V: The Final Battle
Whenever a film or even a TV mini-series makes an impact upon the viewing public the suits in their windowed offices see a need for a sequel. This was the case with the success of V. Its story of an alien race coming to earth for peaceful purposes only to be revealed in their nefarious need for earths resources, including humans as a food source. A small group of human beings begin to join together to form a band of resistance to oppose the aliens. This first mini-series was a brilliant homage to freedom fighters throughout history. The sequel to this classic takes up where the original left off but descends into an almost soap opera shadow of the original. Most of the cast returns to further the development of their characters. There is Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) the bold investigative report that first learned the truth about the visitors. Dr. Julie Parish (Faye Grant) a young MD/PhD who finds herself barred from her chosen profession and now the leader of the resistance. On the alien side Jane Badler reprises her role as the sinister Diana, second in command to John (Richard Herd), commander of the alien force. Some new faces are also introduced such as Michael Ironside as Ham Tyler, profession solder at large and Thomas Hill as Father Andrew Doyle, the self appointed mediator in the conflict. What detracts from this production is first the talents of Kenneth Johnson, creator of the original are missing. Where he created a story that mirrored the resistance against the Nazis in an imaginative background of science fiction, this production often seems to be a little too much like a Jerry Springer episode gone wildly wrong. First there is the human/alien mating that produces a child that is synergistically greater that either race. The introduction of a second powerful female alien Pamela, (Sarah Douglas) as the rival for Dianas power and for the affections of the Supreme leader back on the home world. The movie also replaces the wonderful performance of Leonardo Cimino as the holocaust survivor with the bland portrayal of the priest. Where Cimino provided a connection to the real horror of World War II using Father Doyle as the conscience of the film just weakens the storylines. Still, there are some strong points to the series. Characters the audience grew to care about in the first are further developed here. Julie coming to grips with the fact that she is a natural leader in a time where people need such direction in order to survive as a race. Donovan caught between all factions, knowing too much about the aliens yet believed to be a collaborator by the resistance. All he really wants to do is get his son off the menu of the aliens he finds himself drawn into a larger battle than he wants. The continuation of these threads from the original are the saving grace of the mini-series but they really require the viewers familiarity with the first series.
The new and old cast members blend together very nicely. They are able to mess the ongoing and new story arcs seamlessly. This is more to the credit of the talented actors than the writers. It just goes to prove that a consummate professional actor can make something out of any script. The best interactions are between Singer and Ironsides and Grant. With Ironsides they make the audience believe there is am uneven history between the two men. They often fought on the same side, Donovan because it was the right thing, Ham because of the pay. There is also chemistry between Singer and Grant as they grow together emotionally in the midst of the conflict. Balder and Douglas as rivals play the roles almost to a comic level, at first it works but it soon becomes almost tiresome to watch.
Richard T. Heffron took over the helm from Kenneth Johnson for this sequel. Heffron is no stranger to picking up where another director left off, he helmed Futureworld, the sequel to the very popular Westworld. Most of his resume concentrates on TV productions so he knows how to handle the special circumstances that surround the mini-series. The film was basically framed for the 4:3 aspect ratio of the TV but has been matted here to produce a letterbox image. This in itself differs from the original series, which had a European widescreen release in mind. Heffron does very well in the pacing of the film. He manages to weave the many subplots in such a way that the audience has enough time focused on each to become involved with the characters. His use of the camera is less involved than the first installment but instead provides an almost third person feel to the production. Without the allegory to WWII resistance Heffron concentrates on the emotional arcs of the characters best seen in the character Willie (Robert Englund) as he moves away from his own kind because of his attachment to a human woman. His ending is a little too compact and focuses of the human/alien hybrid child to the point of trying to wrap up too much too fast. The resolution of the disposition of the evil characters is very emotionally satisfying, giving them the horrid fate the audience wanted to see.
The disc is good but not up to the job done with the original. First of all the audio was not remixed and remains mono. While the frequency balance is up to the job it would have been nice to have some directionality to the work. I found going through my amps simulated surround or theater modes works best. The video is anamorphic 1.85:1 and is mostly free of defects although a glitch appears every so often. Other than a few cast and crew bios there is nothing in the way of extras to flesh out this presentation. For fans of the series this is a must have, I had to have it in my collection even though I had a VHS tape of it. It wraps up the loose ends of the original and helps us look in on characters we enjoyed. You can place this one next to the first in your collection with no regrets.