from Pantperthog to Knockando

Monday, July 30, 2007

RE Remakes

I've been diagnosed with viral tonsilitis, so no antibiotics for me, just rest, paracetamol and strepsils.

Between sleeps, I've been taking the opportunity to watch the Battlestar Galactica box set I borrowed a while ago. A few things strike me about the 2004 version compared to the original I remember from when I was a kid. In all these ways, TV has evolved in the past 20 years, not unlike the Cylons.

Gender equality - a good proportion of the lead characters are now women, including a few who were men in the original series (including Starbuck aka Face Man!!) What does this say about our wider culture? It's almost normative now to have mixed-sex combat units, whereas in the early 80s such a concept wouldn't have been filmed. The same development has taken place in the Star Wars prequels, and was there in Starship Troopers, Farscape and the short-lived Space: Above and Beyond. Space warfare is no longer the preserve of men.

Moral ambiguity - in the original series the Cylons were evil and human were generally good, apart from one or two bad eggs. In the new version, humans are morally neutral - they have their ups and downs and even key characters have their flaws. But the Cylons are even more ambiguous. Far from being pure evil, they seem to be trying to recreate humanity. Some Cylon characters are empathetic towards the humans; some are even siding with the humans. The drift of our culture away from a two-tone, right-wrong dualism towards a dialectic with individuals deciding their own moral outcomes is worth noting.

Long pauses - a year or so ago I watched Blade Runner with Irony Boy and we noticed how slow it seemed. Partly this is because it's futuristic film noir, so it should have more in common with a film like Gattaca or Solaris, than a straight action film. But it was still very slow, and if it was remade today the first things which would be cut are the long-visual scenic shots. It would probably end up more like The Island - thoughtful opening, non-stop action from about halfway through, with lots of explosions and ludicrous stunts.

In TV science fiction series, especially those where each story isn't wrapped up neatly in a single episode (a la Doctor Who), you get what I call the Next Generation effect. One of the major flaws with Star Trek: The Next Generation was that not much happened. There was a lot more talking, plenty of cod-philosophy, and lingering moody shots of key characters. Galactica has all this in spades - whether it's the debate about whether Cylons have souls or the contrast between human idolatry and Cylon worship of the 'one true God', it often seems to take an age for anything to happen. But the best episodes are when something does!

Irony - Richard Hatch who played Apollo in the original series appears as an incarcerated freedom-fighter in the 2004 version, and at one point says "So, they call you Apollo?" to the new Apollo, played by Jamie Bamber. Ah, where would the modern remake be without self-referential irony?

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