By Sam Cenzhang, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 10, 2012
Let’s just get the obligatory joke out of the way: This Revolution really shouldn’t be televised.
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Executive produced by J.J. Abrams, creator of “Lost," “Revolution” is the latest in the lineage of watered-down imitators and follows in the footsteps of Fox’s “Terra Nova,” ABC’s “FlashForward” and previous NBC effort (if it can really be called that) “The Event” in both concept and execution. That is to say, it’s a derivatively plotted, clumsily delivered package of would-be soft-sci-fi thriller that fails to thrill and whose science collapses under even cursory scrutiny. And this time, there aren’t even any dinosaurs.
“Revolution” opens with its presentation of concept, which it almost immediately botches. The premise of the show is a world in which electricity no longer exists because of the machinations of some mysterious paragovernmental agency. We are introduced to someone who works for aforementioned agency. He warns his family to prepare for the apocalypse, and then boom! Apocalypse! All the electricity is gone, planes start falling out of the sky, etc. Cut to fifteen years later.
That this is a well-worn and silly excuse to get people fighting with swords and crossbows in the ruins of recognizable cities is almost beside the point. The offensive thing about “Revolution” is how little effort it expends to arrive there, or to explore the concept once it does. Seeing the deterioration of modern society into the main setting of “Revolution,” where horse-riding militia groups control everything and there is no toilet paper, might have been an interesting way to introduce the world with a flourish. Instead, we are just offered the world wholesale and asked to take it or leave it, with no explanation as to how we got there. With this uncompelling premise, leaving viewers in the dark simply encourages them to stay away.
Sadly, the would-be high-concept nonsense may be the most palatable part of the show. There’s little to say about any of the characters in “Revolution,” except that they're not really characters so much as newly unwrapped archetypes freshly delivered from Tropes ‘R’ Us. The cast is mostly unknown, with the exception of Billy Burke from “Twilight” playing a gruff loner antihero. There’s also Giancarlo Esposito, a long way down from “Breaking Bad,” trying his darndest with a part that seems to be aiming for Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds” but not hitting much of anything. Esposito earned a lot of credit on “Breaking Bad,” but even he seems stymied by the featureless villain he’s been handed to animate, slipping in and out of a weirdly off-Southern accent and appearing as not entirely in control of his face instead of coldly menacing.
Shows like this need to nail the visuals to be even slightly credible, and here “Revolution” fails again. The concept of the human world allowed to disintegrate opens the door for potentially incredible effects, but every shot of ruined cities and recognizable but broken down artifacts of our age simply looks like CGI. Overly harsh artificial lighting is completely counterproductive to the conceit of a world without electricity, and gives the show an anesthetic feel that serves it poorly. The action sequences are just as tepid, and the showrunners seem determined to challenge the record for how many times people get shot in the back unexpectedly during a fight.
The only element of “Revolution” that could potentially redeem it is the excellent Giancarlo Esposito (albeit excellent in other vehicles), but there’s no reason to sit through the rest of this drivel for a few moments of Gus Fring, especially given that his part, like everything else in the pilot, is so poorly written.
“Revolution” is ultimately a paint-by-numbers show that fails to bring anything conceptually innovative to the table, and then fails to explore its unoriginal concept either thoroughly or well.