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Battlestar Galactica: The Plan

(2009) *** Unrated
112 min. Universal Studios. Cast: Michael Hogan, Edward James Olmos.

/content/films/3620/1.jpgEven die-hard Battlestar Galactica fans may take a bit of time to warm up to Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, the long-promised, feature-length direct-to-video coda to the series. But the wait is worthwhile. The Plan may not be user friendly, but it does ultimately deliver by tying up loose ends from the series and offering one last provocative social commentary. It's clear that The Plan is a labor of love for its writer (executive producer Jane Espenson), its director (series star Edward James Olmos), and its cast, made up of most of the major players from the series. So it's appropriate that the film should also be about love, the spanner in the works that allows humanity to triumph over machinery.

The plot if The Plan is all but impossible to summarize, but in concept, it's a bit like Tom Stoppard's classic absurdist comedy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which revisited Hamlet from the perspective of two relatively minor characters. Though The Plan isn't much absurdist, Battlestar Galactica has always been existential by not only posing a war between humans and cylons, but constantly questioning each side's motivation and nature. The new film revists the series from the Cylon perspective to reveal new facets of old incidents; using hindsight to look back at key moments in the human-cylon war dredges up "backstage" secrets from major moments in the series' history. In a move guaranteed to delight fans of Universal-produced science-fiction, Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap) takes center stage in The Plan, in his double role as John Cavil, the first of seven humanoid Cylon models.

If you're already lost, do not pass "GO." Return to the 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries that relaunched the franchise, because beginning with The Plan would simply be foolhardy or insane. This one's for those who've stuck it out all along and want some more answers to lingering questions. Espenson still leaves enough dangling that there's sequel potential left in the old girl should sales be healthy enough, so as Olmos has said to geeks searching torrents, vote with your dollars. Most of the series' cast is on hand—if largely in repurposed clips from the series—for this tale of two Cavils, one on Galactica and one on Caprica. In true Cylon fashion, the Cavils' divergent paths lead to a fundamental disagreement about the war. One remains staunchly committed to wiping out the human race, while the other realizes it's a war on love, and they're losing: "As long as any humans exist, there's no room for us."

At first, The Plan's structure is seriously off-putting. It takes some getting used to the film's herky-jerky time-hopping through what previously required dozens of hours of storytelling time. But the rhythm of this necessary shorthand soon settles with the audience, and though the film is sure to deliver some action spectacle (including a dazzling retake of the near-total destruction of the Twelve Colonies), it's confident enough to indulge the series' penchants for philosophy and anthropology. The performances and production values are on par with the series, despite what had to have been a tight budget, and Stockwell's sly work alone is well worth the price of admission.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 10/27/2009

Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

As Battlestar Galactica fans know well by now, Universal has done right by this property on home video, with deluxe, extra-packed collections of each season and the complete series. Now Battlestar Galactica: The Plan gets the same deluxe treatment on Blu-ray and DVD. The video transfer is typically excellent on Blu-ray, handling with aplomb the series rough-hewn quality. As with previous BSG releases, Universal issues a warning: "The Blu-ray release of Battlestar Galactica: The Plan 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." To put it simply, they're right: the movie looks exactly as it should, with variance in lighting and grain just a part of the destabilizing style that is BSG. Audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and as usual it packs a wallop. In terms of effects, The Plan offers plenty of opportunities to rattle your cage, and the dialogue remains clear.

For a direct-to-video movie, Battlestar Galactica: The Plan gets a very nice bonus package, beginning with an audio commentary with director Edward James Olmos and executiove producer/writer Jane Espenson. The two evince a mutual respect as they discuss their love of the series and their intentions for its last hurrah.

A selection of "Deleted Scenes" (13:57, SD) follows before four HD featurettes.

"From Admiral to Director: Edward James Olmos & The Plan" (6:48, HD) offers behind-the-scenes glimpses as well as interviews with Olmos, Espenson, supervising producer Harvey Frand, Rick Worthy, Dean Stockwell, Tricia Helfer, and Grace Park.

"The Cylons of The Plan" (6:51, HD) focuses on the mythology of the film's robot anti-heroes. Interviewees include Olmos, Park, Espenson, Stockwell, Helfer, and Worthy.

"The Cylon Attack" (4:02, HD) focuses on the production challenges of shooting a centerpiece action sequence. On hand are art director Doug McLean, Olmos, Michael Trucco, and director of photography Stephen McNutt.

Lastly, "Visual Effects: The Magic Behind The Plan" (19:03, HD) showcases the work of the effects technicians, illustrated through raw effects footage, finished clips and explanatory interviews with VFX producer Mike Gibson, visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel, Espenson, Olmos, CG artist Michael Davidson, co-producer Paul M. Leonard, supervising editor Andrew Seklir, visual effects editor Eric Lea, lead CG modeler Pierre Drollet, CG supervisor Doug Drexler, CG artist Jesse Mesa Toves, CG artist Kyle Toucher, CG artist David Morton, cg artist Sean Jackson, render assist Farrah Welch, compositor Derek Ledbetter, render coordinator Manuel Choi, head of technology Jeremy Lang, and compositor Heather McAuliff.

The disc is BD-Live-enabled, with a special Battlestar Galactica Trivia Challenge, as well as the latest news from Universal. The My Scenes bookmarking feature is also a handy component of the disc.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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