IR TV Review: THE DARK CRYSTAL – AGE OF RESISTANCE [Netflix-S1]

The challenge of creating an updated world of one such as “The Dark Crystal” is a specific challenge. The balance reflects in two aspects: can the puppetry be held up in such a way that it doesn’t take away from the original but also does it take into play the world building and mythology that Jim Henson created so many years ago. Granted nothing can be quite like what was done in 1982 considering the restrictions. But what Louis Letterier and the Jim Henson Workshop have done with “The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance” is quite effective in living up to the original while also taking it much darker which was always underlying beneath the surface in the initial film. Leterrier seemed an odd choice initially after Genndy Tartakovsky, known for “Samurai Jack” and the initial “Clone Wars” shorts left the project seemingly over creative differences. What might be said is that there might have been a structure that Henson had initially left which painted the backstory. It is hard to say.

Nevertheless, the story told over 10 episodes takes into fact many eventual outcomes seen in the movie. But it also reflects an immigration story in reverse that is very prevalent to our times while also being universal and older. Watching this iteration, especially in the plight of The Gelfings, the parallel to Native Americans both in the look and mysticism of the characters becomes much more defined especially with Deet, an exceptionally connected Gelfing from underground. Another clan from what is called The Crystal Desert plays into this myth as well. The key aspect in this series that it shows Thra as bigger than what was imagined (or likely planned). The eventual genocide of the Gelfing as indicated in the movie is a great underlying theme even as battles are fought. Rian, as played by Taron Egerton of “Kingman” and “Rocketman” fame, anchors the cast as the would be hero.

However the grand balance relates in the Skeksis, both in the voices and the abject cruelty that begins to seep in. The most intrinsic simply because he is the most dynamic in terms of chess moves is The Chamberlain, as voiced by Simon Pegg. He is almost the Judas in a way who belies his own loyalty for a texture of power. Pegg gets enough of the voice without overplaying say, the whimpering. The General as always is his adversary for power as voiced by Benedict Wong. The overarching Emperor is voiced by Jason Isaacs and Mark Hamill plays The Scientist. The driving force of essence at a certain point becomes all encompassing. This could be a balance to the progressive nature of the current opiod crisis or simply reflect back the essence of the opium trade in the 1800s. Point being that the story works on many different levels.

Augra is the unifying and yet destructuring force. It is she who is blame but also she who is ultimately a deliverer. It is almost as if she is the ID within everyone. The larger reasoning of who the Skeksis are and why the Mystics function as they do is hinted at but left for later deduction. The politics though especially within the clans of the Gelfling are really what propel the story but it is the ideas influenced through Augra that anchor it. While the aspects of transcendence and new age thinking still play into the actions of the characters, the introduction of The Archer and more specifically The Hunter as well as two other characters co-existing with each other at the end of the world create a different dynamic and add even more to the proceedings.

Ultimately though the elements of the betrayal of trust by the Lords Of Crystal and their ultimate greed is what defines the path. Technically, the show does what is needed to do. Practical effects and puppetry are used heavily with only slight digital enhancements while landscape and certain creature elements that just would not have been possible before without CGI add that degree of scope without forgetting the true nature of Thra. “The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance” is an apt, entertaining and visionary extension of Jim Henson’s universe. Seeing the possibility of it coming back in this way, which would not have happened in the current TV and filmmaking climate without Netflix, shows the importance of certain Ips being given a chance to reach a new generation while still reflecting the old.

A-

By Tim Wassberg

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IR TV Review: PEARSON [USA-S1]

The essence of politics and law can be a tricky slope. The intention of what characters do and don’t do are usually reflective of how they live their lives and what they want to accomplish. In “Pearson”, which focuses on the travails of one Jessica Pearson who formerly ran a law firm in New York in “Suits” is an interesting transmutation.

At a TCA panel attended when “Pearson” was announced, Gina Torres discussed how she thought she was done with this world but that this series gave her an interesting balancing act. As the focal point, it is about Pearson’s deconstruction without losing the elements that make her character who she is. Pearson was always a fixer but here she is a fish out of water. She has all her experience but has to learn the new path of fixing problems in a city that continues in its paradoxical ways.

Chicago is a ripe city for this series to be set, both reflective of its history and because of its history. It doesn’t make the mechanizations too dense within the plot but also understands that nobody is clean yet all are dipped in shades of gray. There is something gnawing at every single one of the characters…no matter how virtuous or altruistic they think they are. Bethany Jo Lenz as City Attorney Keri Allen brings a balance of power and vulnerability which is an interesting diametric to Pearson. Isabel Arraiza as Yoli Castillo reflects in a different manne with a subtext and subtle innerworkings that remind one of Meghan Markle in “Suits” albeit from a different perspective.

The notion of family also has a very specific tenure within the story on many fronts, including the mayor and his brother, two halves of the same whole but with different understanding of sacrifice and loyalty. Morgan Spector as Mayor Bobby Golec walks the line between glib and vilified, inspiring and decadent…sometimes the mark of a true politician. There is also a balance of optimism introspected by Eli Goree as Derrick the press secretary and even Chantel Riley’s Angela who is cousin and parallel to Jessica but with the exact opposite problems in many ways as the lead character.

The season (without spoilers) progresses in a sense of stopping a dam but realizing the cracks being formed or simply becoming more pronounced. The series knows the puzzle pieces it is constructing but also the plot points it needs to hit. It isn’t a by-the-books procedural in any way since the characters move awkwardly with real intention which can only be accomplished through subtlety in writing.

Pearson as a character is an enigma but one icy enough that an audience can root for her but now also fallible enough to know what can and can’t be solved hence making her more accessible to the audience. Chicago, like all of America, is about fighting what is right but knowing that paths are meant to be circular. The notion of identity examined in “Pearson”, both about who we are and who we want to be is a conscious awareness that its lead character continues to traverse.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: “If Memory Serves” (STAR TREK: DISCOVERY) [CBS All Access – S2]

The aspect of canon has always been a thistle in a way in the side of the “Discovery”. While striving to make something original, this franchise like Star Wars can be helped and hindered. But in its best it transcends. “If Memory Serves” is the best episode of the series by far because it found that balance. In bringing in old TOS lore, and staying fairly close without breaking it, it necessitates what might be in store. The aspect of Michael and Spock is so dynamic because it shows the incessant humanity while completely lost in logic. When he finally begins speaking, it makes a lot of what we have seen past and present integrated. It also very much speaks to perhaps a bigger structural basis between the Kelvin & Prime Universes which undoubtedly is spacing through the writers’ room. That said, despite any of the mechanics, “If Memory Serves” is a dynamic emotional episodes that contains the best perspective of Star Trek episodes in that they make you think, reflect but also emote. While Michael and Spock carry the basis of the episode, it is the balance and intent of Anson Mount as Christopher Pike and his connection that allows for the bridge between two worlds, as Mount alluded to IR at our interview at TCA, without him giving a thing away. Bravo.

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: “Light And Shadows” (STAR TREK: DISCOVERY) [CBS All Access – S2]

The essence of “Light And Shadows” reflects in the ideas of who we are and who we are to be perceived to be. In the most recent episode, Doug Jones’ Saru discovered that his instincts were really part of an awakening which allowed him to come to his unseen potential. The inference comes to a head as he is drawn back home to face demons, literally and metaphorically that have changed the idea of what it means to exist. This balances in Michael Burnham’s continuing search for Spock and the reasoning of this point. We finally see the first glimpses of Ethan Peck as Spock but what is really interesting is the diametric of the family as Michael herself returns home and like Saru must understand the difference between knowing her path and walking the path. The Red Angel continues to be a presiding influence but in true serialized storytelling structure it is starting to take on a different meaning in terms of its resonance. Connection is a big driving force but tolerance and understanding even more so despite differing socio, political, even world views. The ideal that ends the episodes again points to another piece in the puzzle which slowly but surely continues to unfold while telling very universal stories which “Star Trek” has always been known for.

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: “The Sound Of Thunder” (STAR TREK: DISCOVERY) [CBS All Access – S2]

The essence of identity continues within the structure of “Star Trek: Discovery”. In ”The Sound Of Thunder”, the texture of the Red Angel is continued by a series of perceptions of changed definition. Saru is the focus and the return to his home planet after a transformation of sorts. While not as powerful as the previous episode simply because the stakes are different, this perspective shows, without giving anything away that rising awareness can affect change but also change the nature of who we are. This is true not just of Saru but of a recently returned crew mate. What is interesting in this continuing thread is what expectations create. Parallel structure definitely affects Michael Burnham in many ways and in certain perspectives, some of the canonized material seen sometimes can also run parallel to “The Next Generation”. As the narrative continues to unfold, the essence of the story is connected but while still making each episode, this one more than the last, able to have a essential life force of its own without sacrificing the serialized nature of the proceedings.

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: STAR WARS – REBELS – S2 PREMIERE [Disney XD]

REB_IA_8807The key with “Star Wars: Rebels” has always been connection the emotional impact and nostalgia of the old series, bridging the mythology of the prequels and leading them towards the new films. If there is one thing that Disney knows, it is synergy. But what really seems to be working well here is integrating also the lifeline of “The Clone Wars” animated series with the new storylines. As dense and political as that series became, what it did do was immensely humanize Anakin Skywalker, specifically his relationship with his Padewan Ahsoka. The first episodes of season 2 of “Rebels” adequately pushes that.

REB_IA_8316There is a great reveal moment in the premiere episode but is interesting in that the series gives the audience a leg up on the proceedings that the main characters in the series do not possess. It creates a interesting quagmire for this season, one that unfortunately can only end in tragedy. That said, it creates stakes for the series and gives it more dynamic perspective. Strangely enough, the series is on XD which is more tween oriented and this is definitely a multi generational show through and through. The balance of force between Ezra and Kanan continues to work well especially in a face off with a certain Sith. The different consequences of actions though ring in eerie parallel, especially the burning of a place called Tarkin Town and the aspect of the Sith using “compassion” as a rebel weakness to his advantage.

REB_IA_9043The concluding showdown of the episode brings to mind the inherent strategy of thinking outside the box as in the original trilogy. At certain points you do feel it veering into military and political turmoil but the key in this series is always to bring it back to the main characters and with this season specifically: Ahsoka. “Rebels” has found a great crux of perception but needs to keep building. But with supervising director Dave Filoni as usual at the helm (like he was with “Clone Wars”), the course is in good hands.

IR Television Review: Design Infrastructure & The Narrative Lens: New TV Shows – Spring 2012 – Part II

Finding different intonations to set genres against requires different elements of design and character infrastructure which becomes harder and harder with the extensive formulaic elements progressing through the TV landscape. Whether it be the medical drama or the lost adventure, the key becomes seeing it through a different lens or narrative construct which will allow the audience to see themselves in a brand new light.

Green Lantern: The Animated Series With “Clone Wars” setting the bar high in terms of visual excellence on Cartoon Network, it is undeniably a highlight to see this incarnation doing so well. Succeeding in ways that the feature film failed on because of its need for mass market appeal despite some lofty possibilities in the attempt reflects the purity. Beyond the journey set up, which is what lifts the series,(using an almost “Star Trek: Voyager” construct), is that it forces the creators to think outside the box and create a new world with rules aside from what the Guardian lore creates. Mixing Hal Jordan with a monster Lantern who lives by a rule of discipline and adding a Red Lantern always on the verge of betrayal keeps an interesting dynamic moving, not to mention a neat AI perception of a ship that happens to look like RL’s slain wife. For a Saturday morning show, it is a bit dark but also deep on mythology. The most stunning aspect by far is how complete the look is with some of bigger set pieces (like a starship falling into a black hole) culpable to anything on “Clone Wars”.

The River Bringing a found footage angle to network television is a tricky thing because much depends on the scare factor which is hard to function on a network (this one is on ABC). While, in certain scenarios where it is about what you don’t see (like LOST) it works to its advantage. This set-up works partially on this element but the pay off is not apparent. For what it is so far, its premise is engaging. What provides it with a solid ground is the flashback personage of Bruce Greenwood as a TV famous biologist who goes into the jungle to search for a lost “angel”. His found camera footage in the wilderness including the warding off of the “demon” and his refusal to kill his dog to avoid sacrificing his humanity is exceptionally compelling. The surrounding elements watching these journals but also the attacks from undead perceptions lack a degree of depth or tension creating a vessel and a void which definitely has potential for greatness but is not quite there yet.

A Gifted Man Approaching the medical environment with textures of paranormal influence is not unusual with ideas of guilt versus moving on. This series tries with good emotional weight to take this on but with a limited amount of perceptions to feed the fire. While the death of his ex-wife in a car crash resurfaces in heart transplants and the definition of love in the re-emergence of his high school sweetheart who eventually suffers from a life ending concussion has repercussions, the idea of what the lead character finds necessary to learn feels unstable and not very telling. Patrick Wilson tries his best but almost over-emotes the necessary beats to make an audience connect.

Two Broke Girls Using the vapid intentions of “Sex & The City” writer/producer Michael Patrick King on a network sitcom is both engaging and slightly worrying simply because the line becomes much more maligned just because of the nature of the beast when one moves between pay cable and network passing over basic cable entirely, While some of the jokes play dirtier than normal for network, it does play to the honesty of the characters. Kat Dennings’ slacker slut-type is perfectly in control of her facilities and understands her position but knows when to take risks even though she knows she might fall on her face. The actress sometimes plays it too hard because her sweetness in real life shows through while her cohort, more unknown to the public, is seemingly and paradoxically the more transparent of the two. The attempt focuses on a trajectory for these girls yet the most telling scenes (which at times are not used enough) are the moments in the diner where the true facts of life ring strongly.