Saturday, November 7, 2009

V: The Original Miniseries (1983) and V: The Final Battle (1984) -

V: The Original Miniseries (1983) & V: The Final Battle (1984)
Creator: Kenneth Johnson
Directors: Kenneth Johnson (Original Miniseries), Richard T. Heffron (Final Battle)
Writers: Kenneth Johnson (Original Miniseries and Final Battle), Craig Buck (Final Battle), Diane Frolov (Final Battle), Peggy Goldman (Final Battle), Brian Taggert (Final Battle)
Starring: Marc Singer, Faye Grant, Michael Ironside, Mickey Jones, Thomas Hill, Michael Durrell, David Packer, Neva Patterson, Blair Tefkin, Michael Wright, Jason Bernard, Jenny Sullivan, Diane Civita, Denise Galik, Sandy Simpson, Eric Johnston, Jenny Beck, Jane Badler, Sarah Douglas, Richard Herd, Andrew Prine, Frank Ashmore, Robert Englund, Peter Nelson

Up until last weekend I had never seen V: The Original Miniseries (1983) or V: The Final Battle (1984). I had heard that it was a good miniseries but since I knew the major plot developments I didn't think there was any real reason for me to watch. I also assumed that it would just be cheesy '80s sci-fi with no real substance. However, when Syfy ran both miniseries in their entirety last Sunday I decided it was time to finally give it a shot. I was actually very surprised by how good it was. There were a lot of sociopolitical aspects to the miniseries that I had not expected. Before watching it I had expected that I would get bored by it and not finish it but I ended up watching all ten hours and, for the most part, really enjoying it.

Of the two, The Original Miniseries is far superior to The Final Battle but they both have entertainment value and are worth seeing. I don't know if I'd recommend sitting through all ten hours in one sitting though. Breaking it up a bit might be a good idea.

As most people know The Original Miniseries begins with very human looking aliens (called Visitors) coming to earth promising to help us make our world a better place. It does not take long though for their true intentions (and appearances) to become known to the world, even if many in the world choose to ignore it. Soon, in a rise to power that mirrors the Nazi take over of Germany, the Visitors have taken control of the whole planet and begin to suck it dry of all its vital resources.

Science Fiction is always at its best when it manages to have a real world message hidden in the story. You may not be able to get people to sit through a miniseries about the Nazi's taking over Germany but you can teach them the same lesson by turning that story into science fiction and replacing the Nazis with alien lizards. For the most part this is a story about how history will continue to repeat itself if we do not learn from it. And if their is one thing humans have a hard time doing, it is learning from history.

The miniseries also touches on issues of tolerance and racism. The Visitors are not your typical 2 dimensional villain. They are not just a race of bad people doing bad things. There are some that are bad, there are some that are good and then there are some that are just following orders. Having some of the Visitors as good characters gives the human characters a chance to look at their own prejudices and hopefully learn something about themselves.

For the most part the acting and the writing are all done very well. There probably aren't any Oscar worthy performances in here but there were no really bad performances either. The actors played their parts well enough to be believable and that is good enough. I do have to take a moment to mention Robert Englund though. It was so strange to see him in this because the character he plays is so naive and innocent and it is hard to see him going on to later play Freddy Krueger. Until watching this I had never seen him play a character that was actually a good guy and he does it so well.

For the time that the miniseries was made the special effects were also pretty good. By today's standards some of them look kind of fake but they manage to hold up enough to not be as laughable as some special effects from the same time would be. The makeup effects still hold up rather effectively in my opinion though. Anytime skin is ripped to reveal the reptile underneath, it looks fairly realistic. It certainly isn't perfect but it doesn't look anywhere as outdated as you would expect.

As abundant as the social commentary was in The Original Miniseries, The Final Battle seemed to drop most of that in favor of more and bigger action sequences. The writing and the storytelling also started to get much sloppier. The Final Battle mostly consisted of characters getting captured and then getting rescued. This scenario was repeated a few times during the three episodes of that miniseries and honestly it got a little repetitive and went on just a tad bit too long. And to be quite honest, the ending of the series doesn't make a whole lot of sense at all.

Now, even though commentary is not the main focus of The Final Battle, it does manage to have a few things to say here and there. Since this part of the story focuses mostly on the resistance fighting The Visitors, there are several human characters in the film that are quite willing to sell out there own people just so they can live a little bit more comfortably. With people helping The Visitors we get a good look at just how far people will go when they are given a little taste of power.

Overall i would say that I really enjoyed the entire V miniseries. The Final Battle was certainly not a great conclusion to The Original Miniseries but it was still enjoyable to watch. If they had cut The Final Battle down to two episodes instead of three and cut out the part at the end with the sparkling little girl it probably could have been a lot better. I am certainly glad that I finally took the time to watch the series though. It was far better than I ever expected it to be.

Rating V: The Original Miniseries (1983): 8/10

Rating V: The Final Battle (1984): 6/10

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