J. J. Abrams returns with a new futuristic thriller
Set in an American post-apocalyptic dystopian future, the two-hour long series premiere of ‘Revolution’ features a city set fifteen years after an unknown phenomenon disabled electricity on earth, rendering all devices powered by it – phones, computers, electronics, cars and jet engines no longer able to function. Oddly enough, not even batteries work post-blackout.
As a result of the power failure food is scarce, governments and public order has collapsed and many areas are ruled by militia and warlords. Society has reverted to a pre-industrial state. People live in rural tented villages as urban areas have become dangerous; Cars are replaced by horseback and wagons; and crossbows and swords replaced by firearms, of which ownership is outlawed by the militia.
In the Monroe Republic, the militia is run by former marine sergeant, Sebastian “Bass” Monroe (David Lyons). Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee) and his wife Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell), parents to daughter Charlotte “Charlie” (Tracy Spiridakos) and her younger, asthmatic brother, Danny (Graham Rogers). Just before the blackout Ben downloaded files from his computer onto a USB flash drive attached to a pendant. The pendant may hold the key to explaining what caused the blackout and could possibly reverse its effects and restore power. When Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) of the Monroe militia rides into the village in search of Ben and his brother Miles (Billy Burke) – who before the blackout was in the marines alongside Sebastian Monroe, a struggle follows, Ben is killed and Danny is taken away by the militia. Before he died Ben gave the pendant to his friend Aaron (Zak Orth) for safekeeping and told Charlie to find Miles who lives in Chicago.
Charlie, Aaron and Ben’s girlfriend (after Rachel is presumed dead), Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) start their journey to Chicago in search of Miles in the hope he would help them find Danny. By the time they found Miles in Chicago, Danny had escaped briefly from the militia, but before he’s recaptured, Danny meets Grace (Maria Howell) who’s later shown with a pendant similar to Ben’s, which she uses to power a computer hidden in her loft to send messages to an unknown party.
After some convincing, Miles agrees to go with Charlie, Aaron and Maggie in search of Danny. However when Miles left them to find his friend, Nora (Daniella Alonso) who he believed could help them find Danny, Charlie leaves Maggie and Aaron during the night to follow Miles, determined to keep her promise to her mother to look after her brother. Aaron shows Maggie the pendant telling her he hopes it can restore power if they can find Grace. Miles and Charlie subsequently find Nora who has been captured by the militia and help her and several work slaves to escape but discover, much to Miles’ disapproval, that Nora had been working with the rebels who were fighting against the Monroe Republic, trying to restore the United States.
Meanwhile, a man shows up at Grace’s house wearing a pendant similar to the one she had been using to power her computer. She refuses to let him in and hurriedly sends a message the other party saying “Randall is here”. He breaks in and holding an electric shock baton approaches her at her computer. It was subsequently revealed that Rachel – Ben’s wife was still alive, working for Sebastian Monroe under duress.
The intrigue in the premise of ‘Revolution’ lies in imagining our world without electricity and wanting to know the answer to who and why the power was switched off. It lends itself well to great visuals such as planes falling from the sky, buildings, cars and planes wrapped in vines, and some great sword-wielding and crossbow-action scenes. Esposito plays a convincing baddie, Billy Burke as uncle Miles is impressively charismatic and the plot twists revealed in the flashbacks are great tools for widening the story and character development.
After the first two hours however, I was left with a strong sense that I’d seen it before. It brings to mind the premise of the TV series ‘Lost’ with its pre-crash flashback scenes and also the bow and arrow action of the movie ‘Hunger Games’. It’s not surprising then that one of ‘Revolution’s’ executive producers is none other than ‘Lost‘ co-creator Jeffrey Jacob aka J. J. Abrams. I can only hope that what intrigue there may be in the premise can continue to provide some distraction from the acting which leaves much to be desired (especially from the lead character) and the dialogue which fell flat in several places. Maybe by definition all post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi dramas by their nature must feature pre-industrialised weapons and flashbacks so comparison with similar stories is inevitable. Or maybe, in time, ‘Revolution’ will get better and prove to be innovative with a fresh approach to the genre, capable of delivering a sustainable multiple TV series.