My only knowledge of Babylon 5 comes from great and rave reviews about its great writing and story lines and story arcs, and the charges that "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" plagiarized the idea.
Hopefully the series lives up to its reception and to the reception its allegedly ripped-off Star Trek equivalent has received, because this intro movie is horrid on almost every level.
Starting on the most unfair level; the visual effects. Considering this came out in 1993, it's unfair to complain about bad effects because CGI technology was very new.
But considering that this was also the time in which Star Trek was dominating the Sci-Fi circuit with TNG winding down and Deep Space Nine beginning, the look of the two shows from one to the two others is like the difference between a finely crafted guitar and a shoebox with fishing wire on it.
From what I hear and know, the only CG used in Star Trek at that point was for the phaser effects. Everything else was standard visual effects and the use of models and miniatures. By comparison, this TV movie uses full CG.
And it looks horrid. In space, the ships all look flat, with no substance or shading and stiff, blocky shadows that look as artificial as everything else. It's as if there are lights shining in all directions. It's all on par with the sort of things you'd see in Doom or Duke Nukem 64, rendered again and again to completely remove any and all traces of realism, grit, or even believability from these shots. Every time a shot from space is played, it's like having your head slammed into a table and jerked back up, a total break from the immersion and you're left gawking at how awful and pathetic that looked.
Moving on to the fairer things: The acting.
The acting is BAD. The only person who is a decent actor is the Vorlon guy who was on Star Trek as a Romulan commander. This Jeffrey Sinclair person sounds like his acting experience comes from watching TV and movies and then being given a script for the first time and told to act. He's either completely emotionless or so horribly forced, it utterly kills scenes that are supposed to be tense or emotional.
But he's not alone. The guy playing Garibaldi sounds almost exactly like Randal Graves in "Clerks", and even speaks in almost exactly the same tone and temperament. It's impossible to take him seriously with the name of an Italian war hero and the voice of a snot-nosed punk clerk.
Londo Mollari, whose actor clearly IS an actor, but with hair that is two feet tall, fanning out the back of his head, and utterly bald everywhere else, I was shocked to learn he's supposed to be an alien. Straight out from under the Iron Curtain, based on that scruffy "Generic East European" accent he chomps on so hammily, it's more annoying than humorous, if he's even supposed to be the humor character.
Takashima and the telepath, with all the personality of a goldfish between them, are somehow even worse than Sinclair's actor, with virtually all of Takashima's lines sounding as lifeless as a middle school drama student being asked to sight-read a monologue without any preparation.
All the rest are too stale and below average to warrant special attention, aside from the doctor's hilarity-enducing "Now will someone please tell me what tha HELL is going on around here!", but the description mentioned above, of amateur drama students acting for the first time pretty accurately describes everyone in every role, except for Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik.
But maybe they all sound vapid and confused for the reason that they don't understand what the hell they're reading and speaking. I know I don't. "What the hell is going on around here?" is a pretty accurate statement for the entire first hour and 15 minutes, as names, alien species, and events are dropped liberally and at random, with almost no explanation or understanding, and immediate events unfolding involving an attempted poisoning of an ambassador and a shapeshifter apparently responsible. Exactly what else is filing in the other 60 minutes of that 10 minute plotpoint is purely speculation on my part.
Don't misunderstand, I LOVE it when science fiction chooses not to dwell on exposition, going by either "show, don't tell" as with Battlestar Galactica, or letting relevant information be covered with relevant dialogue, or as Star Wars does, leave background information to be filled in (for better or worse) by expanded universe novels, video games, and comics, to make for a richer experience with the movies that is not needed to go along with it, as well as making more money by producing more work.
Whatever Babylon 5: The Gathering is doing in its first 75 of 94 minutes, it sure as hell ain't any of that. Events unfold and you're expected to follow along, then try not to act surprised when something else happens that makes no sense or comes out of nowhere. Add to that the horrifyingly bad acting, and far too many scenes of droning expository dialogue, and you're bored into submission long before you can figure out what is happening and why.
Review by Andariel Halo from the Internet Movie Database.