Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome" (2013)

Starring Luke Pasqualino, Ben Cotton and Lili Bordan
Written by Michael Taylor, David Eick, Bradley Thompson and David Weddle
Directed by Jonas Pate
Unrated - Violence, language, nudity, sex
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Trailer

Ten years into the first Cylon War, William Adama (Luke Pasqualino) is a young, eager Viper jock itching for his first kill. Perhaps too eager. For his first tour, he's assigned to the Battlestar Galactica, the very ship he would eventually command to end his career as well. But instead of being assigned to a Viper, he's given an under-gunned Raptor and a co-pilot named Coker (Ben Cotton) who is only weeks away from ending his tour and doesn't want to rock the boat.

Adama and Coker are given their first mission, a "milk-run" escorting a scientist, Dr. Beka Kelly (Lili Bordan) to a nearby supply depot. But once they're out of Galactica's sensor range, the truth is revealed: Kelly is actually on a secret mission, and Adama and Coker must bring her to a rendezvous deep inside Cylon-held space. Outmanned and outgunned at every turn, two pilots and a scientist must make their way to a secret Cylon facility on a captured ice moon on a mission that could determine the fate of the entire war.

I'm a pretty huge fan of the 2003 remake of "Battlestar Galactica." It's one of the best science fiction television series of all time. It's unfortunate, then, that all of its spinoffs so far have been so lackluster. "Caprica" was a full-on bore, with a rotating door of behind-the-scenes showrunners, and mercifully canceled with only one season in the can. "Blood and Chrome," originally envisioned as a series of short webisodes, had an even longer, more embarrassing journey through production hell. First it was a web series, then a full-on pilot movie, then back to a web series, and it sat on the shelf for quite some time before finally being released on YouTube via Machinima.com.

After all that... is it any good? Yes and no. Parts of it are quite good, and parts of it are quite... not. "Blood and Chrome" is designed to be more of an action/adventure war drama, and with that in mind it features quite a bit more action and adventure than previous entries in the franchise. The only problem with this approach is that "Blood and Chrome" also has a significantly lower budget than previous entries. Occasionally, the special effects look quite good, but some of them also look quite bad. The raptor crash on the ice moon, particularly, is awful. A chase through the blasted superstructure of a Battlestar should be awesome, but gets lost in shaky camerawork. I'm also not sure why, when Adama is trying to put a wounded Cylon out of its misery, he keeps pumping rounds into its chest when he's short on ammo instead of blasting the thing's head off.

"Blood and Chrome" is a 94-minute movie with the budget of approximately a single episode of "Battlestar Galactica," but with about four times as many required special effects. That's not a good mixture. The movie was shot mostly on green-screen, with minimal props and set dressings. Shots aboard the Galactica are aggravating in that we've never seen the ship in her prime, and she's buzzing with activity... which is quickly obscured by an obnoxious number of artificial lens flares. "Battlestar Galactica" had lots of lens flares... but it never looked like this. Thankfully, that effect diminishes when the story moves away from the Galactica.

Viewing "Blood and Chrome" as a single movie is also problematic, as the hard cuts to black for each episode's cliffhanger ending have been left in place. "Blood and Chrome" feels choppy, and occasionally, action sequences seem to occur for no reason other than the writers felt that something had to happen in this particular 10-minute segment. Character development is fairly simplistic; only the three main characters are really explored in any way, the rest are either sacrificed quickly or seem set up for future appearances if the show had gone to series.

Still, there are ideas on display here that are worthy. The concept of Adama being repulsed by participating in lies and propaganda is interesting. If "Blood and Chrome" had become a series, I would have liked to see where that would have gone.

In terms of the cast, Luke Palasquino does okay as the young Adama, eager to get out there and kill some frakkin' toasters. He seems much more reminiscent of Starbuck than the elder Adama, which helps lend some credence to why Adama might feel such affinity for Starbuck later in life. Coker gets a lot of good jabs and one-liners, but sometimes falls into the trap of being too whiny. But Cotton gets a couple solid scenes to humanize him later on as he and Adama take refuge in an abandoned ski resort on the ice moon.

Problematically, most of the supporting cast is filled out with familiar faces who have already appeared on "Battlestar Galactica" and "Caprica." The roles of Galactica's commander, and the commander and officers of Osiris, as well as some of Galactica's Viper pilots show up here in new roles, which makes it totally distracting.

Overall, "Blood and Chrome" is a frustrating experience. As a pilot, it functions well enough in that it feels at the end like there are more stories to be told here. But as a film, it retreads familiar ground for a lot of fans (we already saw young Adama on a mission to a secret Cylon lab on an ice planet in "Razor") and has problems both structurally and in terms of its special effects. I find it difficult to recommend purchasing this one on DVD or blu-ray unless you're a completist. The "unrated" cut features some nudity, but nothing you need to see. Feel free to search this one out on YouTube.