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Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season(TV) (2009-2010)
No synopsis for Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season.
For more about Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season and the Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season Blu-ray release, see Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 27, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Welling, Allison Mack, Kristin Kreuk, Michael Rosenbaum, John Glover, Erica Durance
Director: David Carson
» See full cast & crew
Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season Blu-ray Review
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am. Stuck in the middle with you.
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 27, 2010
With its penultimate ninth season, Smallville manages to accomplish the impossible: recovering from a potentially series-crushing, post-Lex slump. Michael Rosenbaum's untimely exit had left the entire mythos in dire straits, gasping for air and pawing at the ground in the last throes of its life. New villains -- Doomsday (BSG's Sam Witwer), upstart Luthorite Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman), and Bizarro among them -- stepped in to fill the void, but struggled to put Tom Welling's fledgling Superman in any palpable danger. What a difference a season break, a creative recharge and a disembodied-tyrant-turned-walking-madman makes. That's right, Metropolis, season nine pits our ever-conflicted Clark Kent, gussied up in his Matrix-Cosplay best, against... wait for it... the once and future General Zod (Callum Blue), currently a Major, but already licking his lips for the power he claims as his own in Richard Donner's Superman II. The Smallville showrunners not only deliver a fascinating backstory for the would-be conqueror, they finally, finally give Clark a formidable foe. The ninth season isn't without its flaws, mind you -- many of which have been gestating in the series' womb since the very beginning -- but compared to recent seasons, it soars.
Callum Blue? Some may recognize the talented Brit from Martin Gero's smartly penned Canadian comedy Y.P.F., the first season of The Tudors, or the Showtime series Secret Diary of a Call Girl. But even if it's the first time you've laid eyes on the man behind Zod's somber sneer, you'll applaud Blue's efforts. Standing knee-deep in some of Smallville's finest scripts, and working to bridge the gap between the series' Machiavellian baddie and Terence Stamp's intergalactic absolutist, Blue navigates a tricky origin that remaps mythos history, enriches the bulk of the series' storylines and, at times, grants season nine breakneck momentum. Much to my surprise though, his villain isn't an outright tyrant. At least not yet. Still reeling from the loss and betrayal he experienced on Krypton, Blue presents Zod as a precision weapon, manipulating his surviving Kryptonian brethren and whispering in the ears of whichever unwitting heroes can possibly help him achieve his goals. He snakes his way from Clark to Lois, from friend to foe, preying on bitter sensibilities and good intentions with unwavering devotion. He spits "kneel before Zod" with evil whimsy, and genuinely relishes the words coming out of his mouth. All the while though, Blue allows just enough of his character's haunted past to bleed through, introducing Clark and, by extension, Smallville regulars to the notion that Zod, despite all his dastardly deeds, may be redeemable after all.
Zod isn't the only force of change that descends on Metropolis. Clark's sudden obsession with dear ol' dad's training sends him off on a darker, lonelier quest; one that hones the very traits Superman's comicbook incarnation is known for. Chloe (Allison Mack) -- set to make her first appearance in DC comics continuity this fall -- becomes even more crucial to the tale, taking up residence in the Watchtower, coordinating and assisting the members of the still-budding JLA. (Smallville's M, as executive producer Kelly Souders points out in one of season nine's audio commentaries.) Meanwhile, Lois (Erica Durance) falls for Clark and the Blur, Mercer walks a fine line between devil and angel, Oliver (Justin Hartley) is crippled by a crisis of conscience, John Jones (Phil Morris) aka Martian Manhunter's loyalties are questioned, and familiar super-powered egos surge. Further complicating matters is a vision of the future in which Zod rules with a devastating fist, Clark is seemingly human and the world teeters on the brink of destruction. And, in true Smallville fashion, Zod isn't the only new player to grace the series' ninth season. Heroes and villains come out of the proverbial woodwork, dousing Metropolis in energy blasts and ulterior motives. Prepare for Metallo (Sarah Connor Chronicles refugee Brian Austin Green), Hawkman (Michael Shanks), Dr. Fate (Brent Stait), the Silver Banshee (Odessa Rae), Stargirl (Britt Irvin), Amanda Waller (Pam Grier), Maxwell Lord (Gil Bellows), a host of angst-ridden Kandorians and other unexpected guests.
Lest I get ahead of myself though, a reality check is in order. As much joy as these lesser DC Comics mainstays may provide those who have credit cards devoted to weekly comicbook runs, Smallville still pulls too many punches. Nods to the JLA's forthcoming Big Guns are mildly amusing, sure -- an Amazonian getup here, a Silver Age green lantern there -- but the joke is wearing thin. Where's Hal, Diana and Bruce? The series' showrunners have trotted out the baddest-of-the-bad rogues for nine seasons now, leaving me to wonder when, if ever, we'll be served the JLA's real meat-n-potatoes. It doesn't help that low-rent villains-of-the-week, though in shorter supply than previous seasons, remain Smallville's most damaging kryptonite. With Zod and his minions milling about, Amanda Waller's Checkmate agents interfering, Tess still operating where Lex left off, and a mysterious independent dubbed the Red Queen calling her own shots, are so many middling ne'er-do-wells necessary? Worse, for every new height -- Zod's season-spanning rise to power (thankfully the primary thrust of all twenty-one episodes), Clark's slow rise and Oliver's steady fall, the various flashbacks and flash-forwards to Zod's past and future, and Tess, Chloe and Lois' character arcs -- there comes a new low. Metallo? Refurbished with melodrama. The JSA? Defeated by Comic Con-esque costumes and mediocre visual effects. Lois' attempts to uncover the Blur's identity? Drags on and on and on and on and on and on and on. The Book of Rao subplot? Grand payoff aside, the device is little more than a cheesy macguffin. The Red Queen reveal? One of the series' biggest busts and most ludicrous plot twists. Once again, I spent the majority of a Smallville season trying to decide whether or not I even enjoy the show anymore.
My thanks to the Maker, then, that Zod ironically emerges as the series' savior, swooping in to save countless episodes and storylines from cheap theatrics and diminishing series-returns. Welling, Mack, Hartley, Durance and Freeman are exceptional as well (even if the writing isn't always up to snuff with their performances), and the whole of the season proves to be greater than the sum of its oft-times disparate parts. If nothing else, season nine was strong enough to rekindle my interest in Smallville's tenth and final hurrah. Who knows? If all goes well, perhaps it will reach heights unknown.
Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season also accomplishes the impossible: finally giving fans a reliable 1080p/VC-1 transfer. Eyesores are still present -- soft shots litter each episode, the seams of the series' hit-or-miss special effects are terribly apparent at times, and noise reduction has been applied to a handful of scenes -- but the vast majority trace back to the production itself rather than Warner's encoding efforts. Fine detailing is the best the series has seen, boasting wonderfully resolved textures and clean, crisp object definition (for the most part, at least). While many establishing shots bear the brunt of the series' glossy CG, closeups look particularly good and delineation is quite remarkable. Colors are bold and beautiful as well, offering a steady stream of blistering primaries, gorgeous skintones, and rich, inky blacks. Moreover, contrast rarely wavers, the season's shifting palette retains a welcome consistency from episode to episode, and power flashes and lightning blasts are rendered with ease. And the noise and compression artifacts that hindered previous-season releases? The grain-like noise that remains appears to be a product of the original photography, and the artifacting that does crop up from time to time is generally fleeting and relatively minor. All in all, it isn't a perfect transfer, but it is a commendable one, especially compared to the Blu-ray releases of Smallville's sixth, seventh and eighth seasons.
Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It's probably wise to space out my lossy-audio rants. One per Warner television release is an exhausting proposition, particularly since the studio is set to unfurl six individual TV seasons over the next three weeks (familiar favorites like Fringe and Supernatural, and new series like Human Target among them), all with standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks. The Blu-ray edition of Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season leads the lossy invasion of course, swooping into stores near you with an above average 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that -- surprise! -- doesn't pack the sternum-cracking punch a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track probably would have. For the most part, dialogue is exceedingly clean and intelligible (even though voices are occasionally overwhelmed by Kryptonian land wars and Earth-bound, superpowered clashes) and effects are given ample room to breathe (especially compared to its DVD counterpart). Dynamics are a bit pinched but entirely adequate, LFE support is reliable and satisfying, and rear speaker activity does a decent job of drawing the listener into the serene wheat fields, bustling metropolis, and chaotic futurescapes the ninth season discharges from its sonic chamber. Directionality is problematic -- the mix favors intensity over precision -- but pans are smooth and the soundfield, though quite front-heavy at times, is fairly involving. All in all, the experience could have been better, but it could have also been a lot worse.
Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Quality roars past quantity in the ninth season's altogether stingy supplemental package. Aside from an expendable chunk of deleted scenes, the two-and-a-half hours of special features that remain -- a pair of audio commentaries, a lengthy Zod featurette and a JSA documentary -- are some of the best I've encountered on a Smallville release. But without additional commentaries (nineteen episodes go untouched) or other behind-the-scenes material, this 4-disc set doesn't offer much to keep fans busy.
Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season eeks by with a hesitant recommendation. The season itself, while far more gripping than the series' seventh and eighth outings (thanks to Callum Blue's turn as Zod), still suffers whenever secondary storylines limp on stage; Warner's notable video transfer represents a high-definition milestone for the show, despite showcasing every maligned VFX seam; the inclusion of a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is a bit of a slap in the face, even though it delivers a decent sonic experience; and season nine's supplemental package, while serving up some of the series' classiest special features, can be exhausted in three short hours. Ultimately, The Complete Ninth Season provides just enough value to justify a purchase... if you're a diehard Smallville junkie. Casual viewers should probably stick with a rental until this one goes on sale.
Smallville: Other Seasons
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