Al does Babylon 5: A Call to Arms

“I always knew I’d be court-martialed for something someday. May as well make it now and get it over with.”

The Scoop: 1999 NR, directed by Michael Vejar and starring Bruce Boxleitner, Carrie Dobro, Tony Todd, and Peter Woodward.

Tagline: Prepare to Defend Earth Against the Ultimate Attack

Summary Capsule: Sheridan gets a mysterious vision and a mysteriouser warning from a mysteriouserer hooded man and commits grand theft spaceship to find some answers.


Al’s Rating: [this rating has been withheld for further review pending the excellence of the next TV show]

Al’s Review: A Call to Arms is the last of the original Babylon 5 movies, and probably the best stand-alone film of the five.  It’s isn’t as goofy as River of Souls, requires less explanation than Thirdspace, has a better payoff than In the Beginning, and is prettier than The Gathering. If there was any piece of Babylon 5 that someone could just turn on and watch, A Call to Arms is probably it.

The story takes place as the Interstellar Alliance is getting ready to celebrate its five-year anniversary.  President Sheridan is en route to oversee the final tests of IAS Excalibur and IAS Victory, two massive prototype battleships that combine Human technology with tech that has been reverse engineered from the Minbari/Vorlon hybrid fighters, the White Stars. While onboard Excalibur, he is blasted by a coded message that scrambles his brain and puts him in contact with the mysterious technomage, Galen (Peter Woodward). The Technomages, who we haven’t seen since “The Geometry of Shadows”, back in B5 Season 2, are still in hiding from the rest of the galaxy, but Galen is breaking his silence to warn of oncoming destruction. He gives little in the way of solid information, but drops several cryptic hints and imbues Sheridan with an irresistible compulsion to get to Babylon 5.

His friends and subordinates think Sheridan is crazy, but once onboard the station, he meets two others who have been visited as well: an alien thief, Dureena Nafeel (Carrie Dobro), and an Earthforce officer, Captain Leonard Anderson (Tony Todd).  Together, they steal the Excalibur and Victory prototypes and vow to discover the truth of Galen’s warning, no matter where it takes them.

The newbies all seem to hold their own against our familiar cast members and the performances all around are generally solid. The only exception to this might be Galen, who seems to have stepped out of a community theater production of Macbeth. I would not have been surprised if he started waggling his spooky fingers while prophesying doom (DOOOOOOOOM!!) to Sheridan and Dureena.  The CGI is attractive even by today’s standards and it’s downright gorgeous compared to anything we saw in Babylon 5.

Overall, though, I have to admit that I wasn’t digging this film. I wanted to. I really tried hard.  It has all of the ingredients that should satisfy me: big space battles, important mysteries, and John Sheridan in a Captain’s chair. Try as I might, however, I just couldn’t get on board.

I think the reasons are twofold. First are the Drakhs, and this is probably my own fault. At the end of Babylon 5, the Drahks have become the puppetmasters of the Centauri Republic, operating in the shadows and using the Centauri to try and rebuild their own lost empire.  In my head, I think I ran with this idea and imagined decades of Revenge of the Sith-style intrigue and manipulation by the Drahks until they could re-emerge and strike back when the galaxy least expected it. In comparison, the whole “death cloud” thing just felt like they were phoning it in. Come on, bad guys! All I’m asking for is a few generations of patience!

My second issue is the attack on Earth and how little I cared about it.  Again, I *wanted* to care, but why should I?  Nothing bad is going to happen to Earth.  Nothing bad *ever* happens to Earth. Heck, The Deconstruction of Falling Stars has already shown us that nothing bad happens to Earth.  And the whole final space battle, pretty as it was, just couldn’t stand up to that. Nothing bad ever happens to Earth, especially not in the climactic battle in the last ten minutes of the movie.

Which brings me to the last ten minutes of the movie. To say I did not see this coming would be an understatement.  See, the thing I forgot about A Call to Arms is that it isn’t just another Babylon 5 movie. It exists to set up the spinoff series, Crusade, and it does so in real style.  Once that puzzle piece clicked into place in my head, a lot of little things started to make sense. The different look. The different sounds. The very different *feel* of A Call to Arms compared to the other films I’d seen.  They’re all different because, with A Call to Arms, I wasn’t really watching Babylon 5 any longer.  I was watching Crusade. Now, I guess all that’s left is to plunge into that series and figure out if that’s a good thing or not…

Everyone soon came to regret putting the street hobo in charge of the spaceship.

Intermission!

  • I can’t tell if hyperspace technology is supposed to have changed or if I’m just watching insanely better jumpgate CGI.
  • I like the upside-down reflection in the technomage crystal.
  • Is the leader of the “thieves guild” wearing Ray-Bans? Honestly?
  • Does the Excalibur look kind of like a Klingon Bird of Prey with a fin on its head to anyone else?
  • Male Drazi have reproductive organs in their armpit. I have no point of reference for this.
  • I couldn’t stop thinking that Sheridan looked a little like a Shaker or an Amish person or something in his civilian clothes.
  • I don’t think I totally understand the ‘null field’ business. Were the Drakhs hiding inside the cloud? Did the field transport Excalibur to another point in space with the ships were hiding? Maybe Crusade will explain this…

Groovy Quotes

Garibaldi: Things were so much easier on Babylon 5…

Sheridan: The message was scrambled, gibberish.
Garibaldi: You were looking at gibberish for 20 minutes. Look, you wanna do that? Swing by my place sometime and I’ll show you some 20th century television.

Sheridan: I have to find out if what I think is… is.
Garibaldi: And what if “is” isn’t?
Sheridan: If it isn’t, then it’s not. But if it is… well, there you are.
Garibaldi: Huh.

Lochley: I always knew I’d be court-martialed for something someday. May as well make it now and get it over with.

Garibaldi: [with a PPG pointed to his head] If you are going to blow my head off, I suggest you do it right now or I am going to tear your heart out. And if you do shoot me, the rest of my people will be all over you. And what they’ll do to you is worse than anything I could dream up in a thousand years. And I can dream real dark.

Sheridan: Looks like you won’t get your chance to shoot either of us.
Dureena: I’ve grown accustomed to disappointment.

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6 Comments

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