I just watched the Unrated Extended Edition of the new Battlestar Galactica: Razor TV movie, which premieres later tonight and will subsequently be released on DVD (which includes deleted scenes, commentary, an examination of the show, a featurette titled “My Favorite Episode So Far” and a sneak peak of Season 4). I haven’t watched any of the special features yet, but have watched the actual movie, which, I have to say, is a bit of a letdown.
I was never really expecting a whole lot from this TV movie, which seems like more of a ploy to make some money and pitch the new season; after all, if it was a legitimate entry in the Battlestar Galactica series, then it would have been the season premiere. Still, considering that Battlestar Galactica is one of the best, if not the best, television shows in recent memory, expectations were high.
Razor is not bad by any means, and it is certainly entertaining, but it suffers from chaotic storytelling and poor focus. It tries to do too much and delivers too little, and the end all you can do is shrug your shoulders and look forward to the actual season premiere in a couple of months. It has plenty of action, but it lacks the depth, intrigue and politics that make Battlestar Galactica so great; without those elements, it just feels like your standard sci-fi television show.
Razor focuses on one new character, Kendra Shaw, a young a woman who rises quickly in the ranks of the Battlestar Pegasus, commanded by Admiral Cain (the bitchy, merciless admiral who took over the fleet in Season Two only to find her life cut short when the Cylon she was torturing broke free – okay, was released – to shoot her in the head). The movie is essentially a flashback episode, and it uses Shaw as a vehicle to see how and why Cain made the decisions she made, and how those decisions reflected on her crew. At the same time, we also get to see some glimpses of the first Cylon War with a young Adama, and some more “modern day” character interactions from when the Pegasus was still in existence.
Razor suffers from a few issues, most of which that it just seems out of place from the rest of Battlestar Galactica. While most of the Galactica characters and actors are involved with this picture, the very fact that its “modern day” is set in the past seems a bit odd – and it’s also sort of confusing. The focus of the story jumps between two many things, from the present day attack on a Cylon ship to the early days on the Pegasus to Adama as a fighter pilot, and none of the storylines tie together as well as the writers were hoping for. The character of Kendra Shaw is also quite disappointing, and seems to serve as more of a tie to connect the modern day story with the flashbacks to Cain’s Pegasus. I was hoping to see a movie that focused solely on Cain and that explains how she came to make tough decisions, but instead Cain really doesn’t get much screen time, and we don’t get to see much we didn’t already know. Furthermore, Shaw herself is an unlikable character, and you never really feel empathy for her.
I also didn’t like that the movie depicted Cain as a lesbian. Why do all tough, badass women in power have to be lesbians? It seems a bit sexist to me, although the lesbian bit does provide an interesting “twist” in a certain relationship (albeit an underdeveloped one).
Again, Razor does feature some good action scenes, and does show us a few things we haven’t seen before, but the whole affair feels like a bloated, watered down version of the regular show. Even the special effects seem slightly off, a little less edgy.
Fans of Battlestar Galactica don’t need to read this review to decide whether to watch Razor or not – they will watch it, as they should. But if you’re using this movie as an entry point into the series, I suggest otherwise: rent the pilot and start from the beginning. Razor does not do the series justice.