Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blood and Chrome

After the failure that was Caprica, the creators of BSG again went back to the well for a prequel series this time set during the First Cylon War. It was planned to be a series, and after a long time they finally produced a pilot movie which the network then decided not to air. It passed on the series, but decided instead to debut Blood and Chrome as a web series, so they split the movie into 10 parts and premiered them on the internet. Only later was it aired in its entirety and released on DVD. This review is of the full unrated DVD version.

Overall, I found I actually quite enjoyed Blood and Chrome. It was a nice palate cleanse from Caprica and reminiscent of the good stuff in BSG. For me, Razor was the best thing Galactica did, and so going back to young Adama was fun. I was surprised how well a lot of this worked, despite some retcon. I'm kind of glad it didn't go to series, because that would probably have led to more bad continuity and such, but this is a very nice movie to use as a prequel to BSG, and it works whether you are a regular viewer or have never seen it.

The basic story is that it's 10 years after Caprica and we're fierce into the Cylon War. Young Bill Adama is a hotshot pilot fresh out of the academy and is assigned to the Galactica where he's given Raptor duty, though he wants to be flying a Viper. He has to transport some scientist lady, but they get more than they bargained for when they come to a planet in Cylon space on a secret mission. Ultimately Adama gets his Viper and we learn the origins of his call sign "Husker".

Blood and Chrome opens with the exact same shot of Caprica that we ended that series with. I think this was a very clever way to begin, as it starts us just where we left off. With some Adama voice-over catching us up to what's gone on with the rise of the Cylons, we are treated to some of the same shots of Cylon construction that we saw at the end of Caprica. This helps make them all part of the same universe.

We see Cylon centurions here, but they are a new model. They appear to be sort of a cross between the old-fashioned Larson versions and the ones seen on BSG. While it's nice to have a step between in the evolution of the Cylons, I feel like this came too soon. Razor's flashbacks take place at the end of the war, and we see old-style Cylons in that. So I'm not sure I like seeing only these new models and no older ones. Part of the fun for me of the Razor flashbacks was seeing the old-style Galactica stuff.

The movie does at least keep up the other classic aesthetics with the old flight suits and even the Cylon raiders and base stars adhere to the classic design. I really appreciated these nods.

The movie takes an interesting path in having a human collaborator with the Cylons. Though this was a  subject of paranoia in early BSG, we never really saw it this way. It was a great way to do something instead of just Cylon skinjobs, since we know there are only 12 models. I found the reveal to be intriguing even if it doesn't really go anywhere. How very human for someone to side with the poor Cylons. And of course the Cylons don't care about her pity for them and just kill her!

We see an evolution into the creation of the skinjobs here. It's like the next step up from Zoe, a humanoid robot with what appeared to be an organic arm grafted onto it. And in a nice nod to later continuity, this model is voiced by Tricia Helfer. Apparently, this design will eventually lead to Number Six.

As I said, I liked Razor, and I watched the Razor minisodes right after Blood and Chrome. It was cool to see Adama start in the war and then the end of the war. Unfortunately, it does seem like they played a bit with continuity. In Razor, Adama says he's never flown in combat before, and is a little nervous about it. But here, Adama is eager for action and takes all kinds of risky maneuvers blowing Cylons out of the sky. Maybe we can excuse it by saying he wasn't going intentionally into a combat situation and it wasn't in a Viper, but that's a stretch. It's hard to believe that he's never flown combat for three years. Also, there are similarities in story between the two, both involving Cylon operations on secret ice planets.

One thing I just don't understand is the notion of Cylon territory in the war. I don't get why the war is being fought out in space and not the 12 Colonies. Why is this not a land-based civil war? Or at least, a star system-based war? Did the Cylons build their own ships? When Blood and Chrome begins, they've got space marked as their territory, and worlds they have been using as bases and stuff. I simply don't understand this. The text that opens the miniseries says they left to find a planet for their own, but I got the impression that was after the war. And even if it wasn't, why would humanity not just let them go? Why were they at war? We've only ever had the vaguest reasons for the war: that they "rose up against their masters". I need more! This would have made so much more sense if the Cylons were an alien race who attacked Earth.

Once again, the creators use their freedoms to throw some gratuitous nudity in. In this case, it's a very brief shot of some boobs in a shower scene, showing that the men and women steam together. It doesn't really add anything, but it's not as pointlessly salacious as the stuff in The Plan. Also, they've gotten freer with profanity; there are many uses of "shit", though they keep to "frak" otherwise. Did it air this way on TV? It felt like they were just, "hey, this is DVD and the internet, let's curse!" Saying "shit" over and over doesn't make it any more adult, but this is a habit with television shows that become movies.

Despite my issues with some of it, I found Blood and Chrome to be much more enjoyable than I expected it to be. It ends with Adama zooming off to a rocking version of the Galactica theme music and I felt like I'd just had a dose of the old BSG magic. And I was never a big fan of the show, but it reminded me of the good stuff, when it was people fighting robots and none of that silly angel stuff. It maintains continuity with Caprica, and there are some mentions of Graystone, but also keeps focused on Adama and where things are heading when BSG starts. The few retcons are a little annoying but not as glaring as some moments in The Plan or Caprica. If this is the last we ever get of this series, I was surprised that it was pretty worthwhile. It's not the most amazing thing I've ever seen, but it was a good prequel and it was fun.

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