I have to confess it was with a great deal of apprehension that I sat down to watch 'Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome.' The reboot series from Ronald D.Moore, which ran on the SyFy network from 2004 to 2009, was a wonderful piece of television and ranks as perhaps one of the best science-fiction series ever created for the medium. However, Moore's follow-up prequel series, 'Caprica,' was a terrible disappointment, and this latest prequel (which originally aired as a series of online webisodes) didn't have Moore's involvement at all (it was conceived by former 'Battlestar' writers Michael Taylor and David Eick). Even the SyFy network itself has been wishy-washy on the whole 'Blood & Chrome' idea… first greenlighting it as a series of webisodes, then giving the okay for it to be a "backdoor" pilot for a possible new television series, to finally repealing that idea and deciding to go the webisode route again (the movie was available in 10 separate parts online last year, while this release is an "unrated" version that adds a few profanities and, yes, a touch of nudity to the movie). As of this writing, SyFy has no plans of turning 'Blood & Chrome' into an ongoing series, and that's a shame – as this movie covers exactly the kind of storyline and action that fans were hoping 'Caprica' would provide, yet never did.
'Blood & Chrome' chronicles the first mission of a young William Adama (Luke Pasqualino), as he has just finished his cadet training and has gotten his first assignment aboard the Battlestar Galactica. Although he finished school as one of the best pilots in his class (yes, the opening scenes have very much a 'Top Gun' in space feel to them), he finds himself assigned to a Raptor instead of a Viper. Alongside his new co-pilot, Coker (Ben Cotton), he's assigned to take Dr. Beka Kelly (Lili Bordan) on what appears to be a very routine mission. However, once the assignment is underway, Adama discovers that he is part of a much more important covert operation – one that will result in a rendezvous with another battlestar and fleet of "ghost ships," long thought destroyed.
I don't want to give away too much of the storyline, as (assuming one hasn't already viewed the 10-part series online) not knowing what happens next is a lot of the fun in viewing 'Blood & Chrome.' I will say Adama's mission eventually leads to a series of scenes that take place on an ice planet which will remind younger sci-fi fans of Hoth, but is sure to invoke memories of the classic 'Battlestar' episode "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" to older viewers like myself. There is a bit of a "twist" ending here that most loyal fans are going to be able to see coming, and I frankly could have done without. Things get a little too "by the numbers" in the plot during the last half hour or so, but considering this may turn out to be a "one-shot-deal" as far as the story of young Adama goes, it's something I can live with.
'Blood & Chrome's' biggest problem is that it's not a movie that fans who haven't seen the Ron Moore series are going to be able to latch onto easily. If one has no knowledge of who the Cylons are and what their gripe with humans is (and vice versa), there's not much in the way of exposition here to cover it. Of course, also knowing who Adama will grow up to be adds tremendously to one's enjoyment of the movie. So even though this is essentially a stand-alone title, it's not really stand-alone in the sense that it can be enjoyed independently of the series on which it is based. That may be one of the reasons SyFy passed on making a television show out of 'Blood & Chrome' (their "official" reason is that they couldn't get advertiser support, which is honestly a bit hard to swallow), but it shouldn't prevent the producers from making future direct-to-home video installments if this release proves successful.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome' is a two-disc release, housed in a standard Blu-ray case that includes a slip cover. Disc one contains the DVD version of the movie, while disc two is the Blu-ray. The set also includes an insert containing the codes for both a digital copy and an UltraViolet copy, as well as an insert containing a code to try out the 'Battlestar Galactica Online' game. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray versions are front-loaded with trailers for the 'Battlestar Galactica' series (the recent reboot), 'Grimm,' 'Alphas,' and the theatrical film 'The Man with the Iron Fists'.
My issues with the video have more to do with the source material, so first let's talk about the actual transfer. Since 'Blood & Chrome' was shot in digital HD, there are few problems here… the Blu-ray picture looks the way the creators intended it to look, with solid contrast and colors and decent black levels. But although the transfer is solid, that doesn't mean the video quality is necessarily pleasing to the eye. The makers of the movie (perhaps because so much of each scene is digitally created) have decided to use so much lens flare (digitally-created flares to boot!) that they should be expecting to hear from J.J. Abrams' lawyers any day now. The flares are so obtrusive that sometimes they seem to be emanating from the actors' faces themselves rather than a digitally-created light source. The flare issue varies with each scene, but is present throughout the movie. One suspects the artificial flaring was inserted so the digital backgrounds don't look quite as "fake" as they otherwise might, but it does become a distraction to enjoying the presentation.
There also has been an effort to make 'Blood & Chrome' look very much like an episode of the series, meaning a noticeable amount of film grain (again, digitally created) has been added. It's been a while since I've seen an episode of the Ron Moore 'Battlestar,' but I think the grain here is a little less evident than it was in the series' episodes, meaning just enough to give you the 'feel' of the show, without becoming yet another distraction to one's enjoyment of the movie.
With those issues now logged, I must confess it's amazing to me how good the majority of 'Blood & Chrome' looks. Estimates on the budget start at $2 million (which producers have confessed is much lower than what they had to work with), but even if they spent three times that much, this is one impressive achievement. 'Blood & Chrome' looks as good (and sometimes better) than most sci-fi theatrical releases, and although I've never been a proponent of digital effects over models and live-action stunts, I must confess that this release gave me pause about what can be done in the digital realm on a (somewhat) small budget.
The movie opens with an interstellar firefight that really shows off the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Vipers and Cylon raiders can be heard swooping from one speaker to the next, and explosions will give your subwoofer a great workout. Dialogue is also crisp and clear, and – for the most part – the track delivers for the entire movie. The musical soundtrack has been once again done by Bear McCready, who composed music for the Ronald Moore series, and is now even more famous for his work on 'The Walking Dead.' There's a nice mix of both the familiar and the new here in McCready's work. In addition to the DTS-HD Master Audio track, there are subtitle options for English SDH, Spanish, and French. The disc has also been D-Box encoded for those who want to "feel" the explosions along with seeing and hearing them.
Of the handful of 'Battlestar' spin-offs and prequels we've seen, both during ('Razor') and after ('The Plan' and 'Caprica') the series, I must confess that 'Blood & Chrome' is one of the best (I enjoyed 'Razor' quite a bit as well). It doesn't quite capture the magic of the series on which it is based, but it is a well-made attempt at doing so and I think, for the most part, 'Battlestar Galactica' fans are going to be quite pleased with the effort that was made here. Recommended.