Wednesday, November 10, 2010

V: The Complete Season 1 (Blu-ray Review)

Re-imagining classic TV shows has become very popular since the shows tap into any nostalgic feelings viewers may still harbor for the old show, and it also gives the new show a chance to update and modernize the special effects, the tone, and the story-lines. A perfect example on how to do it right would the remake of Battlestar Galactica which ended up being superior in every way compared to the original show that it was based on. It shouldn't be too surprising to anyone that another big hit from the past called V has followed the Battlestar Galactica model and returned in a new TV series with all of the inherent paranoia of the original but with much improved special effects and cast. This new re-imagining has a more worldwide  focus and there’s more than a hint of X-Files global level conspiracies going on.

Film  (3 out of 5 stars)

Much like it’s previous incarnation, the series starts with alien visitors arriving to Earth proclaiming their peaceful intentions and how the people of the Earth respond to that overture.  The tone of the show has shifted since the original series with it having less of a focus on the military and more on current issues of mass media manipulation and how much self-delusion people will accept for any shred of hope.  The fact that people flock to the newly arrived aliens in the hope of cures and comfort proves to be unwise as all of it is coming from an alien species that they know nothing about or without knowing their true agenda.
There are some people that question the aliens’ motives however like Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) who is an FBI agent assigned to the counter-terrorism bureau who quickly discovers that the aliens have been planting sleeper agents for years in various positions in advance of their arrival.  Some of those sleeper agents such as Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut), have spent so much time with humans that they have become acclimated to our culture and have decided to fight their former alien comrades by forming a resistance organization known as the Fifth Column. 
The aliens infiltration into the highest level of governments, religious institutions, and their appeal to many including Erica’s son Tyler (Logan Huffman) makes it even harder for the resistance to counter the alien visitor’s influence.  Not knowing who to trust, the human resistance has no choice but to band together and face the overwhelming odds until they can prove once and for all that the visitor’s aren’t as altruistic as they appear.
This is my kind of show and I thought it was pretty good when it started but grew disenchanted with it as the season progressed.  Instead of a thought provoking sci-fi action show, it devolved into a soap opera with sci-fi trappings which is really unfortunate as this show has a lot of potential.  It has a great cast, especially the top four leads with the aforementioned Elizabeth Mitchell and  Morris Chestnut, but also Scott Wolf as the ambitious news reporter, and Joel Gretsch as a local priest. They add a lot to the show and have basically carried the show on their shoulders despite being hampered by lackluster scripts. 
The special effects are quite good for television and the show has all of the ingredients for a hit series if they could just get some better scripts and get rid of the soap opera story-lines.  The subplot with Eric’s son made me want to quit watching the show alone, but there are many other plot threads that also ruin the show for me.  I think if the show stuck to it’s strengths – alien conspiracies, action, and paranoia and the effects of mass manipulation on the masses, this show could be great.  Unfortunately, that can’t happen until they decide to forgo the melodrama and streamline the show.

Video  (4 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p VC-1 (1.78:1) transfer looks very sharp but there are some scenes that look soft and there were instances of smearing as well.  These aren’t enough of an issue to really make a difference but some scenes on the ships and also first person point of view shots that need more work.  Flesh-tones look very nice and the detail in close-ups is incredible.  Overall, this has a very nice picture and it’s the best thing about this disc which isn’t really a surprise since this looked so good in HD when it originally aired.

Audio  ( 3 out of 5 stars)

Less impressive is the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track which is so front heavy that you really don’t need to worry about having a home theater system.  The LFE is used in good measure occasionally but this track just screams out television quality.  There are a few instances where the satellite speakers get used such as when the human resistance is ambushed and alien surveillance balls shoot spikes out and a gunfight ensues where the directional effects are great but it happens so few and far between that it just makes you sad at what could have been if they had done it right.

Special Features  (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

This has some fairly disappointing extras although every one of them is in HD.  The deleted scenes are a timewaster and the featurettes barely scratch the surface of what they could have done.  I can save you all a lot of time by summarizing all of the extras into the statement that all of the cast and crew love this show and think it’s pretty awesome. You’re welcome.
Disc 1 :
  • Deleted scenes for Episodes 1 &2
  • The Actor’s Journey from Human to V – Interviews with the cast on the show and it’s predecessor.  Not very interesting.
Disc 2:
  • BD-Live – Bonus content and trailers
  • Deleted Scenes – A bunch of scenes that weren’t even good enough to save for deleted scenes.
  • Audio Commentary by Executive Producers Steve Pearlman and Scott Rosenbaum for the episode Fruition.
  • Breaking Story: The World of V –  This was the most interesting and in depth feature on the disc. Clocking in at almost 30 minutes, this covers a lot of ground.
  • An Alien in Human Skin: The Makeup FX of V – A featurette that talks about how the make-up and the visual effects teams join together to create the aliens.
  • The Visual Effects of V – A look behind the scenes of FX supplier:  ZOIC Studios. Some recycled info but still interesting to those viewers that are interested in how it’s all done.  They are predicting that in a couple of seasons that shots involving visual effects will be completely rendered and finished on set as they fine tune their process.

Final Thoughts  (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The show has its moments and also a fine cast, but the show lost it’s way about halfway through the season due to being bogged down by melodramatic story-lines which seemed strung out longer than it needed to be.  I don’t know if they are milking it in the hopes that they will be on the air for several seasons, but they really needed to kick this plot into gear to keep viewers like me interested. Although I enjoyed seeing Morena Baccarin back on TV, I really wish it was for Firefly instead of this.  This Blu-ray has a nice picture but I hope that they improve the sound quality and the story-lines for season 2.
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