Sunday, November 25, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Razor

Coming off the dazzling and truly strange heights of season three’s finale, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, which has been pushed further and further back as time has passed. I want to know what’s up with the four cylons, what the deal is with Hera and what’s going to happen when they get to Earth, not to revisit a two year old plotline I never particularly enjoyed in the first place. But, some Battlestar is better than no Battlestar at all, and that’s the approach you’ve pretty much got to take with Razor. That’s not to say that it’s bad, just that it feels generally irrelevant to the overall narrative of the series.

On a scene by scene level, the film is really successful. There’s a lot of intensity throughout, and the split chronological structure works pretty well. Kendra Shaw has a pretty clear, well thought out arc, and it’s nice to check in with the old favorites. What bothers me is the fact that we never get in depth with either aspect of the plot. The “present day” stuff is basically pointless because this is in the show’s past, and if something really important happened, the characters would have mentioned it. It would have been smarter to either set that part of the movie in the show’s actual present, or just cut it out altogether.

The flashback stuff plays more like someone telling the story of what happened than experiencing the actual events. That’s a problem because the whole point of the movie is to experience what we heard about in season two. Prequels have that problem, of having to summarize events that we’ve probably heard about before, because anything really important would have been mentioned. The best prequel ever made, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, worked by creating an emotional immersion so powerful, we don’t learn anything new about the narrative, but we really feel it for the first time. That happens occasionally here, as in the intense confrontation with the civilians, but too frequently, it just feels like plot summary.

It’s funny to say that something in a fictional story doesn’t matter. Does any of it really matter? Well, the answer to that is yes. The reason for narrative continuity is to make events have an impact. If we’re watching a flashback, it should tell us something new about the world or the people in it. That’s why I feel like we didn’t really get enough time with Admiral Cane. The most interesting part of the film in theory was her relationship with the cylon Gina. This is a woman who doesn’t open up emotionally to anyone, and the one person she lets in turns out to be a cylon.

However, we see very little of the relationship, and it only exists as a fact. Yes, it changes the way we view her actions in season two, but that’s an intellectual thing when this could have been an absolutely devastating emotional moment. Plus, there’s the implication that Shaw has feelings for Cain, this could be a truly bizarre love triangle. Now, perhaps on some level I’m just thinking three hot women in lesbian love triangle, but emotionally, that’s the story of this piece, the most interesting emotional hook, and it’s just glossed over really quickly. If we have a glimpse of an idyllic relationship between Cain and Gina, it makes it easier to understand the way she behaves later in the movie.

As it is, we get some solid action sequences, particularly the scene with young Adama, but not that much of substance. The Pegasus story is dead and gone, and with Shaw’s death at the end of the film, it makes the whole exercise feel somewhat pointless. I’m glad it exists, but like most of the Babylon 5 TV movies, it doesn’t really tell me anything new.

Except for one thing. Once Shaw is left on the basestar, we’re finally at the point where something can actually be revealed. She’s not leaving, so whatever she finds out goes down with her. That’s where we get the brilliant scene with the guy in the tub and his cryptic message that “This has all happened before.” This is the sort of moment that makes me love the show, a weird experiment spouting an oracular message about the destiny of humanity. Visually it’s genius, and genuinely disconcerting.

The notion that Kara will lead humanity to their destruction raises some interesting questions. What I’m really curious about is the idea that they are in some kind of time loop, and the universe will reboot and start again. This has been mentioned before, but its prominence here would seem to guarantee it’ll be a big part of season four. I’m thinking of something like the end of the Dark Tower, but I’m really not sure what’s going to happen.

The other interesting revelation is that the original cylons did experiments on humans before arriving at the current humanoid form. Does that mean that the twelve models were once people, captives of the cylons, who were grown into the new forms? That would make sense, and possibly explain how Tigh could be a cylon, if the one that Adama knew was human, but then swapped for a cylon at some point. All four of the new models were on New Caprica, so it could have something to do with the cylon experiments there.

So, Razor wasn’t bad, but that one scene was more interesting than everything that preceded it. I would have rather seen something that explored more of the series’ post season three continuity, or perhaps this movie should have just been made before season three. As is, it’s an entertaining and well made, but essentially irrelevant movie.

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