Dark Angel-Season 1: Part 1 (2000)

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Released 25-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Post Apocalyptic Main Menu Introduction
Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 459:14
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sarah Pia Anderson
Joe Ann Fogle
David Jackson
David Nutter
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Jessica Alba
Michael Weatherly
John Savage
Valarie Rae Miller
Richard Gunn
J.C. MacKenzie
Alimi Ballard
Jennifer Blanc
Case ?
RPI $79.95 Music Joel McNeely


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
French
Norwegian
Swedish
French Titling
Smoking Yes, usually by the bad guys.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

In years to come, Dark Angel will be remembered for one thing more than any other (if any other at all) - that its leading lady was very controversially nominated for a best actress Golden Globe after only its first season. Why the controversy? Well, it becomes apparent quite quickly that the acting skills of Jessica Alba (the series titular hero) are, while not poor, certainly not excellent. In fact, rumour has it that series co-creator and executive producer (and all-round Hollywood Mr Big) James Cameron used up a good portion of his favours to swing the nomination in a last ditch attempt to bring some credibility to his series. Unfortunately for big Jim and the members of the Dark Angel cast, it was a ploy that didn't work, as despite not-yet-dismal ratings, the show was cancelled after just its second season to make way for TV wonder-boy Joss Whedon's new "Sci-Fi Western" Firefly (of course, the fact that that show has tanked in a spectacular fashion has probably helped soothe Cameron's feelings and ego somewhat).

Taken on its own, Dark Angel is an enjoyable, if unremarkable, science fiction show about a genetically engineered super-soldier in a grimy near-future, economically depressed Seattle. The back-story says that terrorists set off an electro-magnetic pulse in the atmosphere above America's most important financial districts, and the economy went in to free-fall, turning the US from a super-power to a third-world country overnight. Putting aside the realities of EMP and economics, it is an interesting premise that plays out quite well. The central character Max (Jessica Alba) is actually a product of pre-"pulse" (as the terrorist attack is known) government technology. She, and a group of other super-soldiers, escaped her barbaric "father" and the military institution where she was raised and trained shortly before the pulse. Ever since, she has been living on the run, and trying to stay away from the notice of the secretive government organisation that is still chasing her. She has a lot of attitude, and no real desire to help her fellow man that is, at least, until she becomes acquainted with the rogue investigative journalist "Eyes Only".

Dark Angel works quite well, and brings together many of the familiar elements from other successful TV series (it is fair to say that without either Buffy or The X-Files there would be no Dark Angel) lots of action and fighting, and a good serving of romantic tension and combines them all with the budget that only James Cameron could have brought to a TV series. All of this produces, if not some of the greatest TV drama, some of the most stylish TV in the genre. Refreshingly, the line-up of actors and actresses are also atypical. Right down from the not-afraid-to-be-curvy Alba who appears of Hispanic descent through the many varied characters, the only skinny blonde is a man which makes a nice change.

This first half of the season contains episodes 1 through 11. The series starts well, and hits its pace immediately, although, as is often the case, this constant pace can become grating at times. The episodes included here are (Note for those picky about spoilers - read the following synopses at your own risk):

These episodes provide a good entry into the world of Dark Angel, and are very much worth checking out by anybody who is into the genre.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

For such a high-budget and recent show, the video quality is rather disappointing. Don't get me wrong it looks better here than it ever did on television but it doesn't compare to the quality of the later seasons of Buffy or Angel.

Presented at the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced. This is probably the biggest advantage of Dark Angel on DVD, as even via digital transmission, Channel 7 broadcast the show at 1.33:1.

The episodes are generally quite soft, and there are only a very few instances when the image could be called clear and well defined. This is certainly not helped by the enormous harvest of grain present in the image. Virtually every episode contains a medium level of background grain, while in some such as C.R.E.A.M., and the first half of Prodigy it is extremely high for extended periods of time. The worst sequence however is from 22:33 to 25:00 in Cold Comfort where the screen simply crawls with grain. All this may well be an intentional choice, as the night-time scenes are considerably less grain-affected, suggesting that high-grain filmstock was used to produce a grittier look for the depressed near-future version of the US. Shadow detail, surprisingly is quite good. While there are a few examples where the darker scenes become quite murky, for the most part it is easy to make out the action in the dark and that is quite important, as in living up to its name Dark Angel has many a night scene. There is no low level noise present.

Colours, when present, are very good. For the most part, the production design concentrates on shades of grey, and this helps create an appropriately depressed looking world that is very effective in representing the failing economy of the post-pulse US. When flashes of colour are present, usually indoors in the richer areas of town, they are vibrant, and also often tend to the orange hues for a more contrasting effect.

The only compression artefacts present are background pixelisation on the areas of higher grain - and given how much grain there is, that is not entirely unexpected. There is only a small amount of aliasing present, such as on the bike at 20:03 in the Pilot, and on the edge of the safe at 18:51 in 411 on the DL, which is quite understandable given the high level of grain and general softness of the image. Film artefacts are common, but generally not frequent enough, or large enough, to be a nuisance. The exceptions to this rule are from 24:38 to 25:08 in C.R.E.A.M. where the frequency of the artefacts makes the image look like it is being affected with static, and a horizontal line across the image during the Pilot at 78:36.

The subtitles are generally accurate, although they do tend to abbreviate on a regular basis. They are not particularly easy subtitles to follow, as the dialogue is often of a rather cryptic nature, being very much of an American style, and then gone over again to give the post-pulse world a lingo all of its own unfortunately this does not translate well to subtitles.

These are Dual Layer discs, with the layer change taking place between episodes on all discs.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

The audio transfer is generally (with a few exceptions for difficult to hear dialogue) very good, and is much more in line with what is expected from a recent, and bigger budget, TV series.

Each episode contains two soundtracks: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, and a French dub, also in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround.

Dialogue is generally good, although there are a few exceptions. There are a few instances, such as at 32:14 in Cold Comfort, when dialogue is muffled, or poorly recorded, but in over 7 hours of television, that is not too bad. A bigger problem is the dialogue of the character Herbal, who is a Jamaican, and who essentially mumbles with a very thick Jamaican accent that can be quite difficult to make out. There is a slight crackle in the soundtrack at 15:09 in Blah Blah Woof Woof, but it is brief and does not recur, so does not distract too much.

Audio sync is mostly accurate, with only the occasional obviously dubbed line causing any problems.

The score is credited to Joel McNeely, while the theme music (the most hideous theme this side of The Practice) is credited to Chuck D. and Gary G-Wiz. The score is usually a little too over-the-top, and the theme, as mentioned, is hideous. Overall, the music is the weakest aspect of Dark Angel.

The surround channels get as good a workout as can be expected from a TV series in Dolby Surround. Mostly they carry ambient noise, but every now and then they get something to work with, such as engine noises or gunshots.

The subwoofer gets a surprisingly solid workout. It backs up both the score, and numerous effects noises, and really adds to the experience.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

About the best thing that can be said about the extras on this disc is that, unlike some other TV series, at least these discs proudly carry their zero extras instead of putting on a useless photo gallery.

Menu

The menu is static with animated intro and transitions, themed around the show, is 16x9 enhanced, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

As is typically the case with recent TV series, syndication issues have prevented Dark Angel's release in the US. There is a continental European version available that appears to be the same as ours, as well as a version of the pilot available in Japan. It would seem, however, that we are the first English speaking country to get Dark Angel on disc.

Summary

Dark Angel is an interesting, if slightly derivative, entry in the "post-holocaust corporations-rule-the-world" sci-fi genre. What it has going for it most is the involvement of one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, some very striking visual stylings, and some very interesting casting. It certainly doesn't look like other series - even if it plays like them.

The video quality is very grainy and flecked with a number of artefacts - but this is all most likely intentional, as it lends a far grittier feel to the production.

The audio quality is good, with good bass levels, and a nice use of the surround channels for a TV series.

There are no extras. This isn't really a problem, as there is little to say about this series, and at least the discs don't throw in a useless extra just for the sake of it.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Saturday, December 07, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Robert M
The DVD Bits - Lorraine A

Comments (Add)
Season 1=good, Season 2=bad - Brett C (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
RE: Season 1=good, Season 2=bad - -
Re: Season 1= Good Season 2= Bad - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
digipaks - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
Terminator 2, and Dark Angel Season 1 and 2 - REPLY POSTED
re : Terminator 2, and Dark Angel Season 1 and 2 - Shane A
Dark Angel S1: R4 v R1 needs to be updated -
What's the deal with the pilot? - REPLY POSTED
R1 Full Screen -
Another reason I rarely buy Region 4 anymore... -