Tuesday, April 21, 2009

'Caprica' DVD review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review the DVD release of "Caprica". (Warning: the review contains spoilers for the "Battlestar Galactica" finale.) As the DVD is out today -- months and months ahead of when the show is going to air on Sci Fi (or SyFy, or whatever they wind up calling it) -- I think it's fair to declare the comments to this post to be spoiler-acceptable (so long as we obviously limit it to the content of the DVD). If you haven't watched it, enter at your own risk. And we can all talk about it together sometime in 2010.


Gareth Wilson said...

I can't help doing the math on Bill Adama. I really didn't think of him as being 69 years old in the miniseries - that's 12 years older than Eric Olmos was!

dark tyler said...

The questions Caprica poses are intriguing, and it really looks like a good show. But I can't help but think (especially after the end of BSG) that this show won't be a discussion on certain themes, but rather Moore forcing his opinion upon us. (Again.)

In this pilot, the character that represents one side of the debate ends the hour by delivering a hair-raising speech to his son (our beloved Bill Adama) about honor and pride. The other creates the Cylons. Oh, this is going to be balanced, no doubt about it.

Anonymous said...

Count me out on this one. Fool me once...Yadda yadda yadda. The finale of BSG was one of the WORST in TV History.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been into Caprica BECAUSE it really doesn't look that much different or higher tech than our world now- not that I want gadgets and gizmos, but innovation is nice.
Are they basically ignoring the "first" cylon war that ended 40 years before the start of the new BSG? They aren't giving a lot of room here.


ED said...

Alan, I apologize if this is widely known and I missed it, but why such a lag between the BSG finale and when SyFy will actually start airing Caprica? It would have made more sense to me to try and get it on the air not too long after. Unless they are trying to distance the two.

Brandy said...

I'm undecided about Caprica. I loved Galactica and I loved the final episode with the exception of the coda which I found to be just a little too on the nose. I can extrapolate all by myself. Honest.

But I really feel like the previews I've seen for Caprica have been very much about morality rather than being about something else with morality being a strong undercurrent.

To me Galactica was a story of survival and humanity and it had all sorts of things like religion and faith and what is god and what is human to keep me asking bigger questions.

But Caprica feels like the bigger questions are the show and the plot of creating cylons is the underlying bit.

Antid Oto said...

yep. Count me among those who would have given this show a chance save for the awful Battlestar finale. When you tell all your fans that the answer to the last several years of mysteries is "God did it," don't be surprised when they don't want to get involved in your next mystery.

And to the commenters who will inevitably say that questions of God and religion were always part of Battlestar: not in the incredibly puerile, mechanistic form that they were in the finale, no they weren't.

Clevelle said...

Add me to the list of people who aren't going to watch this one thanks to the awful BSG finale. Somehow I think the CAPRICA series will end up invalidating much of BSG. Mark my words.

David Thiel said...

I thought the BSG finale was great; not the way I would've done it, but valid given what had come before.

That said, I can't say that I'm in any way intrigued by "Caprica." My gut reaction is that they're telling a story that's already implied in BSG and doesn't require elaboration. It's the part before the *interesting* part.

And no, I don't need there to be spaceships, but honestly, a show set on another planet that looks and acts almost entirely like contemporary Earth doesn't excite me. Family drama? Organized crime stories? Guys in fedoras? That's something I can watch on channels not named "Sci-Fi," or even "Syfy."

Mike F said...

I enjoyed BSG a great deal, at one time thought it might be one of the best tv shows in the history of television. But the more distance I get from the finale and the last season, the more frustrated I get when I'm reminded of it.

I do agree with Alan generally that the story of the characters and their personal journeys were done mostly beautifully, and understand that Ron Moore felt this was the thrust of the show. But the fact is the intensity of the interest in this show, in large part, stemmed from the engrossing mysteries and mythology. On that front, they just really really dropped the ball and I'm left feeling awfully manipulated.

Knowing that none of the events of the future mean much of anything because a higher power is orchestrating the events, or is about to, makes me pretty unlikely to invest in a prequel.

I'd be much more likely to watch a non Sci Fi Ron Moore produced show.

Eldritch said...

I've seen "Caprica," and I enjoyed it. At this moment, I'm eager to see the next episode. However, along with many others, the unsatisfying finale of BSG, has given me some hesitation, or perhaps lowered my expectations. I feel still scarred by the identify of Laura Palmer's killer. BSG's conclusion didn't help that any.

Normally, re-viewing a story can be a lot of fun. Knowing the outcome helps you spot the meaningful hints and clues you missed the first time through. But knowing that there's no explanation for Kara, that the Opera House is style without substance, and that much of the remaining is simply divine intervention, will undercut that for me. It's helped me realize that most/all series don't have a complete story in mind. They just improvise it as they go along. Sometimes that works; sometimes not.

On the other hand (with my expectations lowered and all), I must say, that the first time through, BSG was quite a thrill until the final episode. Well written and involving. "Caprica" felt the same way. I got caught up in the tragedy of a father wanting to bring his dead daughter back . . . and the heartbreaking result of that effort in the final scene.

Of course, a year from now, when the series finally debuts, I could easily be over that.

Unknown said...

Honestly, I can't say I feel remotely excited to watch this. I probably will, mind you, but it just sounds rather "meh," especially when you know where it's going.

Unknown said...

I saw this last night at the BSG/Caprica Paley Fest event. I liked it quite a bit... It feels derivative of a bunch of stuff (which has been remarked about in most reviews) but still felt like a new take on old material. The acting is across the board great and I agree with Alan that even if I wasn't totally in love with it, I definitely want to see the next one.

They really do try hard to make it a different show. There really not any of the feel of Galactica and the robotics stuff takes a back seat to the family angst.

It would have been interesting to see some of the dissenters to the BSG finale there last night as it was generally a love fest. Oh, and Seth Green (moderator) is a douche and almost single handedly ruined the event.

SteveDubs said...

I am/was a huge BSG fan. I loved every left-turn, ballsy move RDM made, and the more those aspects of the show pissed off some viewers, the more I loved them (the New Cap arc, the finale, etc).

That said, I have ZERO interest in Caprica. Nothing in this pilot movie interests me, nor the corporate machinations that drive the plot. Man made the Cylons, they rebelled. We know all this. Why do I need to see Eric Stoltz show us the same?

Anonymous said...

Well,just finished the DVD and I sure had higher hopes than that. No characters grabbed me, the story was boring. I like my space porn.


Karl said...

I thought the BSG finale was brilliant. Anyone surprised or disappointed by the God angle must not have paid much attention for the duration of the entire series. That was always present. Always. Not sure what you may have been expecting.

As for Caprica, I haven't watched it yet but I'm skeptical. I'm skeptical of prequels in general.

Why is this necessary? We already know how everything winds up. We already know the Cylons rebel, we already know the colonies are destroyed, we already know the remnants of humanity and the rebel cylons find Earth. We already know everything important. So the events of this series seem inconsequential. It may provide interesting backstory, but can it sustain itself for an entire series? I think it may have been more interesting to just use this concept for a single Razor-style TV movie. I don't see why the series is necessary.

With that said, I'll probably still watch it. I'm sure it will be well-written.

Maybe it'd have been a smarter move to explore these concepts in an entirely new universe, instead of adding on to the BSG world. We know where everything is going in BSG.

To me, prequels just take out a lot of the drama and suspense. Would the Star Wars prequel trilogy have been all that better had they had better dialogue and plots? We already know Anakin falls to the dark side, we already know the Empire replaces the Republic, we already know Obi Wan is betrayed by his apprentice. It provides for some interesting moments, but it's all things we've already known about for years.

Paul Allor said...

Alan, you mentioned in your review that this was pitched as "a sci-fi version of Dallas." I'm a huge BSG fan, but I think this pilot would have been a lot better if it was more like Dallas, meaning less long, moody, contemplative shots, and more forward momentum.

There was much to admire in this show, and a lot of very cool ideas, but it felt like it needed a lot more time in the editing bay. I'm assuming the broadcast version is shorter than this, and so I think it's quite possible that the Sci-Fi premiere will be a better cut, and make a stronger impression on first-time viewers.

Eldritch said...

Why is this necessary? We already know how everything winds up. We already know the Cylons rebel, .... We already know everything important. .
It's how well a story is told that's important, not just the plot points. The BSG remake had the same basic premise, the same characters as the 1978 series. Even several of the first season episodes were re-writes of the 1978 series's episodes. Yet it was worth seeing. The story was told better.

How many movies have you seen that were "determined man over comes insuperable enemies ?" If you'd seen the "Terminator" movie, would that be a reason not to see "Terminator II?" Both basically the same story.

Or how many times has the story "boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl" been told before? Does that mean the most recent remake isn't worth seeing?

How a story is told is important.

In the case of "Caprica," the story is not just "Cylons are invented." It's a story of grieving, obsession, religious and racial bigotry, politics, terrorism and lots of other things. Moore is using it as a platform to write stories about the conflicts in our own society. It won't be just about robots.

Ada-Jean said...

Good article Alan, thanks. One small issue I'd have is that I don't think it was as simple as the cylons were the stand-ins for muslim extremists - in the New Caprica storyline I think it went pretty much the other way, and different groups at different times were used as different parallels. One of the huge strengths of BSG was showing that in extreme circumstances we will all behave in some extreme ways (not necessarily the same extreme ways). It encouraged understanding, if not approval, of a huge range of human behaviour.

I enjoyed Caprica's pilot more than I had been expecting to. (For what it is worth, I was a little let-down by the BSG finale, as much the lonely ending for some of the characters as just-a-little-too-smug angels, but I didn't hate it. I am a sci-fi nerd). It was actually less soapy than I expected - I mean it had creepy scary robots! And the world was engrossing, which is part of what I like about sci-fi. The point about knowing what is going to happen - BSG, for me, was always about the characters - and I have no idea what will happen to the Greystones, which is plenty of tension. If anything, the thing that worries me slightly is that we DO know what happens to the Adamas, including where Joseph and Bill's relationship ends up. That could be tricky to juggle with character growth. And we don't know what happens to Zoe really either - sure we end up with cylons, but did they start with something more? It looked great - nudity and all - and I was pleasantly hooked, so I'm in.

JackiWhitford said...

I watched this pilot movie three times yesterday and without giving anything away, I would say it is a big soap opera setup for the series to come in January 2010.

If the Caprica series writing and storyline is as compelling as LOST, then this will have a following beyond die hard BSG fans.

If not, then this will be a shortlived exercise in futility.

Craig Ranapia said...

If anything, the thing that worries me slightly is that we DO know what happens to the Adamas, including where Joseph and Bill's relationship ends up.Well, I'm not so sure we really do. I never really got a sense why -- or even how -- they ended up being estranged. And even so, if they were that badly at odds, I can't imagine Lee having any contact with his grandfather.

Are they basically ignoring the "first" cylon war that ended 40 years before the start of the new BSG? They aren't giving a lot of room here.No. Now, if I've got my timeline straight, 'Caprica' starts around 56 years before the start of BSG, or roughly four years before the start of the first Cylon War (which lasted around twelve and a half years, according to the Razor flashbacks). I don't see why 'Caprica' has to follow the Trek/B5 convention of one season equal more or less one year of showtime. BSG certainly didn't -- the first two seasons, up to the 'one year later' flashforward -- occur over nine months.

james said...

I hated the finale of BSG because while religion was always an important aspect of the show I thought they balanced it well with a science perspective. Where as the only other perspective they offered in the finale was "You know he doesn't like to be called that [God]." This show seems like it'll go back to the balance.

I watched it and I thought it was okay. There's a lot of room to build interesting stories.

I enjoyed a lot of subtle developments such as the golden halo affect people have when they enter the room to see the computerized version of the daughter. Reminded of the final five and of starbuck.

It was cool to see the proto of downloading. Having your body scanned and imprinted for the halo.

Are they hinting that the daughter was going to use her haloed version of herself to convince people to convert or to deny religion?

As for the acting, I thought the child stars were pretty weak and the leads okay. I'm kind of concerned about the portrayal of Adama as a child.

It'd be cool if they jumped years between each series but it's unlikely especially since it's pitched as a sci-fi show the family could watch.

jim treacher said...

I can't decide whether it's enlightening or depressing that things like neckties, organized crime, and the Internet are, apparently, deeply ingrained aspects of human racial memory.

ripvanruben said...

i quite liked the Caprica Pilot, it really does work as a seperate work. Hell, it could even be seen as proto-prequel to the Prequel to the Dune novels, going way way back before the Butlerian Jihad.

Unknown said...

After the BSG finale, not even going to touch it. No way will I get suckered into another fly-by-the-seat-of-your-arrogance storywriting for even one season.

Alan, from the reactions I've seen I'd almost say that negative reactions to last month's finale outnumber the positive ones, perhaps by a large margin. Few people I spoke to felt anything less than betrayed.

Given such a legacy that ending created for such an excellent (at times frustrating) show, Caprica won't be given much screen time among my friends.

John said...

How is that people think the God thing came out of nowhere? Seriously, were you people watching a different series than I was? It was always a part of the show.

The Caprica Times DVD news said...

I love that like BSG Caprica makes you reflect on moral questions and how you would feel in the challenging situations that the characters are put through. The cast does an excellent portrayal of this.

erin said...

Wow--just watched it and I thought it was terrific. I found it really unsettling (the too-adult teens in that virtual world...yeesh), which was its intent, so mission accomplished. Really interesting religious/moral questions and I like to see the beginnings of the BSG world. I also Agree that Stoltz and Esai Morales were terrific surprises. Between this and his creepy Grey's stint, Stoltz has been stepping it up lately. I'm in the camp that LOVED the finale (and really couldn't understand all the hate, even after reading the 200 comments on this blog!), so obviously I'm the target market. I think, in general, that RDM is pretty brilliant and has more interesting ideas than 90% of other tv OR movie writers out there. I trust his creative process.

I thought the acting was really excellent, the sets are austere yet beautiful, and the story has a lot of potential. And I was really disturbed by Sister Clarice. Count me on board for 2010! Still confused as to why it was released so long before it's premier date, because we all have short memories, but I'll go with it. If you're on the fence about watching it, see it anyway!

Matter-Eater Lad said...

"How is that people think the God thing came out of nowhere? Seriously, were you people watching a different series than I was? It was always a part of the show."

As with any TV series, the show that is actually being aired is, for some people, not the show they think they are watching. Cf. "Sopranos" viewers who wondered why the show wasted so much time on Tony's family, or "Sopranos" viewers who wondered why the show wasted so much time on mob stuff.

Anonymous said...

I loved BSG, including the finale, and the Caprica pilot. Caprica concerns the people and events that lead up to the first cylon war, and ultimately the events of BSG. This would suggest that little of interest can be revealed since we know where it is all going. But I disagree with this. I think there are many mysteries not yet answered, which can be answered in Caprica.

Is holoband technology the origin of cylon projection?

Is Daniel Greystone related somehow to Kara Thrace, or the Daniel model of cylon?

Does Daniel Greystone become the first ever Cylon hybrid?

Will we see head characters in Caprica, and learn more about their true nature?

Are the head characters the Lords of Kobol / Angels / superadvanced human-cylon entities from the future sent to ensure that their ancestors join together? Are they AI holographic life forms that can assume a hard light form when they choose, akin to Rimmer in Red Dwarf?

Will we see a yonger Romo Lamkin learning his legalistic trade from an older Joseph Adama towards the end of the series? Was there more to Romo Lamkin than meets the eye?

Though the series is set on Caprica, will we see what life is like on the other colonies?

These are just some of the questions I'd like to see explored. I believe that while Caprica's plot will lead quite consistently up to the first cylon war, it will also plant the seeds for a series that will come after Caprica. It could be a series depicting the first cylon war, with a young William Adama. It could be set way in the past, on Kobol, showing life when humans, first generation cylons, and the gods lived side by side. Or, it could be set on a future Earth, where humanity has once again created a new version of the centurions, and explores the galaxy, only to discover Caprica, the other colonies, and Kobol, with their ancient ruins.

Anyhoo, looking forward to The Plan (which Edward James Olmos has said will make us go 'frak' and have to watch the series all over again) and Caprica.