A favorite pastime of movie and TV producers is rebooting old ideas years later, hoping to capitalize on a story that's already played out for older generations. This time we're heading into alien infested skies with the re-imagining of the 1983 mini-series 'V'. A story of aliens visiting earth who pretend they are here for peace and good, but have something much more sinister (and scaly) brewing underneath their cloned human hides.
All over the earth, large spaceships have suddenly descended from the sky slowly parking themselves right above 29 major cities all over the world. A friendly, attractive woman appears on the bottom of the spaceship via alien TV technology and announces their arrival, and that they "…are of peace. Always." What follows is a frustrating TV show full of plot holes, nonsensical twists, and more awful special effects than you can shake a blue energy grenade at.
The aliens are quickly nicknamed The Visitors, or V's for short. Anna, the leader of the V's, announces that they are here to share their technology with the human race. They are here to make our world better. Then she unveils her plan to provide universal healthcare to everyone on earth with alien technology. Humans rejoice!
Erica Evans (Elisabeth Mitchell) is an FBI agent, with a bone-headed son named Tyler who has fallen in love with one of the V's. Erica works at the FBI tracking down terrorists, but is thrown head first into the fray when the aliens arrive. She soon finds out that they aren't who they said they were. They aren't even human, they've just cloned human skin to appear that way. Jack (Joel Grestch) is a priest at a church in New York. He finds himself doubting his faith when the aliens arrive. How can God and aliens exist in the same universe? It's troubling to him. Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut) is about to propose to his wife, but he's hiding a secret. He knows much more about the V's than he's letting on.
Through a few twists and convenient plot turns these Erica, Jack and Ryan are brought together into an anti-V group called the Fifth Column. They've found out some dastardly stuff that Anna and her minions are up to and they've sworn to stop it.
'V' plays out like a melodramatic soap opera, but with spaceships involved. It is hampered by the Dan Brown type storytelling where every pause in action ends with a mini cliffhanger. Basically saying, we know you don't care too much about the characters on screen, but aren't you excited to see what will happen next…followed by a loud "dun, dun, dunnnnn…" just so we're clued into the fact that what is going to happen is even more intense. 'Lost' suffered from this type of storytelling too, but it made up for it because it was deeply rooted in its characters. 'V' is far too distracted with throwing one plot twist at us after another that it's hard to ever engage with any of the characters on a personal level. They're there just to run the plot through. The most interesting character on the show is Anna, and by default she's the most unexciting because she's not supposed to feel human emotion.
Instead 'V' bounces around through its plots and subplots, and sub-subplots like a show that's already lost its way through only 12 episodes. It has that stink that it will either be canceled before we know what's going on, or it will last longer than needed.
Season two starts up in January, and here's hoping that they try to side-step the conventional storylines they're playing with and start working to create a thought-provoking one. Imagine if 'V' had the poignancy and feel of political unrest that 'District 9' had. Then you'd have a show worth watching. As of right now 'V' deserves to be a show that you watch only after you've exhausted your DVR memory banks and realize "Oh yeah, I set that up to record. I've got nothing better to do I guess I'll watch it."
'V' could slide past with a marginal video score if it wasn't for the fact that around half of the show is set to a green screen backdrop that looked ridiculous on TV. On Blu-ray it's just too much for me to handle. The cruddy special effects used in this show create a muddied visual world whenever the scene switches back to life on the spaceships. Probably because of budgetary reasons, ABC elected to make everything on the V ships completely CG. This means that the characters are standing and acting in a giant room with green screen surrounding them. Much like the look of Daniel Tosh's show on Comedy Central, 'Tosh.0.' I mention 'Tosh.0' because that looks terribly fake, but it's supposed to. In 'V' these ships they live in are supposed to be these awe-inspiring wonders of invention, but the effects make them look so hokey that for a minute I thought I was back watching 'Riverworld.' Why are the special effects such a problem? Because they create a visual experience that is almost unwatchable at times. Heavy, persistent ringing and haloing can be seen around the characters. Random jaggies pop up around characters where the special effects backdrops haven't seamlessly meshed with the real people. Take a look at the people in the foreground when Anna finally brings the first humans aboard for the Live Aboard Program. The lady's hair on the left looks awful. Bands of white lines surround strands of her hair. On the right a kid looking off into the distance looks like he was crudely cut out of Photoshop with the lasso tool and pasted on the background. None of this adds up to a pleasurable viewing experience.
The exterior shots seem to have had more work done to them. There's a shot they use over and over with the ship hovering over Manhattan around dusk. The camera pans from the ship to the city buildings all lit up ready for nighttime. This shot is one of the better looking shots of the entire season. Other exterior shots of the city juxtaposed against the looming spaceship harbor quite a bit of aliasing as the camera slowly pans. Aliasing is mostly apparent on the tightly cropped windows on the buildings below.
The show's visuals do have promise when there aren't any special effects involved. Whenever we're on earth with the main characters the picture is fine with healthy looking skintones, strong primary colors, and extensive fine detail. There is one shot, however, when Erica and Jack are sitting on a roof after the warehouse raid that is rampant with errant noise and ugly looking grain that doesn't pop up anywhere else. Detail during the non-effect sequences is as good as TV gets. Facial features like pores and tiny facial hairs are all visible. Texture in Erica's is even noticeable. The small glimpses we get of the reptilian skin underneath are presented in all their scaly glory. If it weren't for all the ugly effects sequences 'V' would be a top-notch TV presentation on Blu-ray. The fact is though, that when presented in 1080p the problems with the low-budget effects are glaringly real and annoying. They cause enough of a problem with the overall picture to distract too much from the show itself.
Sorry fans of 'V', but Warner hasn't seen fit to grace this release with a lossless audio track. Instead the season is bogged down with a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround presentation that doesn't wow in the least. The mix is extremely front-heavy with forced rear ambiance that hardly sounds natural. It's true that there is a load of LFE to go around here, but for the most part the deep bass punches at the end of each segment are overwhelming. The soundtrack lumbers along beneath the surface adding suspense and intrigue to every scene, but it's oddly prioritized in regards to the dialogue. There were times where dialogue got lost in the heavy swells of booming music. Most of the time dialogue is clearly intelligible, but there are moments of weakness there too. Sometimes dialogue gives off that horrible tin can sound that is excruciating to the ears. There's a moment during the last episode when Anna has had her soldier plot foiled. She looks up into the sky and yells "NOOOOOOO!" That scream is accompanied by a crackle and hiss from the center channel that was never present throughout the entire season. Warner's soundtrack is less than impressive and considering that its lossy to begin with, there's not much for fans or consumers to like here.
'V' has its fans I know. Make no mistake, I'm still mildly interested to see what happens in the second season and will most likely be reviewing that season once it hits Blu-ray. I hold out hope that the show can rise above its pedestrian storytelling ideas and make a sci-fi show worth watching come the second season. Sadly the video for this set is marginal at best. Likewise the audio. There are some special features, but fans may loathe the idea of only one random audio commentary. Overall, I would say rent this before you make your purchase. See what it looks and sounds like before you decide to buy it.