V: The Complete First Season review (DVD)

I'm far from the biggest fan of the film industry's remake culture, especially since it's began to seep into television, but these days it's something so prevalent that we just have to accept it. It's only sensible to watch and critique these rehashes or reimaginings, whatever you wish to call them, in an honest manner rather than endlessly and shortsightedly bash them for their mere existence, like I see far too often. Now although I've never once seen anything from the original V saga, a TV mini series from the '80s which spawned a sequel and then a full season, to say that I was impressed by this remake would be an understatement.

V stands for Visitors, an alien race who arrive on Earth with colossal spaceships looming over 29 of our planet's major cities. With the mothership above New York City, the leader of the Visitors, Anna (Baccarin), introduces herself and her fellow interlopers as peaceful beings who wish to exchange their incredibly advanced technology for a few Earthly resources that are unobtainable where they are from. With a kindly attitude and human appearance, the arrival of the Visitors is taken well by the public and they're soon walking among us, freely. But do they have an ulterior motive? Are they really just trying to take over the world? A band of unlikelies certainly believe so. An FBI agent (Mitchell), a Catholic priest having a crisis of faith as a result of the V landings (Gretsch), and a Visitor who has turned his back on his fellow species all put their lives on the line as they work together to expose the truth, but they're up against mass public support for the Vs and a foe far more advanced than anything this world has ever seen.

What's great about V is the casting. There are no weak links. Each actor fills the shoes of their roles perfectly and brings the diverse range of intelligently written characters to life. Aside from the unity between a government agent, priest and V defector, we meet a variety of characters throughout the season who refresh the story and shake things up, from the number one broadcast journalist who the V leader is bent on manipulating in order to reach his vast audience (Wolf, the spitting image of Michael J. Fox) and, since the Visitors are emotionally sterile, Anna, who is really quite creepy as she spends her days lulling the citizens of the free world into a false sense of security. She's cold, hollow, serpent-like and extremely memorable.

One of the best genres to reinvent in film or television in this age is sci-fi. It goes without saying that a show from nearly three decades ago cannot compete visually with one from now, remake or not, and so if there's one overwhelming positive about V, it's that it's pleasing to the eye. The special effects are near movie calibre, which is quite something seeing as television shows have such fast production schedules in comparison to feature films. I'm not talking Transformers here, the effects aren't seamless, but they look surprisingly good.

V is by no means perfect as my star rating reveals, but it's a solid, cinematic show. The characters are fascinating and the story, although at times formulaic, held my interest over the entire season with the consistent suspense and action. Whether or not it's a patch on the original I simply do not know, but after the enjoyment that I've experienced from this remake, I'm determined to give it a whirl.

EXTRAS ??? The Actor's Journey From Human to V: a 16-minute feature with the cast and crew discussing their involvement and how the show came to be; Breaking Story: The World of V: the development of the show from script to screen; An Alien in Human Skin: The Makeup FX of V; VFX: The Visual FX of V; deleted scenes; and an audio commentary on the eleventh episode with Executive Producers Steve Pearlman and Scott Rosenbaum.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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