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'Sanctuary' Is At Home on Blu-ray 
Only occasionally does this series not look its best in hi-def
By Michael Simpson | Friday, July 30, 2010
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Sanctuary
fans can rejoice now that both Season 1 and Season 2 of the Vancouver-shot sci-fi/supernatural adventure series are available on Blu-ray. The former comes several months after the first season was released on DVD (supposedly the delay was due to an oversight), while the second season has been issued simultaneously on both the hi-def and standard-def formats.


For the benefit of those not already following the former web series, the lowdown is this. Sanctuary stars Stargate all-rounder Amanda Tapping (she's been in every Stargate series except Stargate Infinity, but that one doesn't count anyway, right?). Tapping plays the unnaturally old but still stunning Dr. Helen Magnus, who has dedicated her life to the study of so-called 'abnormal' beings. These creatures, sentient and otherwise, go unappreciated and sometimes unnoticed in the world according to Sanctuary.

On the surface, that world is similar to our own. However, dark forces and mysterious organizations lurk in the shadows. Most of the Sanctuaryverse is realized in a computer. Aside from a brief segment filmed in Japan and a few physical props, most of the series has been filmed against a green screen. Added to that innovation is the use of the high definition Red camera. Taken together, these qualities should make Sanctuary ideal material to show off the best of Blu-ray.

At their best the visual effects in the series are as impressive as anything you'll see on the small screen. For instance, the opening scene of the premiere episode, 'Sanctuary for All,' is a fabulously detailed night-time shot that pans from a panoramic view of a city skyline down across rooftops to merge seamlessly with a live-action shot of a police car pulling up outside a house. The sanctuary itself, which resembles a gothic cathedral and appears often in linking scenes, is also realized in great detail (see image above). The highlight of the second season, meanwhile, is the episode 'Pavor Nocturnus,' Sanctuary's take on I Am Legend. The post-apocalyptic world created by the effects team at Anthem is worthy of a motion picture and together with the gritty production design looks disturbingly real on Blu-ray, even if the plot is derivative.
      At their best the visual effects in the series are as impressive as anything you'll see on the small screen       
'Sanctuary' on Blu-ray
Seasons 1 and 2 of Sanctuary have been released on DVD and Blu-ray by eOne (formerly E1 Entertainment). In addition to Amanda Tapping, the series stars Robin Dunne (interviewed on CinemaSpy here), Ryan Robbins, Agam Darshi, Christopher Heyerdahl and Emilie Ullerup. It was created by Damian Kindler (interviewed here) who, together with Tapping and director Martin Wood, is also among the executive producers.

When the green screen FX don't work as well (such as when it's obvious that characters are walking against a false background), the shortcomings are more apparent in hi-def. Thankfully, this is a rare thing. Moreover, the series has a pervasive sense of fun, an inventiveness and a clever way of interweaving Victoriana with various sci-fi and fantasy subgenres that makes it easy to forgive occasional CGI moments that don't work and some variable acting.

Both Seasons 1 and 2 on Blu-ray (and DVD) come as four disc sets and include all 13-episodes in each season. The discs are attached in plastic holders on two faces of the fold-out case. The two discs per page are offset from each other, which saves on space and materials but may not meet with everyone's approval. With the second season the distributor, eOne, has tried a different approach to keeping the discs attached. It involves springy plastic clips at the base of the disc and means that you don't have to prize the discs out of the case. It works reasonably well and is an improvement over the old system.

Sanctuary is smart sci-fi escapism that doesn't aspire to 'realism' in the way that shows like Battlestar Galactica and Stargate Universe do. Nor is it as consistently flippant and quirky as the likes of Eureka and Warehouse 13. Its closest cousin may be Britain's Doctor Who. Both shows have similar production design and a devil-may-care attitude to storytelling that results in scripts that vary from the comedic (Hero) via the personal (Fragments) to the horrific (Pavor Nocturnus). The result is a lively, if uneven, series that continues to grow and makes the most of its innovative FX and the enthusiasm of its cast and crew.

Blu-ray extras: Each episode of each season has a commentary track and these are presented by various groups of cast and crew members. Both box sets also include several making-of featurettes, a blooper reel and a photo gallery.

Along with the above the Season One release comes with the original Webisodes that were previouisly sold online. Exclusive to the Season Two set, meanwhile, are Video Diaries by star Robin Dunne and a piece on the show at Comic Con,. The Webisodes, commentaries and featurettes will be of most interest to fans, while the rest is largely insubstantial. The number of commentaries, alone, however, should earn the distributor a commendation for bonus material and kudos to the cast and crew for taking the time to do them.

Sanctuary fans can rejoice now that both Season 1 and Season 2 of the Vancouver-shot sci-fi/supernatural adventure series are available on Blu-ray. The former comes several months after the first season was released on DVD (supposedly the delay was due to an oversight), while the second season has been issued simultaneously on both the hi-def and standard-def formats.

For the benefit of those not already following the former web series, the lowdown is this. Sanctuary stars Stargate all-rounder Amanda Tapping (she's been in every Stargate series except Stargate Infinity, but that one doesn't count anyway, right?). Tapping plays the unnaturally old but still stunning Dr. Helen Magnus, who has dedicated her life to the study of so-called 'abnormal' beings. These creatures, sentient and otherwise, go unappreciated and sometimes unnoticed in the world according to Sanctuary.

Sanctuary fans can rejoice now that both Season 1 and Season 2 of the Vancouver-shot sci-fi/supernatural adventure series are available on Blu-ray. The former comes several months after the first season was released on DVD (supposedly the delay was due to an oversight), while the second season has been issued simultaneously on both the hi-def and standard-def formats.

For the benefit of those not already following the former web series, the lowdown is this. Sanctuary stars Stargate all-rounder Amanda Tapping (she's been in every Stargate series except Stargate Infinity, but that one doesn't count anyway, right?). Tapping plays the unnaturally old but still stunning Dr. Helen Magnus, who has dedicated her life to the study of so-called 'abnormal' beings. These creatures, sentient and otherwise, go unappreciated and sometimes unnoticed in the world according to Sanctuary.

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