Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Plan

I've finally watched The Plan, and despite all of the hype surrounding it, the movie simply proves that there was in fact no plan at all, as I've suspected since the first season. I was hoping for a plan that would make it make sense, but the show itself clearly shows that there were a lot of different ideas floating around and that the Cylons had no unified plan. This fact ultimately makes The Plan a failure.

I like the little touch of the Universal logo being integrated into the start of the movie. I also like that the opening titles were not seen, unlike in Razor. However, Razor this ain't. That was a great movie. This is only okay. It's interesting that they use the Final Five for voiceover of the usual pre-cap sequence. Unfortunately, the constant reminders of who the Final Five are (and ultimately the closing use of audio from "No Exit") make this movie impossible to be viewed early on. Razor could still be watched after "The Captain's Hand" and nothing would be lost. But even though this movie is set around the time of "Lay Down Your Burdens" as a framing device, it cannot be watched there unless you have already seen the whole series. Or, I suppose it could be watched there, but it would spoil things astronomically. That's kind of a shame.

The overhead shot of the Final Five in the resurrection tanks reminded me of the sleeper pod opening of Alien.

The one big redeeming factor of this movie is Dean Stockwell, who essentially carries the whole movie. If you are a Dean Stockwell fan, it is worth watching for his performance. But I fear that this movie will not play well in isolation as there is very little internal plot, and the sequence of time jumps so quickly that no real context is given if you haven't already watched the series.

For some reason, there is nudity in this movie. I don't know if this is just Eddie Olmos indulging himself or what. The series at times implied nudity and danced around it for television (such as the naked Sharons). I think there's a point at which including some peeks during scenes like that isn't too bad. But why are there topless bartenders? Those seem just thrown in purely to be salacious. Nudity in the sex scene is one thing, but I don't get the gratuitous boobies. I wonder how that will be cut around for the television airing. There was also nudity in the locker room which reminded me of that bit in RoboCop where the guys and girls dress together and it's no big deal.

For me, truly the greatest thing about this movie's existence, and the only real reason to watch it, is that for once in BSG history we finally get to see the attack on all 12 colonies. Or on most of them anyway. One of my biggest complaints about the miniseries was that it was so focused on Caprica. It's great to see all of the destruction that was rampant throughout the system. I don't really like that the base stars are hinged in the middle and can spin around to make these points. That seemed thrown in just to look cool. It was also good to see the pyramid team and what they were doing at the time. We were told about it way back in season 2, but it's different to see it. I don't really like that Simon is the team doctor though. That seems unnecessary. Also, the little badges that the team have on their shirts remind me of Star Trek insignia.

So... this plan that the title speaks of is just Cavil's plan? We are told that the plan was the destruction of all humanity, but that didn't happen. I'm curious why it didn't happen, really. It was a total nuclear barrage! Why wouldn't they have attacked even harder? Why not keep nuking the place? I get that the fleet survived because they didn't have networked computers. I'll buy that. But looking at it this way, if the Cylon plan was to completely annihilate humanity, why are people still alive on Caprica? It makes the survival of Helo and the pyramid team (and the women in the farms) seem really silly. And the existence of the farms isn't really explained. If the plan was to kill them all, why are they experimenting with them? How long has this been going on? At least on the old show, when the colonies were destroyed, they were destroyed. All that was left was the fleet. Keeping that Caprica story was maybe one of the biggest mistakes for the series in its first season because it undermines the Cylon threat.

But anyway, the "plan" we've been told about at the start of every episode was NOT this plan! No matter how much they try to double-talk it, we were told that "they HAVE a plan"; that's have, not had. But really this isn't a plan of a "they" but of a "he", Brother Cavil. It is HIS plan we are watching unfold, and it is confined to the fleet. It has nothing to do with the Cylons who are chasing them nor with the stuff going on on Caprica. They try to tie in Caprica by putting a Cavil with the pyramid team, but his schemes there are really more confined to trying to extract apology from Anders, and he has little to do with the broader machinations on the planet. It turns out this plan we've been told of all along was really just Cavil wanting to make his "parents" feel sorry for making him so human.

What about the transponder things from the miniseries that led to the suspicion of Cylons in the fleet? Why is this not touched on? That seemed to be a major part of the Cylon plan (rather than the Cavil plan), and it is completely ignored. I like the bits where we go into the episodes, like "33", but why ignore the Olympic Carrier incident? This would have been a perfect opportunity to answer whether or not there were Cylons on board.

I give this thing some credit for answering certain lingering questions and for trying to integrate well with previous episodes. Some of this works very well, like Cavil's rescue of Ellen Tigh. I also like the explanation about Shelley Godfrey. We learn that the suicide bombing was Cavil's idea (why, I'm still not sure. If he wanted to do REAL damage, wouldn't he have sent the guy down to the engine room with the suicide vest?), but I like that it's pointed out that the bombing was a failure. When it aired I thought "so they blew up an empty hallway; big deal." Some other elements just don't entirely work. I don't really buy that certain elements like that bombing were plotted so early as they were here. Also, the Leoban story doesn't integrate as well as it should. I don't understand why the order is never given to blow up any of the other ships in the fleet. The movie seems too focused on Galactica, and not on the other Cylons we know are milling about on other ships.

I do like the Simon in the fleet and his relationship. It's an interesting dynamic that plays into the themes the show explored about Cylon/human relationships. The internal Cylon tension between destruction and love is played out in microcosm here. But again, why is he on the Galactica?

Even with all of the Cylons we see here, do we get to the total of 8 in the fleet that Sharon gave us back in season 2? I don't think so. But there are a few more Sixes met here. Also, reference is made to D'Anna, but her work seems to be unrelated to everything else. I guess they couldn't get Lucy Lawless for the movie.

I hate the Sharon stuff, which to me is the biggest failure of this movie. Watching the first season, she doesn't know for sure that she is a Cylon, she only suspects it. But here, we are told that she DOES know. How do they reconcile that fact? They have it so she only remembers who she is when holding a magical elephant figurine! Does this seem stupid to anybody else?

I do like that we learn what became of all the human corpses. Back in "Kobol's Last Gleaming" or thereabouts Kara asked why there are no bodies in the streets. Here we see that they have been gathered and incinerated by the Cylons. What is not made clear is... why? What good is this? Were they ever planning to use these planets, or did they just want to kill all the humans? It's an explanation, but it still betrays an underlying unanswered question.

The later half of the movie doesn't play as well because events jump even more, and it becomes difficult to keep track of after awhile. It's also curious to me that there is no mention at all made of the Pegasus. It might have been interesting to see Gina in the start of the movie and her assignment on Pegasus. Maybe they tried to not step on anything Razor had already done.

There's a weird little subplot with an orphan boy who keeps trying to hang around with Cavil. His name is John. Is he meant to represent Cavil's "younger self", the human self that he avoids? When Cavil killed him, it made me realize that there was a lost opportunity to explain what happened to Boxey. I know the actor is probably all grown up now, but they had a real chance here to explain his sudden absence.

I'm confused about Tyrol's dream. Was he having that dream before the conversation where Simon's wife talks about jumping off the rail? The editing made that unclear to me.

Ultimately, this movie is disappointing because we know where it's all going and in the grand scheme of things it doesn't add anything big. It fills in a few little gaps, and those are appreciated, but it really doesn't stand well on it's own. A good job is done editing together old and new footage, at times using alternate takes and angles from original episodes, and it's nearly seamless. But it just makes me realize what a shame it was that the series was so slapdash from the beginning, and that it could not be entirely explained. It's a good try, but unlike Razor, I don't feel the need to see it again any time soon. But maybe if I ever feel like watching seasons one and two again (which is doubtful), I'll intersperse it with The Plan.

Favorite line: "His jacket was burgundy. This is teal."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

BSG: Season 4 review

The fourth season was I guess better than the third, but not by much. There were a couple of good ideas floating around, and it's good to get back to the show being about Earth. But then they found Earth, and it made everyone go crazy, so maybe it wasn't so good after all.

The body count was far too high for me this time around. It smacks of desperation to me for so many primary characters to die, especially in a series that is ostensibly about the survival of humanity. Dualla deserved better. Zerek deserved better. And the Tigh/Six baby did too. You can tell when a series is running out of ideas when they start writing in random pregnancies, and often series where it is obviously a desperate device will then kill said baby. And we got that here. It reminds me of that Promised Land episode (and believe me, my mother was a fan and I would never have watched the show on my own) where the mom had a baby. It was a two-parter and I predicted it would die next week. And it did. Because when you've already got seven people crammed into a trailer, are you really going to throw a baby into that mix week to week? There's also a danger of characters like that ruining a show's dynamic. Dil hurt Rugrats some, and then the show was destroyed by Kimmie. Anyway, the Tigh/Six fetus in the end was a red herring and a waste of our time.

There were a lot of wasted elements in season four. So many elements were started, then either ignored or written off quickly. While they tried to make the most out of the Baltar cult, there just wasn't a story there, and it always felt forced to me. The mythology of the series was almost entirely rewritten, so not everything works together. The "Face of the Enemy" webisodes implied that alliance with the Cylons was a bad idea, but this never really comes about. NOTHING bad really comes of it, so we were being teased with nothing. We had a similar issue with the return of Kara Thrace, which still doesn't make sense. Her appearance and the slap-dash explanation thrown in were about as bad as all the times Baltar was dead but then wasn't on the old series. And then as we got to the finale, we had Ellen turn out to be a Cylon, which completely changes things on New Caprica, sudden mutinies, suicides, loads more annoying Roslin, a magic bullet and a ship coming apart at the seams. It all seemed manufactured to end, rather than naturally ending.

There was some good amidst it all. Once the damage had been done and the mythology had been confused, at least they made an attempt to make some sense of it in "No Exit". And there's that really nice moment when Tigh is talking about love and says he feels it less when he says the words. I think many men relate to that idea, and that's probably the best little piece in the whole season. It's good that they finally do get to Earth, and that a number of points from the old series are hit in some way or other. I don't like the reaveal that this is our distant past, as it leaves no good explanation for the quotes from Shakespeare, Defoe, Emily Dickensen, or "All Along the Watchtower". 

The "colony" where Cavil was conveniently hiding was nothing of the kind; it was a ship. So when was this ship built? Why was this ship built? Was it always hidden there? I didn't like that element at all.

Lee no longer being a pilot ended up dragging his character down because there was soon very little for him to do. He just became a politician, and after awhile they didn't know what to do with that. So that arbitrarily made him President. While the build-up to his leaving the service felt organic to me, what came next never did.

It's a shame that after the good that was Razor, the series returned to a pattern of fits and starts; sound and fury that signified very little. Not everything tied together, and that's too bad. Still, despite the didactic nature of it, the show did return to the themes it began with in the miniseries. Now, I hated that theme, but at least there's a certain poetry to that. And yet the cyclical nature of things ended up being the point of the show. And if that's the case, why does any of this matter anyway? All this happened before. With rumor of Bryan Singer doing his own version soon, must we accept that this will all happen again?

Best episodes: "Guess What's Coming to Dinner", "No Exit", "Daybreak" (though there's a lot wrong with it)
Worst episodes: "The Ties That Bind", "Sometimes a Great Notion"