V (1983)

Genres - Action, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Alien Film, Sci-Fi Action  |   Run Time - 205 min.  |   Countries - United States  |  
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Although its special effects pale in comparison to the modern CGI norm and its dialogue and characters seemed pretty wooden even when it first aired, this seminal '80s miniseries remains a watchable piece of sci-fi world making thanks to Jane Badler's campy and creepy lead villainess, former Beastmaster Marc Singer's regular-joe hero, creator Kenneth Johnson's idea-laden though heavy-handed script, and the memorable scenes in which the aliens reveal their true colors: lizard green. Although most of the effects involving space ships are obvious blue-screen jobs, and the distorted voice effect applied to the aliens' dialogue has dated poorly, nostalgia actually works in V's favor; revisiting the Reagan-era hairstyles of Badler's dominatrix-like Diana provides some undeniable though ironic entertainment value. Full of allusions to events both historical (World War II) and science-fictional (Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Day the Earth Stood Still, to name a few), V tries valiantly to please fans of both creature features and political allegory. Unfortunately, its tone is closer to a second-rate soap than to a piece of weighty "issue" filmmaking -- even when Leonardo Cimino is forced to draw painfully obvious parallels between the plight of the movie's ostracized scientists and the travails of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Johnson is on far surer ground in exploring the corrupting effects of power on Cimino's character's grandson, Daniel (David Packer), who joins the equivalent of the aliens' Hitler Youth movement and soon turns his back on everyone he loves. In a parallel plot thread, the interactions between thief Elias (Michael Wright) and doctor Ben Taylor (Richard Lawson), a pair of African-American brothers, seem in retrospect to have been fairly pioneering for '80s TV. These and other subplots provide the human-interest hook that keeps V watchable even when the mechanics of the central narrative fail. The script doesn't do a particularly good job explaining why the world's governments would so easily allow the Visitors to erode their power base, or why the alien villainization of scientists and doctors everywhere wouldn't raise a few alarm bells among the populace. Still, there are some nice bits, including the ascension of alien troop leader Brian (Peter Nelson) to Tiger Beat hunk status in the eyes of belligerent schoolgirl Robin (Blair Tefkin), whose flirtation with the handsome reptile would produce one of the more interesting plot threads -- and characters -- in the follow-up miniseries, V: The Final Battle.