Saturday, March 17, 2007

My Name is...A Review of Alias: The Complete Series

Before Lost, there was Alias for J.J. Abrams. Alias follows the life of superspy Sydney Bristow, played by Jennifer Garner. The supporting cast included Victor Garber (Titanic) as her spy daddy and Kevin Weisman (Clerk II) as her tech support. The show lasted 5 seasons, though that last season was only 17 episodes long. The show's plot had Garner dressing up as various pseudonyms and included some outrageous wigs. Also, although there were many stand alone episodes, there was an overarcing storyline to each season, and yes, a reoccuring theme to the whole show.

That theme involved a 16th century prophet named Rambaldi. Ron Rifkin played Sydney's archnemesis and sometimes ally, Arvin Sloane. Sloane is obsessed with Rambaldi and his prophecies. The interplay between Rifkin and Garner and especially Rifkin and Garber are the highlights of the show. Garber and Rifkin, refine actors that they are, did not underplay their roles. They generally seemed comfortable and seem to respect their characters. Throughout the series, Garber's Jack evolves for a detached dad to a dedicated father to Garner's Sydney. Slowly, his veneer cracks and Sydney's emotional walls concerning her dad come down. Rifkin's Sloane fluctuates between genuine love for Sydney (and another character that emerges at the end of the third season) and genuine evil. Rifkin straddles the line very well, and at times, you root for Sloane, even as he double crosses everyone in his life that he cares for.

Sydney's main love interest (and for a short time, her real life boyfriend) Michael Vaughn, played by Michael Vartan also excels. So does Weisman, who makes his character, Marshall, the lovable nerd. Carl Lumbly rounds off the main cast as Syndey's long time partner, Dixon. Again, a J.J. Abrams show has strong casting taht enhances the experience. Even reoccuring parts, from David Anders' sneaky Sark to Lena Olin's Irina make each episode they are in sparkle. Even Terry O'Quinn, who would go on to become Locke in Abrams' Lost, showed up in a handful of episodes.

One of the main criticisms of the show was that after its second season, the show started to fall apart. While it is true that certain people's backstories became convoulted and continuity was sometimes confusing, the show's pace remained the same, at least on DVD. Watching a string of episodes back-to-back heightened plotlines and made it easier to follow. Much like when I first started watching Lost on DVD, there were many times where I felt the need to finish a disc of four episodes after watching just one. However, seasons two, three, and four each had a big secret, that while suspenseful, also lead to an annoyed feeling of "When are they going to find out?" Although twists that only the audience knows about are par for the course in a show like Alias, after a while they become tedious. Thankfully, by the fourth season, that season's secret was downplayed and wasn't as emphasized as it was during the second and third seasons. Also, each season found a new big bad terrorist organization to go against, which is sorta eye-rolling at times.

The cinematography on the show was spectacular. There was definitely an action movie vibe, from the lighting to the special effects. a behind-the-scenes featurette showed that there is extensive use of blue screens and other devices. Garner definitely pulls off the action star role, though it didn't translate as well on the big screen in Elektra. Everybody on the cast, even Weisman's nerd character, gets a chance to kick butt in at least one episode. In general, the action seems realistic, with very little high-wire kung fu.

I was thoroughly entertained by the series. I got the opportunity to watch the last three seasons through my purchase of the complete set, which came in a Rambaldi box (which was involved in a few episodes). The extras were good, but I have yet to listen to any commentary, so I am hoping that too will be entertaining. I recommend picking up the first season and based on those viewing, deciding if you want to continue. If the first season captures you, you will not be disappointed with the rest of the show.

4 J.J.s out of 5.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home