Thursday, November 5, 2009

Unoriginal Sin: A Review of The Plan and V

Coming off the glorious ride that was Battlestar Galactica, I have been in a Sci-Fi downward spiral ever since. First there was the disappointment that was The Plan, a Battlestar Galactica straight-to-DVD release that chronicles the story from the Cylon perspective. This was followed closely by the spanking-new show V (I say that tongue-in-cheek, since everything is a remake these days). While I'm certainly not putting these programs in the same category (V could only dream of being of the quality of The Plan), I will say they both are rubbing elbows in the disappointment department.

First there was the greatly anticipated The Plan. The DVD was Argument One for never reading the online buzz and director comments about a film beforehand. Edward James Olmos may have declared this the be-all, end-all of Battlestar Galactica movies that will redefine how fans view the series, but methinks he exaggerated. Just a bit.

First of all, I was expecting revelations, explanations, Cylon history, SOMETHING for crying out loud. What I got was a glorified clip show. You know when sitcoms do those annoying programs that feature clips from the past four seasons strung together by the thinnest of plot lines? Well, that was pretty much The Plan. You're telling me that the Cylons' plan was to kill the humans? Gee, thanks. I pretty much got that from the PILOT! Cavil was the "bad" Cylon? I was able to grasp that from the series. Where there could have been back story on the "Five" or a further explanation of the "Angels" (the supernatural element was one of the most intriguing elements of the series, after all), there was simply a rehashing of the downfall of the 12 colonies with a few new Cylon scenes thrown in.

So Mr. Olmos, you may have been the quintessential Adama, but you should, perhaps, keep your directorial mouth shut on the DVD extras where you made those sweeping statements about the new film. The new movie does not, in fact, make me want to go back and re-watch the series in a whole new light, though, I may re-watch it in order to banish the mediocrity that was The Plan from my mind.

I was only semi-recovered from my traumatic BSG experience when I started seeing previews for ABC's "new" program V. I asked my personal source for geeky, sci-fi information, Steve, about the program, and he informed me that it was a remake of an older series. How shocking. Are we completely incapable of coming up with anything new in American television or cinema these days? Must we either steal the ideas of a previouly successful show/movie or bastardize the work of our friends across the pond?

So suffice it to say I was skeptical about V, but Steve wanted to check it out. I tried not to be the cynical one and added it to my DVR's to-do list. We watched the pilot last night. If it hadn't been for Steve, I probably would have deleted it twenty minutes in, but for his sake, I kept plugging away. The pilot opens with a technique that I usually favor - they jumped right into the action. Bam! The aliens have invaded. The problem? The writers/director felt no need to build any suspense, whatsoever. It was almost as if they had a meeting and said, "Hey, you know what? Everyone saw the original, and they know the aliens are coming and what they want, so let's just fudge that part. It's not that important anyway."

Fast forward to the acting. First there was the appearance of some sci-fi regulars, such as Joel Gretsch (The 4400), and I even noticed Rekha Sharma of BSG. This isn't necessarily a problem, just thought it was interesting. What wasn't interesting was the acting itself. Of course, maybe I'm being too hard on actors who can only work with what they're given. I'm not talking about their God-given talents, but rather...the script. Not even Alan Tudyk could rescue lines like, "The medical examiner says he was tortured before he was killed," a line delivered after finding a dead guy wearing a bloody shirt and tied to a chair in a secret bunker. Really? You needed the M.E. to suss that one out? I hate it when writers insult my (the viewer's) intelligence. In a fiction workshop, you would get flayed alive for that sort of information dumping in dialogue. It doesn't work on the screen either.

Then there's the predictability factor...and I don't mean because it's a remake. I've never seen the original. Don't need to. I was able to predict nearly everything that happened - with ease. When I watch a program and say, "I could have written that!" I don't mean it as a compliment. As for originality, it really is true that things come in groups, and it seems to be apocalyptic programming's turn. Funny that the "groups" even occur on the same network (Flash Forward, anyone?)

Surprisingly, I'm giving V one more chance...against my better judgement. Steve seemed to be pulling for the show in an uncharacteristic burst of pie-eyed optimism. But that's all those hacks at ABC are getting from me. What's the tired old saying? "Fool me once, shame on you..." Well, I have a feeling that next week, it'll be shame on me.

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