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Let’s go back to mine and drink until we can’t feel our legs! Utopia December 7, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Science Fiction, Uncategorized.
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Just finished watching Channel 4’s Utopia on DVD, and very good it was too, so good in fact that both the premise, execution and conclusion managed (mostly) to put a new enough twist on that hoary old genre of genetic engineering. Stylish, sure, and studied in its stylishness. Hard hearted to the point of being at times near enough unable to watch scenes of murder, torture, a series of killings in a school (all off camera but violence that didn’t pretend it wasn’t violence). And some genuinely clever plot twists, reversals and character development. Two or three very big plot holes which I won’t mention for fear of spoiling it for others, but recommended. Not least because we get to see Stephen Rea, Fiona O’Shaughnessy and James Fox.

A second series has been commissioned and I hope they manage to stay true to the first one. The last time I enjoyed new TV was BBC’s The Hour, the first series of which was great, but the second, despite excellent performances from Anna Chancellor and Peter Capaldi, wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first.

As indeed was the soundtrack and in particular the theme music by Cristobal Tapia de Veer, with a none more dubstep (and creepy) approach:

Comments»

1. EamonnCork - December 7, 2013

This was the best thing I saw on television this year or for a few years, think it would be right up your street.

And this was excellent too. Far more top class stuff on telly over the past year than there would have been even five years ago, perhaps a knock on from both HBO and the Scandinavians forcing everyone else to up their game.

By the way, get a hold of this as well. Probably the best Irish film of the last 10 years. There have been a few articles wondering lately why Irish audiences haven’t taken to Irish movies which are largely second rate copies of international models. But this is something genuinely individual which expresses an artistic vision instead of worrying about where it’s going to fit in commercially. Full disclosure, I know the director, but high praise for the movie has been pretty general.

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WorldbyStorm - December 7, 2013

Great rundown, and very useful just before Christmas!

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2. EamonnCork - December 7, 2013

Couple of film questions. Has anyone seen Gravity? I thought it was spectacularly good.
And is there anything in The Hunger Games sequel for grown ups or is it simply a teen movie?

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WorldbyStorm - December 7, 2013

I haven’t though it’s on my list.

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3. Phil - December 7, 2013

The Returned was wonderful, but I don’t know how they can possibly follow it – it would almost certainly have been better in the long run to have ended it there (as well as being better in the short run, obviously!).

This problem seems increasingly common (for sadly obvious reasons); I think Heroes was the first series where I noticed it. Take a strong situation, strong characters and a strong story, get most of the way towards resolving the story… then pull the rug out by leaving loose ends hanging and creating some more, ready to kick off the inevitable second series. Unless the thing has been planned out over several seasons (as with Buffy and (less happily) Dollhouse) diminishing returns tend to set in quite quickly.

As for Utopia, my son and I watched the first three or four, then gave up – the violence was too brutal, too unremitting, too sadistic (towards the viewers). There was a particular dramatic sucker-punch they pulled repeatedly which I found particularly hard to take – it went something like “X is trapped/tied up/tortured by Y; Y fears X will kill him/her; Y leaves, threat disappears; X is killed by Z”. I felt the constant violence became a bit of a dramatic dead end as well – it got to the point where the only difference between the good guys and the bad guys was that the good guys were only using brutal and sadistic violence as a means to an end.

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WorldbyStorm - December 7, 2013

I take your point re the violence, all I would say is that in episodes 4-6 that was recontextualised completely in terms of motivations, and whether the motivations of anyone involved were actually valid or not. Ultimately I felt that was satisfying, though absolutely harrowing at times, and I loath gratuitous violence and will avoid television which uses it. Though this was extreme I didn’t think that as the story progressed it was unjustifiable. There was also, I felt, a good exploration as to the utility of violence and its limitations.

But again, I agree it was hard viewing.

+1 re Heroes etc. Dollhouse was a disaster in that respect because it was never allowed to develop properly and worse the actual implications of the Dollhouse were often shied away from perhaps due tothe constraints of it being on an uneasy border where it wasn’t exactly an adult show in some ways.

Something similar happened in Fringe which in seasons 1-3 were excellent then began to wobble sharply and only the ensemble cast’s chemistry kept it going at all.

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Liberius - December 7, 2013

I found that last series of Fringe quite poor myself, it felt more the product of a reduced production budget than a coherently planned story, the reduced screen time for everyone other than the principal cast being the biggest problem in my eyes.

On a tangent, the incessant promotion of this bloody hobbit film brought to mind the cast changes in programmes like being human precipitated by its production. An irritating example of shameless culture based profiteering it is as well.

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