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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Moonlight - The Complete Series
Moonlight - The Complete Series
Warner Bros. // Unrated // January 20, 2009
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted January 14, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

The lure of the vampire has existed for centuries, and stories of the undead seem to capture the public as few other genres have. The television landscape is littered with series that never managed to make it very far, and with the explosion of home video and such online phenomena as YouTube, these shows become a kind of undead themselves. This may be a not very flattering confession, but I've been known to spend hours on YouTube perusing the astounding amounts of old episodes from flopolas that some people seem to have. Of course, with the advent of home video, notably DVD, just about everything of even minimal note eventually gets a release. Some of these less than successful shows are marginal at best, while others are excellent and surely could have become hits if left to gestate on the air long enough. Moonlight, a post-modern vampire as private dick series, falls somewhere in between. Its concept is engaging, if completely illogical at times, and it's helped by an appealing lead performance by Alex O'Loughlin as fanged denizen of the night Mick St. John. Unfortunately the series is also hampered by a certain sameness to a lot of the episodes, with pseudo-vampire trappings abounding when there's no real reason for them.



The setup of Moonlight is relatively simple and probably was the result of one of those High Concept pitch meetings that are legend in Hollywood: Mick St. John is a private investigator who just happens to be a vampire. Of course this is 21st century Los Angeles, so both he and his vampire kindred are post-modern cynics, especially his mentor Josef (Jason Dohring), a vampire who's been sucking blood for considerably longer than Mick's relatively short half a century. The High Concept also gets a romantic twist as Mick finds himself attracted to Beth (Sophia Myles), a young woman whom Mick had actually saved some 20 years previously when she was just a little girl and about to be "turned" (into a vampire) by Mick's then-wife, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon). This sort of Beauty and the Beast trope has been used consistently in fantasy series and gets one of its more appealing treatments here, despite the glaring fact that Beth is brought into the supposedly "secret" world of the vampires when all of the fanged ones go around screaming bloody murder (so to speak) about how they need to keep everything on the down low. (Let's not even get into the illogicality of Moonlight's "freshies," vampire-groupies who provide their own blood to their idols, thereby making them party to the vampires' supposedly occult world. Are none of these people going to end up on Entertainment Tonight or the cover of the National Enquirer sooner or later?)



That's just one of several inconsistencies that Moonlight tends to glaze over. Mick's immortality isn't particularly well finessed, especially when it turns out he's been using the same name for at least 50 years. In one episode when a killer he put away half a lifetime ago is paroled, the writers have to resort to making the police officer with whom Mick worked back then currently blind so as to not see that Mick hasn't changed and to thereby facilitate the forward motion of the plot.



Moonlight's creative staff obviously cared deeply for this project, and must have known it was in trouble very soon into its short-lived three quarters or so of a full season (Moonlight, like so many shows last season, fell victim to the writers' strike). Hence Beth is moved from her online reportage to working in the District Attorney's office (she starts the series romantically involved with an ADA), something that ostensibly helps the crime-fighting aspect of the series, but which seems a little calculated and ultimately pointless. An attempt to pave the way for the ADA for whom Beth ends up working to find out about the network of Los Angeles vampires is unfortunately revealed only in the last episode, and so was never allowed to find fruition, where it may have placed Beth in the middle of having to choose between love and career (not that that choice would ultimately have been that challenging, this being a romance and all).



Where Moonlight excels is in its flashy style and some fun updating of vampire lore. Therefore we get Mick feeding on blood bags he obtains from the blood bank (wasn't there a Night Gallery vignette about that?). Mick and Josef are wheeler dealers of a kind, and Mick lives in an elegance never imagined by Dracula, what with his decrepit old Transylvanian castle. There are also some fun supporting characters tossed into the mix, as in the female vampire "Clean Up" crew that attempts to keep evidence of vampire kills to a minimum. Some of the more distinctive plot elements of this particular version of the hoary vampire myth, such as the "siring" of newly undead, are well handled and give individual episodes a spark that the overall series sometimes lacks.



Ultimately, though, Moonlight never capitalizes on the dark and brooding aspects of the vampire legends, despite its frequent flashbacks which attempt to reveal Mick's backstory. The crimes themselves are too often vampire-related, which might of course be of necessity given the premise, but which gets pretty tired (iron poor blood?) after just a few episodes. O'Loughlin and Myles (who bears an uncanny resemblance to former Law and Order ADA Elisabeth Röhm, who also appeared on the similarly themed series Angel) make for an engaging couple, but they are too often forced to emit patently vacuous lines that may leave some viewers screaming with laughter instead of horror. The whole supposed tension between vampire Mick and human Beth just seems silly when you know they're going to end virtually every episode in a clinch.



Moonlight nonetheless deserves some props for trying to reimagine the vampire mythos in a 21st century light. It certainly developed a quick cult following, and looked for a while like it was poised to be renewed for a second season, when it potentially could have found a larger audience. As it stands, the series is an interesting, if ultimately failed, attempt at casting familiar characters in a post-modern light. The show, which is getting a second lease on life via some cable outlets, may not be, to paraphrase Monty Python, not quite dead yet. Unfortunately, it's also not quite undead enough.









The DVD


Video:
This is unfortunately one of the mostly poorly authored DVDs I've seen recently. There's virtually no episode that doesn't display some pretty serious artifacts, including omnipresent aliasing, moire patterns and line shimmer. If you can overlook those anomalies, you do get an enhanced 1.78:1 transfer with good color and contrast and decent enough detail.




Sound:
The DD 5.1 mix is considerably better than the image, though, as is customary with television, the surround channels are mostly utilized for the frequent pop/rock music underscore rather than for any ambient effects. Dialogue is always front and center and completely clear. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish and (are you ready?) Thai (does that mean there are vampires over there?).





Extras:
Despite some pre-release buzz that this release would feature O'Loughlin commentaries, there are no extras to be found, which is somewhat surprising.




Final Thoughts:
Moonlight's rabid fans are obviously going to want this release. For the general public, there's probably not enough here to warrant a purchase. The show is reasonably entertaining and certainly well-produced and acted, so I suggest you Rent It if you have a hankering for some post-modern vampire action.


____________________________________________
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

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