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Dark Angel - Season 2
Reviewed by: Marc Eastman
Genre: Television
Video: 1.33:1 fullscreen
Audio: Dolby 2.0 Surround
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Length: 943 minutes
Rating: NA
Release Date: 10/21/2003
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Commentary: Commentary for select episodes
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: "Max Resurrected", "Making the Manticore Monsters", "Manticore on the Loose"
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: None
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: None
Other: Blooper reel
Cast and Crew: Jessica Alba, Michael Weatherly, Martin Cummins, Ashley Scott
Written By: James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee
Produced By: James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee
Directed By: Assorted
Music: Assorted
The Review:

There's not much worse than watching something decidedly silly and being unable to avoid thinking that lurking within it somewhere is something you could have liked. 'Dark Angel' is just that sort of show. Riddled with absurdly hollow characters, storylines that were useless cliche when they were used twenty years ago by the things 'Dark Angel' lifts them from, and dialogue that is 'hipped up' until it is utterly ludicrous, 'Dark Angel' has very little going for it. That James Cameron apparently thought it was a great idea is thus not at all surprising. ***

Jessica Alba plays our Dark Angel, and she insists on being called Max. The idea behind the story is that Max is a result of a DNA experiment whose aim was to create superhuman soldiers. It's a post-apocalyptic world, well..., it's a post something world anyway, and at the beginning of this season Max has been recaptured (the first season apparently detailing her first escape) by Manticore, the ultra-secret whatever it is that created her. During her efforts to escape, this season introduces us to some of Manticore's initial efforts which are half-man/half-animal experimental mishaps. In escaping Max frees all the genetically-enhanced products of Manticore, and the season follows their efforts to remain free. ***

Melding itself into the grand scheme is Max' love angle. She's in love with a man named Logan, who also happens to be the underground... whatever he is, 'Eyes Only'. As 'Eyes Only', he hacks into television feeds to deliver messages to the public informing them of the heinous work of the government, mainly by way of trying to expose Manticore. ***

Meanwhile, Max works for a messenger service where we manage our teen angst divergences. How a messenger service manages to keep afloat in a post-apocalyptic world where no one seems to have anything, much less anything to send to someone else, is never addressed, but it's made all the more curious by the fact that they have scores of adolescent workers, and are conveniently always hiring. A suitable alternative where dozens of borderline teens could 'hang' and listen to lots of pseudo-rap seems not to have presented itself. ***

The second season of 'Dark Angel' is about as close to being an entirely new show as possible. The situation is completely different, the cast is almost entirely new, and when things just didn't seem wonky enough a new cult religion angle sprang up. There is something to be said for the show as a whole, but it's extraordinarily difficult to figure out what it is. I'm reminded of the 80's show 'V' with Marc Singer, which was just silly, but you didn't mind watching it. 'V', of course, is world's better than 'Dark Angel', but the same sort of thing is going on. It's almost worth watching 'Dark Angel' simply for the curiosity.

Image and Sound:

'Dark Angel' is easily in the running for the best DVD transfer of a television show I've seen yet. The image is completely clear, with no flaws whatever. Contrasts are great, there are no dark or shadow problems (and there is a lot of dark here), and the color palette is rich, with skin tones appearing very natural. It's a bit unfortunate that this is a fullscreen format, but other than that there is no room for complaint. ***

The sound is Dolby 2.0, and while I normally wouldn't care about that for a television show, this is a show that really should have gone the extra mile. 'Dark Angel' is constantly featuring booming music, splashy effects, or gunfire, and a bit more attention to the sound would have seemed in keeping with the show's approach. Be that as it may, the sound quality is still very good. All aspects of the sound come through quite well, but it does leave you wishing for 5.1 with a bit more attention paid to sound design. -

The Extras:

Apart from the commentary tracks on certain episodes, the special features are pretty sparse for this season. There are only four, and one of them is a four-minute blooper reel that is almost exclusively line flubs. ***

'Max Resurrected' is fifteen-minute featurette that gives us a background of the ideas for the season. Several producers, writers, and production designers tell us how the overall plot for the season came into existence, as well as touching on certain episodes specifically. Cast members also give their thoughts on the season, and working on the show in general. Jessica Alba, Michael Weatherly, Ashley Scott, and Martin Cummins are all on board for the featurette, giving us thoughts on a variety of subjects. For what it is, this is not an uninteresting bit of insight, and it is a well produced piece. Unfortunately, James Cameron himself makes an appearance, and the last five minutes or so are nothing more than an ego boost for Cameron, with several members of cast and crew telling us how great he is. ***

'Making the Manticore Monsters' is a six-minute featurette detailing the efforts involved in creating the half-breeds of Manticore. We see Behind-the-Scenes footage of the characters being put into their make-up, and we see quite a bit of the process of designing the creatures. A hefty chunk of the time is spent on the character Joshua, who is one of the main characters of the season. Even though we've all seen these sorts of features before, this one is pretty good. Watching effects feature after effects feature on DVD after DVD gets old, but this one seems to realize that, and takes a slightly different approach. It gives a little more by skipping the absolute basics. ***

'Manticore on the Loose' is just under two minutes long, and is simply a montage of clips of the various creatures created for the show. This is special feature filler at its worst, or best, depending on your point of view.

Commentary:

The commentary tracks that are available are surprisingly good. A good rule of thumb for all commentary tracks should be that the less interesting the subject matter really is, the more people there ought to be providing that commentary. Those responsible for 'Dark Angel' know this truth, and have created the DVD accordingly. Commentary tracks are available for the first and last episode of the season, with the commentary provided by a mix of producers, writers, and directors, with no less than four people on each. It's a mash of people on each commentary, and there's no hope at all of keeping track of who's who as it runs. ***

This is to the benefit of the track, because with this many people going at it at once someone is bound to have something interesting to say. They actually do manage to deliver quite a bit of interesting information, as a group tackling every aspect of the show. At times this devolves into over-examination, the group becoming taken with the idea that this show is something actually interesting, but it never lasts long. There are truly some interesting portions on photography, lighting, and the pitfalls of a show that is so devoted to effects. As we would expect of a show that is almost entirely populated (actorwise) by the quite young, we also often drift off onto tales of Behind-the-Scene exploits.

Final Words:

A DVD release is tricky for a show that spilled over with cult potential, but never quite reached the status that was hoped for. Though the DVD does not have the greatest of special features, fans of the show can't go wrong here. With an exceptional transfer, and at least some effort toward features, it's a solid purchase for anyone interested in the show.

Marc Eastman

www.movieroundtable.com

 

 
 
 
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