Saturday, October 25, 2008

Battlestar Galactica: Razor DVD review

Battlestar Galactica: Razor is a rather good made for TV/DVD film that is actually accessible for both none-BSG fans and established fans alike. While fans of the re-imagined series will likely enjoy Razor the most, none-fans will probably find themselves intrigued by the mythology while at the same time is rewarded with a film that brings actual closure to the Pegasus mini-arc. Fans on the other hand will be happy to be given additional plot information concerning season four.

While Razor premiered between the end of season three and four, the events of the film is actually set around the Pegasus battlestar arc of season two. It covers Lee 'Apollo' Adama's helm as Pegasus's Commanding Officer and new character Kendra Shaw as the ship's X.O. The film also weaves through two past events (through flashbacks), that of Kendra Shaw's service during Admiral Helena Cain's reign at Pegasus ten months before as well as the events surrounding the then Viper pilot William Adama and the young Cain during the final day of the first Cylon war.

Lee Adama as the new commander of the Pegasus battlestar decides to recruit Kendra Shaw as his X.O. due to her connection to the late Admiral Cain. Kendra, we learn, is a bit of a lame duck who tends to hide her feelings very well. At no one time did I feel much connection with her character, but that is just as well as we continue unravelling the deeds she performed under the command of Admiral Cain. Ten months before Lee's takeover, Pegasus was nearly annihilated but through Admiral Cain, the crew rises through all though their methods were often questionable. A second sub-plot exists in the present day where the Pegasus stumbles upon a Cylon Basestar that happens to host defunct human Cylon hybrids that young Bill 'Husker' Adama himself witnessed being experimented upon during the first Cylon war.

Like other Battlestar Galactica episodes, Razor is a very competent Sci-Fi flick that far outstrips anything we've ever seen before (outside of Firefly of course). The plot is gritty and dirty, and isn't afraid of tackling issues we humans may deem as not worth talking about. While the story is very good, Razor is filled with unlikeable characters like the infamous and hypocritical Admiral Cain, but particularly the X.O. Kendra Shaw. It doesn't help that Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen plays the character rather stiffly and the lack of any sort of emotional response can be off putting. Special effects are wonderful, rivalling many big budget Hollywood feature films like Indiana Jones 4 and Star Wars I-III. The shaky camera effect also does lend an added realism to the series. We also get to see old school Cylon centurions but they were rather poor CGI to be honest.

The region two DVD itself is part of the first half of season four Battlestar Galactica boxset and makes up as the first two of season four episodes. You can also buy it standalone or rent it (like I did - though I am planning on getting season four - you can help). Picture quality is excellent as far as standard definition goes and the stereo soundtrack is supplemented with 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and commentary by series creator Ron Moore and writer Michael Taylor. Seven Razor flashbacks webisodes were also included, though they were already integrated into the extended feature.

Despite its flawed storyline and choice of narrative, Razor is a rather enjoyable DVD movie. It would be even better if it was released on Blu-Ray, but we all have to make do with what we have. If you are just getting into Battlestar Galactica I suggest you start from the mini-series upwards. But there is nothing wrong into watching Razor though, and if that gets you into the BSG lore then that is great. For the rest of you avoiding this series out of fear of watching more 'Sci-Fi cliché', well it is your lost.


1 comment:

Jamison said...

Nice review. I'm not much of a sci fi fan, in fact I went in fear of the cliche you mentioned, but Futurama turned my head, Firefly wrenched it, and now Battlestar Galactic has it spinning in grinning circles like the little girl's in The Exorcist. One of the strengths of the show is that it seems, like life, to revel in characters that are unsympathetic, hammy, irritating, etc., and to set them center stage and keep them there. E.g., Starbuck and Apollo. Apollo, much of the time, is a histrionic geek. Richard Hatch definitely is not. He's playing the part of a hero whose personality, up close, exhales something mildly repellant. The genius of Battlestar is that it takes the venerable (but popularized into shallow oblivion) idea of the flawed hero seriously. That is, the flaws of Battlestar's heroes are not for the most part romantic (like Tigh's alcoholism), and therefore copouts, but the sort of fundamental blemishes that repel us in our leaders and lovers and friends. Starbuck has a slight tendency towards insufferable bitch, but I can say that of -- two? three? a dozen? -- people with whom I voluntarily and happily share my days; and they can say it of me. Insane and lovely geniuses such as Baltar, on the other hand, are the exception, as in life and history they must be; whereas in "gritty, realistic drama" they are increasingly the norm. They're devitalized; they hang out in groups. Battlestar is a space opera, sure, but one whose dramatis personae is psychologically symmetrical with everyday experience. It matches or overmatches anything on television, including even masterpieces of gritty realism, in which the mob boss not only eviscerates friends and family but routinely weeps to his hot psychiatrist about it.