best Buy at 20 bucks today.

#12 of 16 OFFLINE   Mark Collins

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Posted February 21 2013 - 12:08 PM

Hey guys this is great news. Adam any word on when this will happen? The original BSG movie coming to blu-ray 2013. The flyer inside my Blood and Chrome i just opened. Well off to watch the BC movie.

#13 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted February 21 2013 - 01:43 PM

Mark, I noticed that in the insert but thought the Blu-ray had already been out.  My bad on that.  I have been unable to confirm when Universal will be releasing this, but I would imagine it will be in a later quarter of the year.


For those who may be wondering what we're talking about, there's an image on the insert inside the Blu-ray that shows a Blu-ray of the 1978 Battlestar Galactica theatrical movie, which is the cut-down version of the pilot episode of the 70s series, souped up with Sensurround...  Of course, I haven't been able to find any DVDs or Blus that include true Sensurround tracks, but it would be nice one day to find one...



#14 of 16 OFFLINE   Mark Collins

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Posted February 21 2013 - 06:12 PM

Hi Kevin, yes it has never been released. I hope with it that Universal will follow with the entire series which I think is what is coming. Mission Galactica the Cylon Attack I have on VHS both movies were released on HBO back in the 80s and then to home video. I think Universal because of TNG has decided to restore the series. I think this Will happen because old fans of the original and new fans will all be on board for this. Heck even Galactica 1980 perhaps will come in the package. The Cylon attack on Hollywood is a classic. I had the Universal tour the year before the fire and saw the last of BSG as part of the tour. I always thought that footage was designed not only for 1980 but perhaps video for the tour bus.

#15 of 16 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted February 21 2013 - 09:29 PM

I'm not sure that Universal intends to do anything more than the theatrical edition of the 1970s BSG pilot on Blu-ray, and frankly I'm a little surprised they're doing even that.  The original series has some significant PQ issues due to how many times they overused the same VFX shots.  The pilot movie (and the theatrical version) look a bit better, but I remember hearing major criticism about the blow-up of the TV image to theatrical size back when the show was put into theaters.


I should also note that the Cylon attack on Hollywood in Galactica 1980 is an adaptation of footage from Earthquake, with Cylon fighers and lasers inserted into the mess.


And in case anyone is thinking I don't have fondness for the 1970s BSG, I am proud to say that I have one of the Cylon Head sets of the 70s BSG series.  I continue to dust off those discs once or twice a year.  Great fun.



#16 of 16 OFFLINE   Mark Collins

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Posted February 22 2013 - 05:18 AM

Hi Kevin, I guess I can only hope for the series. I just hope we get a date soon as to when the movie will come out. I will be sure to buy perhaps two copies. You are right about the footage source and about BC being all special effects and not much else. I would have waited to buy it but I am sick of getting burned on Market Place if only a few copies are out there. I remember now that it was 1989 when I was on the Universal Tour and BSG was still part of it. Cool to see some of the props from the show and the dumb " we are under attack" show they put on. I just wish I had kept my recordings of the show when it aired here in Chicago in the 80s opposite Dallas in 2 hour blocks. I remember they had one episode where one of our guys while being on the moon discovers a note from Galactica. I too have the big Cylon Head LOL





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