Blu-ray Review: Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome

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Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome tells the tale of young William Adama’s first mission. After originally airing online as a ten-part webisode series, it premiered earlier this month as a feature film on Syfy. Now available in unrated form on Blu-ray, Blood & Chrome offers a reasonably entertaining, but ultimately distressingly low rent, prequel that is far from an essential component of Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica universe.

As conceived by Michael Taylor and David Eick (both of whom figured prominently in the previous BSG prequel series, Caprica) the future admiral began his career as an overly eager hot shot who exhibited extraordinary skill in simulated battles. When initially assigned to Galactica, the cocksure Adama (Luke Pasqualino) is paired with a grumpy co-pilot, Coker (Ben Cotton), and told to fly routine missions in a junky old Raptor rather than a sleek new Viper. Set in the tenth year of the First Cylon War, Adama (dubbed “Husker” by Cocker) just wants to get out there and take down Cylons.

Though he’s impatient and disappointed, things get more interesting for Adama and Coker when they’re accompanied by civilian software engineer Dr. Beka Kelly (Lili Bordán). A nothing mission morphs into something far more important and sinister when they encounter a fleet of ghost ships. Nothing is quite what Adama was expecting as he learns more about Beka’s background. Almost too conveniently, they develop a romantic relationship in spite of Coker’s instinctive distrust of the doctor.

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The story contains some semi-cool, though not entirely surprising, twists and turns that are best left discovered by the viewer. It never really transcends what feels like also-ran status. Apparently this was originally intended as a pilot for a full-fledged new BSG series. Part of the problem is the bland performances. I enjoyed Cotton (better known as Dr. Kavanagh on Stargate Atlantis) as the disgruntled, boozing Coker. But Pasqualino just doesn’t evoke a younger version of the classic Edward James Olmos characterization of Adama. He’s adequate for the role as written. Maybe the bigger problem is in the scripting. And as the mysterious Dr. Kelly, Bordán is disappointingly stiff in a role that could’ve used a greater level of sly ambiguity.

Blood & Chrome looks pretty good, all things considered, on Blu-ray. The all-green screen, digital production has been laced with a layer of computer-generated grain and rather aggressive lens flares. The idea was to approximate the look of the 2004-09 rebooted series. It’s not entirely successful from a production standpoint, with some really artificial CG imagery marring the presentation. But the 1080p AVC-encoded transfer itself seems to accurately represent the filmmakers’ intentions. Sharpness and detail are often sacrificed for the smeared flares of light that adorn most of the shots. Once I got used to it, I thought the film looked consistently decent.

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The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is robust and immersive enough that it really sounds like a first-rate production, never betraying its roots as a modestly budgeted webisode series. The action-oriented scenes predictably provide the most interesting sonic moments. The space battles were all on point, with strong LFE and rear channel activity. The details are all in place, allowing to fit in with previous BSG incarnations. Bear McCreary’s score is nicely integrated in the mix as well.

Perhaps not surprising, given its DOA status, supplemental features are a little light. The better of two extras is a 22-minute visual effects featurette that does a great job of conveying the extensive work the effects team invested. We see some raw-versus-finished, before-and-after comparisons that demonstrate the ridiculously detailed CG set construction necessary to make this look like an authentic BSG production. There are also 29 minutes of deleted scenes, seven of which are exclusive to Blu-ray. Due to their unfinished nature, these scenes also underline the impressive efforts by the effects crew to make this look like a full-fledged movie.

BSG adama (350x197).jpg

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome is not as good as it should’ve been but certainly not as bad as it could’ve been. Some of the effects work looks a little cheesy, but the featurette helps enhance appreciation for what the filmmakers were able to achieve on a limited budget. Keep your expectations low and you just might have a good time with it.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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