Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Is J.J. Abrams' New NBC Series 'Revolution' a Sign of Apocalypse Fatigue?

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire September 18, 2012 at 12:49PM

The best thing that NBC's new sci-fi drama "Revolution, which premiered last night, has going for it is the way it's found to be both futuristic and old-timey. The show is set 15 years after our present has devolved into anarchy following the lights going out and all technology ceasing to function, so it has the context of contemporary life -- Aaron (Zak Orth) admits "I used to work at this place called Google" -- with the trappings of something feudal. Characters get to indulge in all sorts of analog badassery, including hunting, crossbows wielding, making medicinal potions and swordfighting a whole battalion of militia men, but they also seem more relatable and less foreign than people from an era in which those things would be period-appropriate.
2
Tracy Spiridakos on 'Revolution'
Bob Mahoney/NBC Tracy Spiridakos on 'Revolution'

The best thing that NBC's new sci-fi drama "Revolution, which premiered last night, has going for it is the way it's found to be both futuristic and old-timey. The show is set 15 years after our present has devolved into anarchy following the lights going out and all technology ceasing to function, so it has the context of contemporary life -- Aaron (Zak Orth) admits "I used to work at this place called Google" -- with the trappings of something feudal. Characters get to indulge in all sorts of analog badassery, including hunting, crossbows wielding, making medicinal potions and swordfighting a whole battalion of militia men, but they also seem more relatable and less foreign than people from an era in which those things would be period-appropriate.

So why is the pilot for "Revolution," directed with little flair by Jon Favreau, such a drag? The series has a solid pedigree -- it's created by Eric Kripke, whose "Supernatural" has been going strong for seven seasons already, and it's executive produced by J. J. Abrams, whose record when it comes to TV can be hit or miss but whose shows always have a solid core. And yet a solid center is exactly what "Revolution" lacks in this first episode, which is filled with nice world's-end imagery -- the steampunky trappings, the spectacle of abandoned airplanes, suburban streets turned to agriculture and Wrigley Field gone to seed.  In the end, there is little for an audience to invest in.

Revolution 2

Pilot episodes have a lot of exposition to get through, and "Revolution" is hampered in some ways by that burden as well as by an introduction that tries to plant seeds to the mystery by starting with the moment of the blackout and then hopping ahead to a future in which everything's decrepit and plant-strewn and run by local warlords. But pilot episodes also have to offer a flicker of what a series will regularly become, and "Revolution" offers little of that, either in terms of the plot driving it forward or with regard to the universe it's created.

Despite its striking look, the basic setting of "Revolution" does seems very familiar. From the abandoned landscape to which Rick Grimes wakes up in "The Walking Dead" to the decimated, alien-invaded world of TNT's "Falling Skies" to History's speculative doc series "Life After People," the idea of a planet on which civilization has been largely or entirely wiped out is one on which popular culture has been fixated for a while now.

"Revolution" has got its scraggly band of survivors and its wrecked society struggling to hold on to any structure, but in practice there's little to distinguish it and set it apart from similar stories that have graced either the small or large sceen in recent years. And none of the characters stand out in this introductory episode as anything more than a stock type -- there's the reluctant badass hero Miles (Billy Burke), the unfortunately commonplace bratty teenager Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), the aforementioned nerd Aaron and the bad lieutenant Tom (Giancarlo Esposito), serving the self-appointed militia leader Monroe (David Lyons), whose connection to Miles was revealed in a flashback.

Revolution 3

There's only been one episode of "Revolution" to date, and its ratings were good, which means there's plenty of time for it to improve. But part of the niggling sense of dissatisfaction that comes with watching it doesn't seem the fault of the hastily sketched out character types nor of the not-that-interesting central mystery. It's more a feeling of apocalypse fatigue, that this scenario and the inevitable reveal that it's other survivors who are the biggest danger are old hat and that "Revolution" has yet summoned anything to set it apart.

Watching Burke swashbuckle his way around a crumbling staircase in what was once a fancy Chicago hotel is fun, but I longed only half-jokingly for a reveal that he was once a LARPer instead of a former military man (who else but them and fencers could get in so much practice with a sword?). The post-apocalyptic setting has become so filled with familiar tropes and so stripped of novelty that "Revolution" demands something to set it apart other than just an absence of technology -- some new twist on what life is like without the things on which we've become so dependent, something that could make you rethink what would happen were governments to fall. Crossbows are cool and all, but they can only take you so far. 

This article is related to: Television, TV Reviews, NBC, Revolution, Eric Kripke, J.J. Abrams, Billy Burke






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More