Friday, September 7, 2012

Revolution (Pilot)

Since the conclusion of various shows including "Jericho" and "Lost", numerous projects that followed their conclusions have tried to cash in on the post-apocalyptic genre craze set upon an ensemble of characters that live in a society of little hope and surrounding dangers at every corner. Being that the aforementioned genre has been such a popular one to toy with over the past decade, cliches and stock characters have risen to their highest peaks where the possibilities of innovation have been downgraded to their scarcest levels. However NBC has decided to take on that high risk challenge with their latest series "Revolution", created by Eric Kripke, which is also his first series since leaving showrunner duties from his breakthrough CW hit "Supernatural". Along with big name figures like J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau who had key involvement in the pilot, does "Revolution" give off a glimmer of hope that the post-apocalyptic genre can be reignited with a fresh spark, or does it foretell its doom as yet another typical one-and-done show for NBC? Hit the jump button to find out!

Set fifteen years after an unknown event causes all advanced technology to be permanently shut off, which ranges from electricity, car engines, computers, jet engines, batteries, and your usual Apple products. Those that survived are forced to adapt to living in a world without common technology, and government power has also collapsed, leading to warlords and militias soon ruling over numerous large scale territories. The main focus in this post-apocalyptic setting though is the Matheson family, who are in control of an item that could not only explain was caused the blackout, but also as a means of potentially reversing its effects on the world. Unfortunately, they must also avoid the members of the Militia who intend to use to the device for their own purposes.

The Matheson family is composed of former U.S. Marines Sergeant Miles (Billy Burke) and his niece Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), who meet after Charlie's father is murdered by the Militia, in addition to her brother getting kidnapped, too. Miles initially doesn't want to assist Charlie because he knows the Militia will come after them, but he soon gives in like they all do in these types of shows. The duo are also joined by a medical doctor named Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) and Aaron (Zak Orth), a former Google executive. Chasing after them is Militia Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito), who is under orders by local warlord Sebastian "Bass" Monroe (David Lyons).

The science fiction post-apocalyptic genre comes with a substantial amount of perks because of the concept ideas that can be executed, and that is the main aspect that drives shows like these if they have the proper execution netted down. However, the execution of a certain idea has also been one of the genre's main faults over the past decade for those that have tried their hand in the field. In the end of its first hour as a new series, "Revolution" initially presents a cool idea but its execution quickly comes crashing down like the planes that crash once the blackout occurs.

To start with the good though, director Jon Favreau lends a very serviceable look to the series' setting with a mix of visual eye candy largely detailed locations. If there's anything that Favreau can do the best in his form of calling the shots behind the camera, it usually involves mixing together live action with CGI, and that works the best during both the first 15 minutes where the blackout occurs, and the scenes once the group of survivors reach post-apocalyptic ridden areas of downtown Chicago.

Unfortunately, only Favreau's execution of the show's look is the only redeeming aspect of "Revolution". Everything else is as problematic as most of these shows get, especially within the overall acting from its ensemble cast. All the actors in this show range from being either average to just plain bad, and the insanely melodramatic writing doesn't help them in the slightest, too. Tracy Spiridakos who plays one of the lead protagonists Charlie, is awful in her overly dramatic, sometimes too stern line delivery that quickly gets grating because of how often its utilized. Furthermore, her character somewhat comes off as a Katniss Everdeen knock-off because her weapon of choice is a crossbow. Similar to Spiridakos, Billy Burke is also terribly unconvincing as Charlie's U.S. Marines veteran uncle. His line delivery never changes from the flat tone he conveys throughout the pilot, and his attempts to emote at times are close to being cringeworthy.

The only good actor in the ensemble cast is Giancarlo Esposito, who plays the Militia soldier pursuing the family on orders from his boss. Though he's playing a caricature, he still managed to be villainous enough to hold my attention when he controlled the screen. Unfortunately when you compare Esposito to the rest of the lead actors, he's literally too good for the show's own worth. Esposito is a criminally underrated actor with a following that is continuing to increase since his television roles in "Breaking Bad" and "Once Upon a Time", but at least those two shows deserve his presence unlike "Revolution".

Though I intend on beginning "Supernatural" sometime in the future, I was very disappointed with creator Eric Kripke's execution in terms of both story and dialogue. Story elements in this pilot are rather vague and reminiscent of other shows we've seen, and his tactic of pulling twists on numerous characters gets annoying very fast. The dialogue is also quite clumsy, with lines ranging from being extremely soapy and melodramatic, to sometimes even unintentionally funny for how cheesy they are.

Overall apart from decent visuals and an interesting set-up, "Revolution" doesn't have anything else new to offer in the post-apocalyptic science fiction genre. Unless the writing and acting gets punched up over the course of its first season, it will most likely be heading down the road of NBC's one-and-done shows, which is unfortunately a path that their programming has been taking for awhile, too. I can only hope that it will get better because pilots can something be deceiving in comparison to their future episodes, but the overall quality that "Revolution" left me with isn't helping well enough for that wish to come true.

Final Grade: C-

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