Edward Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber, James Callis
180 Minutes, Directed by Michael Rymer
The new Battlestar Galactica blasts into a new century, re-inventing the epic
space opera and breathing new life into the sci-fi genre. The story remains
similar: When the humans of the planet Kobol are virtually annihilated in a
sneak attack by the Cylons (intelligent robots built by humans, a small group of
human survivors aboard the last remaining Battlestar, the Galactica, opt to make
an escape, led by Commander Adama and President Laura Roslin. Hoping to reach
their legendary homeworld of Earth, the humans must fight for their survival
against the fanatical -- and now humanoid -- Cylons. —
Recently aired on the U.S. Sci-Fi Channel and scheduled for theatrical release
(in edited form) in Europe in 2004, Battlestar Galactica is a remake of
the 1978 movie that launched a short-lived TV series.
Envious of Fox’s 1977 success
with Star Wars, Universal Studios fast tracked
Battlestar Galactica to take advantage of the
renewed interest in the science fiction genre. Even the name seemed derivative
of Star Wars – Battle Star? But the Universal project had a different twist.
What if the ancient civilizations on Earth were actually from another planet?
Anyone remember the hit book and Nimoy-narrated documentary, Chariot of the
Gods? Same premise – Earth was visited by aliens in the distant past who
influenced the Greeks and built the pyramids. So the crew of the giant space
carrier, Galactica, had names that were intriguingly rooted in mythology.
Apollo, Athena, Commander Adama (Adam?) and so on.
"It’s a real pleasure to see an old concept dusted off and re-imagined
to such brilliance. . . ."
The 1978 Battlestar
Galactica had a couple of interesting ideas. The 12 colonies of mankind
(named after the signs of the Zodiac), anxious for peace, end up getting
annihilated by their enemies, the Cylons. So the last remaining carrier – the
Galactica – leads a fleet of refugees as they head across space in search of the
mythical 13th colony – Earth.
The 2003 remake has a number of
key elements intact but the approach is rugged and raw compared to the original.
Most of the Greek mythology has gone out the window. We have 12 colonies of
humankind anxious to make peace with the Cylons – but this time, the Cylons were
actually human creations – a race of machines that were designed to serve
humankind. This is an interesting twist a la Planet of the
Apes, Terminator or The
Matrix where the revenge factor comes back in spades whenever mankind tries
to play God.
In fact, the Cylons have
advanced to the point where they’ve made a couple models that look exactly like
humans. This new Galactica has cleverly merged some of the best elements
of classic science fiction with this homage to
Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing.
What makes Battlestar
Galactica extremely entertaining for both new and old fans is the
re-engineering of the story. We’re dealing with familiar characters but in a
brand new post 9-11 world. While the 1978 Galactica made parallels with
the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour, the new Galactica is very much
aware of 9-11 terrorism and the absolute battle between ideologies. Should the
embattled humans become a military dictatorship or should a civilian government
prevail? It makes for good human drama and great science fiction.
Battlestar Galactica is
set in a very cruel reality. Lorne Greene, as Adama in the 1978 movie, used to
bellow that the Galactica would travel no faster than the slowest ship in the
refugee fleet. But Galactica 2003 is a very different Darwinian world
where leaders make tough decisions that cost lives. The Galactica itself is
still a space carrier but it's a 50 year old leviathan about to be
The new Galactica also
pays tribute to the original movie with some visual and sonic references. Also,
because the new Cylons have a weapon that acts like a computer virus, the movie
often points out how some 20-year old hardware is superior to highly vulnerable
Is Battlestar perfect
The pacing is almost real-time/documentary slow. And the casting at times seems
arbitrary. Edward Olmos plays Commander Adama, the solemn technophobe and last
commander of the Galactica. But ghostly pale British actor Jamie Bamber –
looking like a very young Adam Baldwin – plays Adama’s son, Apollo. They look
nothing alike. And the evil Cylon infiltrator is played by Courtney Love
lookalike Tricia Helfer. But Mary McDonnell is perfect as the Secretary of
Education who suddenly has to assume the Presidency when the rest of the cabinet
is killed. It’s clear that writer Ron Moore was impressed by the dignified
McDonnell when she played the First Lady in Independence
Director Michael Rymer, perhaps best known for directing the awful
Queen of the
Damned, does a great job with Battlestar Galactica. He has said that his main
influence was Black Hawk Down and it shows in this movie's grittiness and
The new Galactica also benefits from superb special effects, enhanced by the
filmmaker’s choice of an edgy, handheld feel that makes the space battles look
and feel very realistic. The attention to detail such as military protocol is
reminiscent of another cult TV series about Marines in space, Space Above and
Will this new Galactica lead to a new TV series?
Perhaps. But on its own, it’s
a real pleasure to see an old concept dusted off and re-imagined to such
brilliance. Think of the over-produced 1998 remake of Lost in Space and you’ll
appreciate Rymer's accomplishment with the leaner, meaner Galactica all the
- Harrison Cheung
I'm usually the first thirtysomethinger geekboy to rail against dumb remakes
of 'Seventies movies, but not in this case. Actually this "re-imagining" of the
old Star Wars rip-off TV show is an improvement and has more pure sci-fi touches
than the original show ever had. Ditch your fanboy preconceptions and check it
out. After all, it has no cutesy robot dog sidekicks or moppet-haired 1970s
child actors! — James O'Ehley