Wednesday, September 05, 2012

After the lights go out

I watched the pilot episode of NBC's new sci-fi-ish adventure series "Revolution" last night. It is still up on the NBC website as of this writing, to view for free (you will have to sit through some commercials during the show, and be warned that the volume on the commercials is about 4 times that of the program).

After a brief teaser that shows the power going out all over the world, the episode jumps 15 years into the future, where the survivors have formed 18th-century villages that pay tribute to feudal lords and "republics." Nothing electrical operates, not even batteries. A young woman named Charly (read as "Katniss" -- she's a hunter and awesome with a crossbow) is sent on a quest to find her uncle in Chicago after some bad stuff goes down at home.

That's all the plot I'm giving away.

I enjoyed the show, though I would have liked to have seen a little more hardship on the road between the village and Chicago; it didn't seem like that much of a trek, which made me wonder why the characters didn't have more of a connection to each other. If Chicago is only a day's march away, you'd have thought Charly and her uncle might have met before.

'Life After People'
Revolution is produced and directed by John (Iron Man) Favreau, executive produced by JJ Abrams (Star Trek), and stars Billy Burke as a swordswinging badass and costars someone you never heard of (Tracy Spiridakos) as Charly. It has epic scope, a neat conspiracy, some teasers of things to come. The action sequences are engaging and the scenery is epic.

Seeing the wreckage of the modern world, I was reminded of a History Channel show called "Life After People" that showed you what would happen to our world if we all just disappeared one day. It really wouldn't take all that long for the drains to back up and the wilderness to eat away our proudest constructions.

The concept also brought to mind the excellent novels "Ariel" and "Elegy Beach" by Steven R. Boyett (a former Gainesville resident), except "the Change" that swept over the world in these books ended all technology and brought magic and magical creatures into our world. (I highly recommend these novels; Boyett's treatment of magic as a sort of mental mathematics is incredible, and his characters are human and engrossing.) One of my favorite scenes in the second novel takes place when the characters locate a "bubble" where technology still works and magic doesn't; they take turns listening to an iPod; the young ones are in tears because they've never heard such incredible music, and never will again.

"Revolution" has no fantasy or magical elements to the story, but it has a palpable sense of danger and loss. There is clearly a scientific reason that the lights went out, and I suspect Charly will get to the bottom of it by the end of the season, opening new questions to explore. Check the show out. It premieres Sept. 17 on NBC, if you don't want to stream it.

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