Thursday, April 23, 2009

Battletar Galactica Caprica: Exquisite, Flawed Copies

Battlestat Galactica Caprica - the prequel movie to the just-completed, superb second version of the series - was released on DVD yesterday. It's on "very long wait" on Netflix, none of the Blockbusters around here in Westchester County had it, so my wife called a local video store yesterday, and they said they would have it in today. Which they did. And, apropriately enough, the store is named "Captain Video"...

As to the movie ... my favorite part was the Adama family, with Bill Adama's father in a central role. He's a lawyer. One of the best sequences in BSG was when Lee did a stint as a trial attorney, and pored over his grandfather's law book. It was good to meet the grandfather, Joseph Adama (well played by Esai Morales, with just right gravelly voice and soft-spoken but tough Bill Adama demeanor). In Caprica we get to see the origin of the Adamas' hatred of artificially intelligent beings - Cylons, eventually - and the story makes sense.

It's about copies - to what extent humans can be copied, their intelligence and talent and interests and life experience codified - and then embodied in robots. Joe Adama's wife and daughter have been killed by a terrorist bomb on a fast-moving train, along with Zoe Graystone, a young computer genius, along the lines of Ada Lovelace, daughter of Byron, in our world history. Zoe has created an advanced avatar of herself, which survives her death. Her father Daniel (good to see Eric Stoltz in the role), pretty good with computer programming himself, figures out a way of getting Zoe's avatar intelligence into a shiny robot ... and we have some sort of precursor to at least part of the Cylons.

But before that happens, Daniel creates an avatar for Joe Adama's slain daughter, and talks Joe into going into virtual reality to talk to "her" (shades of Second Life). Joe finds his daughter's avatar unhappy, confused ... and this gets him to denounce any attempts to copy souls.

So we have the human (Adama) vs. Cylon (Zoe) conflict aborning. The other theme is religious. Polly Walker (who was just great in Rome) plays Sister Clarice Willow, who first talks about the gods (maybe the same line Polly used in Rome), but then reveals herself as a believer in the one, true God...

So the stage is pretty well set for the Caprica prequel series in 2010. Caprica is a thoughtful, literate, philosophically sharp movie. (About whether perfect copies of humans can be created - I guess I should mention Levinson's principle here - creating a perfect copy is, paradoxically, self-defeating, because if you created a perfect duplication, it would take away the uniqueness of the original, and therefore would be destroying that quality rather than copying it. See The Soft Edge, p. 52, for more.) It was also good to see all the futuristic, virtual gadgetry, which had been stripped from Battlestar Galactica (the ship) to protect it from Cylonic infiltration.

But I have one problem with the movie - if the humanoid Cylons existed for thousands of years prior to BSG, where were they in Caprica? It would have been nice to see them tied into the story in some way ... but I can wait for the series in 2010...

10-min podcast review of BSG: Caprica

More Battlestar Galactica - see: Battlestar Galactica, Final 1: Dee, Ellen, and Starbuck ... Final 2: Baby and Mutiny Make Three ... Final 3: Galactica Alamo! ... Final 4: Shout-Outs to Lampkin, Lee, Tyrol ... Final 5: (Almost) All Explained ... Final 6. The Necessity of Hyrbrid ... Final 7. 'Since I Died in Your Arms' ... Final 8. Father of a Million ... Final 9. 'Every Man and Woman Over the Age of 15' ... Finale: Not Goodbye But See You Around

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