DVD Review - Caprica

DVD Review - Caprica

Caprica DVD, in stores this Tuesday, April 21st

The Caprica pilot episode hits DVD on Tuesday, and it is one hell of a tease. It’s a tease in the best possible way; that sweet first kiss that you just know in your heart will lead to more. It’s familiar, but new. Most of all, it’s an hour and a half of great entertainment, and something to keep Battlestar Galactica fans smiling after the show’s recent completion.

This new show is very clearly a product of the final season of BSG. Religious themes, which were littered across the entire series but became the true central theme of BSG are front and center here from the very beginning. The show takes place 58 years “before the fall” in a world that could be hours +10-20 years. Technology is just further enough along to place it firmly in the realms of science fiction, but the rest of everyday life is familiar enough to make it all very believable. This story is about the modern birth of the Cylons (Yes, that’s an acronym, and yes, you’ll hear the longform of it) and the families who created them. Like BSG before it, the SciFi elements are really background; they are necessary storytelling devices, but they clearly are there in support of the relationships.

This is of course the opening to something larger, as all pilots are. The presentation on DVD first was clearly to support the original vision. This is bloodier, more graphic in both violence and sex (including some nudity), and deals more directly with adult themes than the version that will eventually make it to TV in 2010. They also take on an idea that will likely be seen as controversial by some: teenagers are often engaged in very adult behavior. These teenagers, noted in the show as being 16, act independently, think independently, and are exploring the world in ways that many people like to think teens don’t. Most of this is simply talked about and not shown, but it may make some people slightly uncomfortable nonetheless.

Without spoiling anything, the story for this opening chapter ran the gamut of emotions, had explosive moments and quite ones, and used many of the same great storytelling techniques BSG was known and loved for. One particular moment juxtaposes anger, righteousness, extreme anguish, and ecstasy alongside each other in a cinematic sequence that is purely poetic. The story teases (there’s that word again) with beats that clearly will eventually lead to the events of 58 years later. It is definitely its own entity, though, and stands surprisingly well on its own. Even if the show was not being made, releasing this pilot would have been a good decision; as an appetizer, though, it works even better, and will have viewers positively drooling for the actual series.

The actors in the show have a lot of potential. There were very few known quantities in BSG, and even those who were took some time to get into their characters. Here we have a unique situation for an actor; the things that these characters say and the way they act have to mold characters whose future we already know. The boy playing 11 year old William Adama and his father Joseph especially have difficult roles ahead of them, and tackled them admirably in the first episode. The strength William remembers of his father is present, but so is some self-doubt and inner conflict. The real stand out of the pilot, however, is Alessandra Toreson, who plays girl genius Zoe Graystone. Her father is the one actively developing the Cylon technology (starting with hovering robot butlers), but she is trying to do something different. The real story centers around a virtual copy of herself she has created and is slowly giving life to in a virtual world. When she first appears on screen as Zoe, she seems a pretty standard teen actress; the character has those tinges of rebellion and defiance that are constantly put into teenage characters to make them “well-rounded” and it had the opposite affect, making the character and the actor’s portrayal both come off as somewhat wooden. Then we see virtual-Zoe for the first time, and the difference is incredible. From the delivery of her lines to the body language (a slight slouch in one versus the other); she played two characters who had identical memories, looks, and ostensibly thoughts as two completely different people. It was remarkable and stuck with me on two full viewings of the show.

It’s hard to view this from the point of view of someone who never watched or worse didn’t enjoy BSG. For fans of the show, this will make an ample replacement/supplement, and should simply make those people very happy that they get to continue to explore this era of the universe. For those who never watched/didn’t like BSG, this certainly offers a more down-to-earth look at the world, but still centers around themes of religion, life and how it’s defined, morality, ethics, racism, and how people interact with one another, especially in the face of great tragedy. The presentation is similar enough that it will likely turn off anyone who didn’t enjoy the first show; after all, that’s what a spin-off is for. Seeing how this all fits into the larger tapestry of the universe that was established in 4 seasons of a beloved show is sure to intrigue fans, and this was a hell of a way to start things off. Of course, it was just a tease, as we won’t see the next episode until next year. Rest assured, the world of Battlestar Galactica is continuing (or is it beginning?) in grand fashion, providing some of the best frackin’ entertainment yet in Caprica.

Caprica hits DVD Tuesday, April 21st. The series will begin airing in 2010

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