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.
February 11, 2013
Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:
Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “ISF-Night” picture mode
HDTV Calibrated in June 2012 by Avical
Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver
Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player
PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)
5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)
2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)
Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer
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