'Witchblade' More Sorcery Than Substance

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Warner Bros. Television certainly doesn't seem to have spared any expense in crafting the visuals and special effects for Witchblade, Turner Network Television's newest original drama.

It looks better than most hour-long, basic-cable action dramas — even if its rendition of New York is a bit hard for a native to place — and its level of acting is a bit sharper than one might expect, given the genre's other entries.

Based on the comic book series of the same name, Witchblade
the series picks up where last year's Witchblade
TV movie left off — with New York police detective Sarah Pezzini (Yancy Butler) still dealing with the discovery of the "Witchblade," a magical weapon once wielded by Joan of Arc, and the death of her partner in a massive melee. As the show opens, she's in front of an internal affairs panel, offering her account of those events.

This scene brings up the first episode's most gaping flaw: it assumes that if you're watching, you've seen the film. If you haven't, like this reviewer, you're kind of sketchy on the origin of the witchblade (unless you've been armed with a press packet). You're also not quite sure what to make of the returning characters — her partner, surfer-dude and Internet ace Jake McCarty (David Chokachi of Baywatch
fame); her late ex-partner, Danny Woo (Will Yun Lee, who appears to her in visions as a guardian spirit); and Kenneth Irons (Anthony Cistaro), a billionaire industrialist with eyes for the magic weapon.

It's Irons who's the focus of the first episode, in which Sarah and Jake are called upon to investigate a shoot-'em-up that involves the "Black Dragon Unit," a biologically modified group of super-soldiers who are the product of an Irons' defense contract. The experiments left the soldiers with super-skill and intellect, a penchant for speaking in verse and a tendency to go insane. The third side effect leads Irons and the one soldier he can trust to hunt the group down. Pezzini must square off against the sole survivor, and the confrontation sets up the series by leaving open the question of just who the bad guy is.

While Witchblade's effects are a treat to the eyes, the shadowy tone and The Matrix
-like stop-motion action sequences can also overload the senses at times. What isn't overloaded is the character development. Although the visuals are enough to get viewers to take a first look, the character development wasn't quite strong enough to get this reviewer to come back for more.

The Witchblade
series debut, "Parallax," bows Tuesday, June 12 at 9 p.m.

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