Over seven years in the past Dennis Kelly and Channel four made TV historical past with Utopia, a fashionable, violent and original thriller following a group of comedian guide nerds who uncovered a grand conspiracy as they have been pursued by lethal forces.
Cited as one of the finest dramas Channel four had ever made however not attracting many viewers, the series was minimize down at the finish of its second series in what many thought of a grave injustice – however now the concept is getting a second likelihood with a US remake from Gone Lady writer Gillian Flynn, transporting the motion to Chicago however holding (kind of) the identical twisted story.
So will this new model be the continuation of Utopia that followers have hoped for? Effectively… most likely not. This new retelling of the story is a decidedly combined bag, dropping a lot of the original’s type and menace and making safer, extra middle-of-the-road selections all through.
When the new Utopia excels, it’s as a result of Flynn departs from Kelly’s original story so as to add her personal twists and extensions – when it disappoints, it’s as a result of it’s simply re-doing one thing that’s been finished higher earlier than.
And in the first few episodes, that feeling is particularly acute. We kick off the story kind of the identical approach as in the UK series, with a gang of on-line comedian guide followers assembly up for the likelihood to get their arms on a sequel to the cult graphic novel they’re all obsessive about.
Amongst them there’s conspiracy theorist Wilson Wilson, good girl-next-door-with-a-secret Becky, milquetoast workplace employee Ian, catfisher Grant (who pretends to be a wealthy grownup, as a substitute of the pre-teen he is) and – new to the US model – Sam, an activist and the group’s chief.
Quickly, they’re on the run from a mysterious organisation who’ll homicide anybody to get their arms on the comedian, and need to decipher its secrets and techniques to work out what their foes are planning – which is once they run into the real-life model of the comedian’s protagonist, Jessica Hyde…
Whereas watching the first couple of episodes of Utopia, it’s placing simply how comparable it is to the UK version. Some particulars are new – the gang meet at a conference as a substitute of at one other member’s request – however the development of the story is virtually an identical (together with all the violence) making for a barely awkward watch as you witness new actors attempt to inhabit characters performed so brilliantly as soon as extra.
However whereas the original Utopia’s taut construction saved you on the edge of your seat, the extra languid tempo of this follow-up may be disappointing. Typically talking the motion is sluggish and virtually saggy, with occasions from the first episode of the original series not occurring till round midway by means of the second of this reboot, and the sharp directorial selections and vivid colors from Kelly’s model changed by extra bland visible storytelling.
In the meantime, placing performances from the UK Utopia’s forged – most notably Neil Maskell’s starmaking flip as the psychotic Arby – simply aren’t matched by the Amazon remake’s (admittedly very recreation) actors, who simply really feel like poor replacements. Once more, the finest additions are these characters who weren’t in the UK model, together with Rainn Wilson’s put-upon Dr Michael Stearns and John Cusack’s faintly sinister billionaire Dr Christie.
And as the series continues and these characters come extra into focus, it appears like Utopia finds its toes extra. With out giving something away, the tales of these two males deepen and alter the original Utopia story in attention-grabbing ways in which do supply a few surprises, versus simply “re-skinning” an previous scene.
In equity to the manufacturing crew, they gained’t have to fret an excessive amount of about these comparisons. The overwhelming majority of viewers will most likely have by no means watched the UK original, don’t have any clue as to the fates of its characters, or how the entire factor suits in to Deel’s syndrome.
For them, this new Utopia might sound extra spookily prescient than rehashed, with the original 2013 storyline about a lethal flu virus infecting youngsters at colleges whereas the security of vaccinations is argued over a bit of a eye-widener given the present worldwide pandemic. Actually, for recent viewers this might be a good slice of darkish sci-fi that’s nothing like they’ve seen earlier than.
However in case you have been a fan of the original model, this gained’t fill the void that the UK series’ cancellation left. They might have all the eye-gouging motion intact, however Utopia’s remake nonetheless isn’t a patch on the original.
Utopia involves Amazon Prime on Friday 25th September. Need one thing else to observe? Take a look at our in-depth TV Information.