“Utopia Falls” is a brand new sci-fi collection about how the invention of hip-hop can encourage particular person liberation, and seeing even a supposedly good world in an entire new means. It’s dressed up like dystopian YA collection of previous (“The Starvation Video games” and “Divergent,” for instance), however as an alternative of a revolution that begins with violence, it’s the publicity of our tradition that leads the kids of the longer term to questioning a sort of system that, on the skin, seems to have discovered order. “The Starvation Video games” had Katniss rallying the individuals of Panem with three fingers, however “Utopia Falls” has a gaggle of younger individuals discovering, after which seemingly be possessed by, the phrases and beat of Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA.”
This new collection from creator R.T. Thorne is assuredly not like anything on TV, and even touts itself as “the primary ever sci-fi hip-hop TV collection.” However it may lose its influence with its its personal broader development, together with the one-dimensional, excessive school-like dramatics for its mass of younger actors. By means of episodes which have giant gaps of intrigue, the revolution inside “Utopia Falls” depends too closely on sci-fi tropes as its language to speak to viewers in 2020 concerning the significance of the tradition and historical past we nonetheless have.
The final residing colony on Earth, Utopia Falls is introduced within the pilot’s opening scenes as certainly a sort of place the place peace has been discovered, and nobody questions how they’re being handled. Sure, there are totally different courses so to talk: Bodhi (Akiel Julien) is from a spot known as Reform, which is just like the lower-class; Aliyah (Robyn Almoar) unwittingly enjoys the next privilege being the daughter of a Tribunal. However everybody follows the colony motto of “Belief the Authority,” and the younger individuals excitedly take part on this present’s model of the the Starvation Video games: a dance competitors known as the Exemplar, meant to pay tribute to the colony’s founder, Gaia.
The whole lot modifications by the tip of episode one, when Bodhi and Aliyah uncover a secret area on the fringe of the colony known as the Archive. It’s like an enormous storage locker with a number of unknown-to-them books, artwork, and a guiding voice—Snoop Dogg’s—who exhibits them totally different examples of tradition, together with hip-hop. The data conjures up each of them, and Bodhi even leaves The Archive as a brand new kind of rapper who can freestyle, and questions extra about himself and the place he comes from. Bodhi and Aliyah go alongside the data of the Archive with their friends, and it begins to have an effect on how they costume and carry out for the Exemplar. Authority shouldn’t be happy, and once they arrest Bodhi for dissension, the youngsters use their newfound data of stepping and the Civil Rights motion to protest. That is simply the spark for a way “Utopia Falls” heads towards revolution, and its final dance competitors.
The collection has a weird drawback with the development of its world, because it doesn’t make you clearly conscious of simply how eliminated hip-hop is from the world, or the opposite tradition that particularly isn’t allowed. This isn’t just like the sci-fi film “Equilibrium,” by which all creators of emotions had been taken away, as an alternative it’s choose artwork—you would possibly hear the melody of “Rapture” by Blondie used as a part of an Exemplar dance routine at first, however that’s earlier than studying that it’s hip-hop that has been taken out of tradition. You don’t have a robust concept of precisely what artwork, and artwork types, have and haven’t been banned from this society that makes use of dance as one among its best cultural expressions.
“Utopia Falls” may be ideologically formidable with its intricate concepts of find out how to encourage viewers to query the whole lot, particularly as this place does look like a utopia from its exposition-heavy introduction. This better of the storytelling comes out in its critique of the society’s strategy on variety. As one figurehead says, “We embrace variety. It’s our energy. However private expression is one thing else … it fosters disharmony.” That’s a daring concept for a collection to place on the market—to problem the pat nature of a system that touts variety solely on the floor—and it results in some sharp concepts about privilege, particularly as Bodhi (whose private arc is the story’s greatest) begins to see what his group means to increased authorities, and that these figures are additionally making an attempt to mute his newfound rapping talent. It’s attention-grabbing, too, to see a present that makes use of the commodification of this expression as a central a part of its drama, like once they encourage Bodhi to do that new rhythmic phrase factor, however with a textual content that he’s given.
At instances, “Utopia Falls” has a “the place is that this going?” weirdness that retains it secure as a light-weight watch, although you’ll want that the drama in between the revolution was richer, and that the characters had been extra colourful their single-color jumpsuit uniforms. Thorne’s collection can solely accomplish that a lot with its relationship struggles between its characters, just like the love triangle between Bodhi, Aliyah, and Tempo (Robbie Graham-Kuntz), or the rising emotions between Brooklyn (Humberly Gonzalez) and Sage (Devyn Nekoda). A number of the drama is spiked extra with the revolutionary stuff, and the teenagers must play it like aliens discovering footage of younger ladies stepping, or listening to Nas’ Illmatic. These scenes are type of corny too, however the sense of amazement in studying about these things is offered with utmost sincerity from the forged.
“Utopia Falls” is the type of present that has a restricted concept of contemporary storytelling and as an alternative leads with its coronary heart, honing in what it could be wish to see a landmark tradition by means of harmless eyes. It is all primed for a tween, teenager viewers, and that is actually a characteristic, not a bug. However the collection will probably have essentially the most influence if that is additionally your first time listening to in between the strains of Illmatic, or questioning the establishments round you.