Review of the Moonlight DVD

Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby librarian_7 » Sun Oct 25, 2009 7:29 am

The Science Fiction Research Association Review has a review article on the ML DVD in the most recent issue...
The review is on p. 29.


Moonlight: The Complete Series. Dir. Rod Holcomb, et. al. Perf. Alex O’Loughlin, Sophia Myles. Warner Home Video. 2009.

Moonlight lasted only sixteen episodes, its promising first season interrupted by the writers’ strike of 2007–8. Despite garnering a 2008 People’s Choice Award for Best New Drama and an unusually passionate and vocal fanbase, it was canceled in May 2008.

The vampire as private investigator is not an unfamiliar trope in television and fiction, one that lends itself to serialization. Moonlight drew early critical comparisons with the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff, Angel (1999–2004), but actually was far closer in tone and content to Forever Knight (1992–1996). In addition, the series added in elements from the extremely popular genre of paranormal romance, as it explored the dawning attraction between series main characters Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) and investigative reporter Beth Turner (Sophia Myles).

One of the chief tenets of Moonlight is that the several hundred vampires in Los Angeles are hiding in plain sight. They are largely nocturnal, but (in the tradition of Stoker, if not common filmic vampire lore) these vampires are able to tolerate a limited amount of sunlight. This is not a world where other supernatural creatures lurk. Mick St. John is using his “special abilities,” as he terms it in episode 1, to help humans, as penance for his past misdeeds. Where Angel fought demons and mythological menaces, Mick is more likely to deal with murderers, rogue arms dealers, and purveyors of illicit drugs, although often the cases trace back to some vampiric involvement.

Beyond the basic detective plots, the series used each episode to highlight steps in the progression of the romantic relationship between Mick St. John and Beth Turner. Mick, turned into a vampire on his wedding night by his (now ex-) wife, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon), had once rescued a small child from her clutches, and in the years since has watched over the girl. Now that she is an adult, he lets her know of his existence, although concealing his nature and his connection to her past. One of the strengths of the series is the believable growth of this relationship, including Beth’s conflict between her feelings for her current boyfriend, assistant district attorney Josh Lindsey (Jordan Belfi), and the compelling, mysterious stranger who has entered her life.

The series, created by Trevor Munson and Ron Koslow (Beauty and the Beast) began with strong influences of the film noir genre, filled with shadowy, enclosed spaces and a hero trapped by the echoes of his past. The tension between the toxic relationship between Mick and femme fatale, Coraline, and his newfound interest in fresh young blonde Beth take Mick far from the Gothic trappings of the traditional vampire tale, and into the realms of both noir and romance genres. There is a sharp break between noir atmosphere of the first twelve episodes, written and produced before the writer’s strike caused a several-month-long break in the series, and the final four, which took a decidedly lighter turn. However, the noir influence is most clearly visible in the main character, a man trapped and defined by the burden of his past mistakes, and his desire to atone for what he feels is unforgivable.

Also notable is the overall style of the series. The sets are richly detailed, and contribute to the noir feel. Mick’s loft/office, for example, is decorated with stark, postmodern furniture and art that accentuates his alienation from humanity:
The idea behind the show was to put a modern spin on the vampire genre, so [production designer Alfred Sole] wanted the sets to reflect that quality. Mick’s loft, the centerpiece of the permanent sets, had to embody the character’s personality and life experience as well as provide everyday practicality for a vampire attempting to live unnoticed in a mortal world…[H]is living space had to reflect this lifetime of experience as well as a contemporary aesthetic that fit the feel of a modern drama. (Goldman 59)

Another standout in the cast of regulars is Mick’s best friend and mentor, the 400-plus-year-old vampire Josef Kostan (Jason Dohring). As portrayed here, this rich, ancient vampire has the appearance of a man in his twenties, and although first presented as a hedonistic playboy, is given unexpected depths of emotion as the series progresses. His verbal edge adds needed humor in the dark tones of the early episodes, and as an unrepentant vampire, he provides a foil to the angst of the main character.

Moonlight uses its story arc to explore the nature of humanity and love in unexpected ways. The primary question of whether love can conquer seemingly insurmountable obstacles, such as vampirism, and heal the wounds left by the past, are in the forefront of this series. The characters, even the minor ones, are surprisingly complex. Beth’s boyfriend, Josh, for example, is neither unlikeable nor a cardboard character to be discarded. He is presented as a passionate believer in justice, and although his charms ultimately fail to enthrall Beth in comparison to those of
the vampire, the fact that he is a genuinely good man makes her struggle all the more difficult.

One negative of the DVD release is the total lack of extras or commentary. Despite the gap of eight months between the series cancellation and the release of the DVD in January 2009, the set has a rushed look, as though the production company had little interest in offering a quality product.

As a series, it had its ups and downs. The quality of writing varied from episode to episode, and there were gaping holes in consistency on vampire mythos as defined within the show itself. The tragedy of Moonlight was that in the sixteen episodes that were filmed, the series, hampered by frequent changes in showrunners, ended just as it was beginning to find its way into a more detailed exploration of the world it was creating.

Work Cited
Goldman, Nathan. “Vampires in the Angel City.” Perspectives 16 (Feb.–Mar. 2008): 58–61.
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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby francis » Sun Oct 25, 2009 8:39 am

This is a very detailed, in-depth, accurate analysis of what the show is about, its strengths and weaknesses, and what I like the most, its inner workings. Love that it focuses on the main characters and their struggle for humanity, and shows that there was more to explore.
The author must have read our episode-discussions, or at least has taken on the task of watching the whole series before judging it. A rarity in today's media.

The review made me nod furiously at every sentence. And now I remember why we have so much fanfiction: the characters have depth, there are unexplored layers and storylines to get into, backstory to unfold, archetypes to follow. You don't have that with many shows. (TR for example - as it is now, I couldn't write fanfiction for that, there's just no point of reference. It might change. For ML, I had the first ideas after episode 2.)
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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby redwinter101 » Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:39 am

Thanks so much for the link, Lucky. Like francis, I was nodding furiously throughout.

Yes, furiously.


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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby darkstarrising » Sun Oct 25, 2009 2:09 pm

Thanks Lucky....couldn't agree more with the analysis.
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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby coco » Sun Oct 25, 2009 2:14 pm

Perfect review of Moonlight. I think we will all be nodding our heads furiously in agreement with this one.

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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby allegrita » Sun Oct 25, 2009 4:35 pm

That's a great, and fair, analysis of the show--its strengths and weaknesses, and also the strengths and weaknesses of the DVD set itself. I hope it causes more people to discover Moonlight via the DVD. Thanks for posting that link, Lucky! :thumbs:
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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby wondergirl9847 » Sun Oct 25, 2009 6:13 pm

What a fantastic and fair review. That's all we've ever really asked for. :yes:

Sigh...yeah, I have lots of DVDs with zero extras. :sigh:

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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby one.zebra » Sun Oct 25, 2009 6:30 pm

That's why I bought two copies...
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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby Shadow » Tue Oct 27, 2009 7:51 am

Thanks so much for putting this up, Lucky. It's really wonderful to see a review with this kind of depth and comprehension - and a rare thing, too.
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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby wpgrace » Tue Oct 27, 2009 9:39 am

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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby Jo1027 » Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:21 pm

That is the most accurate review of Moonlight I've seen to date. It's nice to know that the writer actually watched it first.
Thanks for bringing it here.
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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby Moonlightsonata » Tue Oct 27, 2009 7:14 pm

This is an exceptional review. It is absolutely right on and why many of us feel the way we do. And I have three copies of the DVD - again with no extras - which given the length of time it took to come out is almost inexcusable but considering there almost wasn't going to be a DVD - happy to have something.

Even though I have three DVDs and about 3/4 of the episodes also on my DVR, I would buy another five or more copies or whatever it took if Warner Bros. or whoever could make the decision would release a DVD with extras.

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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby lafluffy » Tue Oct 27, 2009 7:44 pm

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Re: Review of the Moonlight DVD

Postby Overdamoon » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:29 am

Very good and thorough analysis. Thanks for the link, Lucky. :happysigh:
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