Battlestar Galactica: Razor
- Street Date:
- December 28th, 2010
- Reviewed by:
- Tom Landy
- Review Date: 1
- January 21st, 2011
- Movie Release Year:
- 101 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
Are you a 'Battlestar Galactica' fan? Then be sure not to miss Tom Landy's past Blu-ray reviews for 'Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (Limited Edition)' ' Battlestar Galactica: Season 2,' and 'Battlestar Galactica: The Plan!'
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
After the completion of the third season of Syfy's smash hit drama 'Battlestar Galactica' in early 2007, Universal approached series creator Ronald D. Moore to produce an additional two episodes for televised broadcast that would then be released in an extended cut on home video. Since they couldn't really continue on the main story as the season ended with a hell of a cliffhanger, Moore and writer Michael Taylor decided to take a different approach. The result was 'Battlestar Galactica: Razor' -- a two-part movie revisiting the most fascinating arc from Season 2, if not the entire series.
The plot of 'Razor' is divided mainly into two parts. The first is told via flashbacks from the perspective of Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen). (Reviewer's Note: previous seasons' spoilers ahead). This story goes all the way back to the beginning, just as Shaw is assigned duty aboard the infamous Battlestar Pegasus, and her first day on the ship would be one she would never forget. Shortly after meeting her stalwart commander, Rear Admiral Helena Cain (reprised by Michelle Forbes), the vengeful Cylons launch their notorious genocidal assault on the Twelve Colonies. Needless to say, massive death and destruction ensues, but the severely crippled Pegasus manages to escape. Of course, at the expense of being left entirely to fend for herself.
The other thread is woven within the season two timeline, set sometime after the episode 'The Captain's Hand.' As one of his first duties as the newly appointed commanding officer of the Pegasus, Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber) promotes Shaw as his new right hand, a gesture he hopes will restore trust within the fleet. But Shaw's checkered past clashes with many, including Lt. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Katee Sackhoff). When Shaw's orders put Starbuck in harm's way during a search and rescue mission, not only does it fuel their fuming bitter rivalry, it will also lead to a very crucial discovery that may guide Shaw on the road to redemption -- and reveal a foreboding clue about Starbuck's true destiny.
'Battlestar Galactica' excels in character development and nearly all of the main cast makes an appearance in 'Razor,' but to mix things up a bit they have been relegated more to supportive roles. The portrayal by Jacobson (who pulls off the sexy bad girl image so well, see: 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' and 'Melrose Place') is the primary focus here, and she's the link to the past and present storylines. Shaw is intriguing because when we first meet her she is a total badass who obviously has seen more than her fair share of battles. Then we rewind the clock to see exactly what made her that way. Learning her history still may not excuse some of her actions, but it does allow us to understand a bit more why she's been molded into a cold and emotionless young woman.
Even more compelling is Forbes, particularly since her Cain basically is the dark side version of William Adama (Edward James Olmos). They are two sides are the same coin, both commanders have suffered similar losses and have been forced to make extremely difficult decisions, and the burden of those choices is like a heavy ball and chain wrapped around their ankles. Unlike Adama, though, who carries that weight as a reminder and learning experience, Cain only keeps descending into madness until there's no turning back and she's consumed by hatred.
Speaking of Adama, a series of seven webisodes entitled 'Battlestar Galactica: Razor Flashbacks' introduces a much younger version of the legendary character, this time played by Nico Cortez. The story is set near the tail end of the first Cylon War, forty years before the events presented in the miniseries. Most of this footage is actually incorporated into the extended version of 'Razor,' but they can also be viewed on their own in their entirety in the supplements. The episodes are well done and Cortez is perfectly cast, as his voice and mannerisms are such a close match to Olmos that it really is uncanny. It's a great little inclusion and hopefully the Emmy-winning 'Battlestar Galactica: Razor Flashbacks' will serve as a prelude to the upcoming 'Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome' spinoff.
Nominated for both a Hugo and Saturn Award, 'Battlestar Galactica: Razor' is a stark and thoroughly engaging character study of how the wages of war affect the mind, body, and soul. Despite its standalone structure, however, this movie is by no means a good entry point for newcomers to the show. The presentation is choppy, though not as severe as 'The Plan,' and some are bound to walk away confused without first seeing what led up to this point of the story. That being said, 'Razor' is definitely essential viewing for those who can't get enough of this incredibly intense and action-packed series.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Battlestar Galactica: Razor' makes a standalone jump to Blu-ray on a BD-50 that comes housed inside a standard blue keepcase. Note that this disc is also included in 'Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.' Viewers will be prompted to select either the broadcast version of the movie or the unrated extended version, which runs about fifteen minutes longer. There are no pre-menu trailers, but there is the introduction by Ronald D. Moore also found on each of the seasons. The disc is also reported to be region free and therefore should function properly in all PlayStation 3 and standalone players.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'Battlestar Galactica' has never had a pristine video presentation, though to be fair, the show is meant to have a grimy look. A clarification is also provided by Universal on these Blu-ray discs:"The Blu-ray release of Battlestar Galactica accurately preserves the artistic intentions of the creators. The stylized visual elements within certain scenes are intentional and faithful to the broadcast presentation of the television show."
The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (1.78:1 aspect ratio) encode of 'Battlestar Galactica: Razor' has the same aura of grittiness as the rest of the series. Artificial grain has been applied to the high-definition video, and it fluctuates from scene to scene. Sometimes the grain is very light and pleasing, while other times it's excessive to the point where some may find it distracting. This is evident during sequences in the blackness of space for example, as the stars can be clean and stable one moment, and then literally swarming in the next. That's what it's like throughout the entire series, though. The grain aspect is consistent at being inconsistent.
Contrast levels and color saturation have also been heavily manipulated here. The interiors of the ships are dark and dingy, and the flashback scenes during the first Cylon War are washed out even more with hot whites. Black levels are usually pretty deep, but occasionally they can fade slightly and they do tend to overwhelm shadows especially within the Battlestar control rooms. Flesh tones as well appear accurate and natural, even in the darkest interiors.
The clarity of the Blu-ray presentation is probably this transfer's greatest asset, however. As I noted in previous reviews, the video of the DVDs was often extremely murky, so much so that visibility was severely diminished in many scenes. This high-definition presentation is a massive improvement, showcasing the beauty of director of photography Stephen McNutt's cinematography like never before. Alcoves and passageways previously shrouded by shadow are now opened up tremendously with noticeably crisper definition. Fine detailing is exquisite, too, from the textures of fabrics to the intricate hull plating of the ships. The Blu-ray also sports some of the finest rendering of facial features I've ever seen. The close-ups especially are nothing short of amazing.
Of course, 'Battlestar Galactica: Razor' isn't completely free color banding, edge enhancement, and haloing, though to be honest they are all minimal at best. It's the grain spikes that are the most overpowering, but most viewers are likely used to this by now and therefore should be satisfied with this faithful presentation.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'Battlestar Galactica' was one of the sharpest sounding shows on television, so it's unsurprising that 'Razor' certainly has an edge in the audio department.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a spacious one that creates a fully engaging surround experience. Bear McCreary deserves some props for his perfect score that elegantly fills the entire room, and the subwoofer bolsters the power and intensity of his exhilarating percussion beats. The surrounds offer a wide-range of subtle ambience like creaks, clanks, and background chatter aboard the ships, but it's the action sequences where the rear channels truly shine. The battles are laced with smooth pans and dynamics, as the dogfights between colonial vipers and enemy raiders weave through the listening area, and weapon fire ignites every speaker with palpable force. Cannon blasts pack immense punch, and nuke explosions send shockwaves rippling across the floor.
Dialogue is also clear, concise, and nicely prioritized front and center. One thing worth noting is that in earlier seasons, occasionally the vocals sounded a bit distant at times. This wasn't a major annoyance, but it was something that held the audio back just a tad. Fortunately, the third season onward (excluding 'Battlestar Galactica: The Plan' of course which reuses earlier footage) no longer seems to have this problem. If this issue does still exist, then it certainly isn't as noticeable as before.
There's no doubt about it, the audio presentation on 'Battlestar Galactica: Razor' is outstanding, immediately pulling viewers right into the movie. TV shows will rarely sound better than this, for sure.
The Blu-ray also includes optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
- Audio Commentary – The first supplement is an audio commentary with Ronald D. Moore and writer Michael Taylor found only on the unrated extended version of 'Razor.' They discuss how the project of 'Razor' came to fruition, many of the ideas that were either scrapped or evolved into something else, and so much more. The track is well-paced and interesting, just one word of caution: don't check it out until after watching the movie since the ending is spoiled within the first few minutes of the discussion.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 3 minutes) – A handful of deleted scenes from 'Razor.'
- 'Razor' Minisodes (SD, 20 minutes) – All seven 'Razor' webisodes are included here in standard definition.
- The Look of Battlestar Galactica (SD, 8 minutes) – An all too brief glimpse into the production of the series hosted by Moore.
- My Favorite Episode So Far (SD, 11 minutes) – The cast and crew reflect on their favorite episodes of the series up to the fourth season.
- Season Four Sneak Peek and Season Four Trailer (SD, 3 minutes) – Snippets promoting the fourth season.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
- U-Control: The Oracle – This picture-in-picture feature is an interactive guide to characters, starships, the twelve colonies, and more.
- U-Control: Battlestar Actual – When activated, this viewing mode exclusive to Season 4 and 'Razor' displays a pop-up glossary to all of the various terminology used in the show.
- Battlestar Galactica: Ultimate Battle – A BD-Live card game that is actually more along the lines of a collectible card game as opposed to the poker-style game seen in the show.
- My Scenes – Bookmark and save clips of favorite scenes and send them to your friends.
- BD-Live Download Center – Finally, the disc includes BD-Live connectivity, though the area wasn't enabled at the time of this writing.
The Cutting Room Floor: What Didn't Make the Blu-ray?
- The Making of 'Battlestar Galactica: Razor' – This behind-the-scenes featurette for the 'Razor' special was included on a bonus disc as a Best Buy exclusive for the DVD release.
'Battlestar Galactica: Razor' is a one-two episodic punch that digs deeper into the past while offering new side stories set within the 'Battlestar Galactica' universe. The movie delivers the same level of drama, tension, and overall high quality as the rest of the series.
But even though this Blu-ray sports faithful video, outstanding audio, and a decent helping of supplements, I'm still finding this release perplexing to say the least. Not only is 'Battlestar Galactica: Razor' included in both complete series box sets, those purchasing each season individually will still get it anyway since it is the first disc of 'Battlestar Galactica: Season 4' (which includes both Seasons 4.0 and 4.5).
A more logical release would've been 'Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0,' as 'Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5' has already been released day-and-date with the DVD edition. Plus I'm sure anyone who purchased that set would like to finally complete the season without being forced to buy some of the same discs over again.
Alas, as much as I love this show, I just can't bring myself to recommend this single disc release of 'Battlestar Galactica: Razor' unfortunately. It just seems pointless, so buyer beware.
- BD-50 Blu-ray Disc
- Region Free
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English SDH, French, Spanish
- Commentary to the Unrated Extended Version with Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore and Writer Michael Taylor
- Deleted scenes
- Razor minisodes
- The Look of Battlestar Galactica
- My Favorite Episodes So Far
- Season Four Sneak Peek and Trailer
Exclusive HD Content
- U-Control: The Oracle
- U-Control: Battlestar Actual
- Battlestar Galactica: Ultimate Battle
- My Scenes
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