Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: Razor

"Battlestar Galactica: Razor", a two-hour mini-movie as an extension of the series, is quite simply, a history lesson. History lessons--although this is a large generalization--are boring. Assuming you know history, history lessons are not exciting, tension-filled, or suspenseful because they contain an outcome already known by the audience.

When the audience watches the attack on the Battlestar Pegasus in the opening scenes of "Razor", they are not fearful or worried about the characters because they know the characters will be "okay" in the end. The characters aren't going to die here, they aren't going to kill "so-and-so" because the audience has a window into the future that tells them who is going to live and who is going to die. This creates a lack of sympathy with the protagonists because the audience can't worry about the characters, they can't put themselves in their shoes. Instead, they are watching them from a distance, through a history book. (This was also the same problem I had with LOST season 4 and its use of flashforwards.)

So what's the point of creating a history lesson, then? In this case it would be to explore the differences in morality and ethics between the crews of the Galactica and the Pegasus. What makes this pointless, however, is that we already know these things from the 3 episode arc in Season 2. All "Razor" does is put a face to the stories we have already heard before.
For example, in Season 2, Colonel Tigh asks the Pegasus colonel about how the Pegasus survived so many months in deep space. The Pegasus colonel, drunk and intoxicated, tells Tigh about how the Pegasus crew killed civilians and stole their supplies.
This was a great bit of exposition. It worked because this short snippet of dialog in itself provided all the information we needed to know that the Pegasus and its crew were ruthless in their survival. By leaving out certain details, the show lets the audience ponder what actually happened and speculate on the true nature of the Pegasus' past.

Now, "Razor" comes along and what does it have to add to this story? Nothing, actually. It just creates a visual record to reinforce exactly what the Pegasus colonel said in season 2. Entire scenes are devoted to restating what we already knew, which makes them pointless. The show is not making any new point, or revealing any details we did not already know. Instead, the show makes us sit through dozens of minutes of exposition in order to arrive at the same conclusion which was reached in a simple line of dialog in season 2. Effective? No, just boring, and redundant.

The other thing that "Razor" suffers from is being a one-dimensional story. The entire film is centered around the idea that Pegasus had to dehumanize themselves in order to save mankind. This is a fine idea, and it was already explored in season 2, but it is not substantial enough to devote an entire two hours of film to it.
One thing that makes the new series of Battlestar Galactica so successful is that it explores every aspect of its concept of the human race on the run. It is not concentrated on just the military element of the escape. Instead, the show also explores the maintenance crew's lives, politics, a traitor scientist, enemy Cylons, personal relationships, and more. Razor only focuses on the military aspect of the show, and because of this is not as "multi-layered" or interesting as the show it attempts to emulate.

If there's one thing you can say about Battlestar Galactica: Razor, I would say that it shows that portraying the entire backstory of a character is unnecessary. You don't need to visually communicate a whole character's history in order to reveal his or her qualities. Simple lines of dialog suffice just as well. Creating entire scenes to just reinforce one point about a character is a waste of the audience's time and attention span when there are much more efficient and quicker ways to relate the same idea to the audience.

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