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WITCHBLADE HITS THE GROUND RUNNING WITH “PARALLAX”

[Witchblade]

TNT scored a hit last year with their original movie based on Top Cow’s Witchblade. The film topped the ratings charts for original movies the week it debuted. The network quickly followed up with the announcement of an 11 episode limited series due out this summer. The first episode, “Parallax” airs on Tuesday, June 12th at 9PM.

“Parallax” is written and directed by Ralph Hemecker, the director of the original and also an executive producer on the series.

Visually, Hemecker has constructed an action show that simply kicks ass. If the original movie was influenced by The Matrix, “Parallax” blends in a Darren Aronofsky vibe. The opening action features a trippy techno soundtrack (appropriately Crystal Method’s “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do”), a subdued color scheme and several Snorri-cam shots (in which the camera is mounted on the actor, leaving his face centered in the frame while the background moves around him) that puts one in the mind of Aronofsky’s Pi.

The Matrix influence isn’t left behind. The opening action climaxes with a complicated bullet-time shot that has Detective Sara Pezzini (Yancy Butler) motorcycle jousting with the antagonist of the piece. Although the review copy of the tape showed a “temporary effect” made up of animatics, it looks to be some major-league eye-candy for a made-for-TV show.

The action is intercut with scenes that set up part of the narrative for the new series: Pezzini’s boss, a mentor and friend of her father, is stepping down and turning the department over to Captain Dante, a suspicious bureaucrat who has Sara in his sites.

Butler, once again, does well in the starring role. At times she seems overwhelmed by the experience of wielding the Witchblade. Other times she’s totally convincing flying over the hood of a car and squeezing off a clip at the perps. In this episode Pezzini doesn’t appear to be much of a detective though, and spends most of her time reacting to the prodding of the antagonists of the piece.

Getting the next biggest piece of the action is Eric Etebari playing the mysterious Ian Nottingham. The plotline of this episode ties directly to Nottingham and his boss, Witchblade wannabe Kenneth Irons (played by Anthony Cistaro). “Parallax” probably provides the most revelations about Nottingham and his link to the antagonist Mobius.

David Chokachi also returns as Jake McCartey, Pezzini’s new partner. In the original movie, and in parts of “Parallax”, McCartey strikes us as barely generating enough brain energy to keep from accidentally putting his own eye out. But this episode does intriguingly suggest that there are hidden depths to the character. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Will Yun Lee stars as Pezzini’s dead partner turned mystical spirit guide, Danny Woo. He’s not much of a factor in this episode but will surely serve a greater purpose further down the line.

Hemecker’s top-notch camera work is the real star of the show. His expressionistic imagery lends a creepy, mystical nature to the gritty setting of New York City.

However, the writer/director falters at the climax of this episode. Hemecker’s first sin is a common one for super-hero adaptations: He doesn’t give us the super-hero! The Witchblade stays in its bracelet form for almost the entire episode. With the exception of a quick flashback, it only switches to gauntlet/blade form during the climax. Hopefully, this won’t be a trend with the entire series.

We can’t discuss the show’s second sin without tipping some potential spoilers so HERE’S YOUR SPOILER WARNING. Just to ensure the safety of our readers the spoiler discussion is printed in white text. Swipe it with the mouse to read it:

The second sin of Witchblade is, when the artifact finally does go into full gauntlet/blade manifestation, boring. The ending of “Parallax” closely mimics the climax of the original movie. Images of Pezzini wearing the blade are intercut with images of a knight in full armor. This was the goofiest thing in the original and it’s goofy here too. Pezzini’s combat while wearing the gauntlet is the most subdued action in the piece. Hopefully future episodes will show the gauntlet being used in more creative ways than was seen in the first two installments.

Regardless of the above complaints, we totally dig the amped-up action and eerily beautiful visuals that Hemecker has brought to both installments of Witchblade. The show looks to be the best thing on TV this summer, and we’re in it for the long-haul.

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