Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sketched TV: Defiance

Get out your good make-up and bad cgi, we're reviewing Defiance!
I want her to have more to do. Make her the main character instead of Nolan!
In the near future, Earth has been taken over and changed by the Votan, a collection of different races of aliens from another star system. Nolan(Grant Bowler) and Irisa(Stephanie Leonidas) are two scavengers looking for fortune, when they're troubles take them to the small town of Defiance.

Yes, it's the name of the town. Also the town is named after "The Defiant Few" who fought bravely for peace, and also in the episode they are literally defiant against the Volge and geez can they shoehorn that name into anything else?! C'mon guys. It's pretty cheesy.

I think the biggest problem I have with Defiance is that it looks like it's going to be a cross between Firefly and Farscape and it is neither of those things. Not to say that it's bad, but it's no Farscape and definitely no Firefly. We'll see if it comes into its own or can't get over its cliche story.  It feels like it pulls from a lot of different sources(Terra Nova, Fallout 3, Game of Thrones are just a few) and hopefully it uses those as a jumping off point instead of being mired down trying to copy all of them.
Nolan looks like a dope, and
feels a bit like Nathan Drake,
but less charasmatic.

It's an ambitious show for Syfy, with varying degrees of details. The sets and make-up all look pretty great, but a lot of the cgi is alright at best and just bad at worse. In any case, the production budget looks high for a SyFy show. One has to wonder how many low budget movies and shows they had to put out and how many high budget shows they had to cancel because of this. WAS THIS WHY YOU CANCELED ALPHAS?! BECUSE IT'S NOT WORTH IT. I mean uh um the make-up looks pretty and the finale battle of the second half is fairly epic with pretty decent cgi robots and mutants and whatnot. It will be interesting to see if they can keep up this level of detail throughout, and even if they can, if they can afford it.

The story is probably one of it's weaker elements. I generally like the universe they've invented and the setting is dismal in a fun kind of way, but there are so many moments that are tiredly cliche, things that should not be pulled from other sources.  One main character clumsily exposits to another, "I'm proud to be your sister!" right in front of Nolan. You couldn't have said that in a way that felt more like real conversation? And later on in the episode, the Mayor(played fabulously by Julie Benz, glad to see her again!) gives the generic rousing speech to the people of Defiance that is the exact same "Let's all band together!" speech that's in every other movie ever, which would be fine, except they have two quarreling families(which is actually done well) that they made a big deal in the previous part that they hate each other for political reasons and they both just suddenly chime in that they'll all work together like one big happy family. That's all? You couldn't have bribed and/or swindled them into working together? And in case you forgot the name of the show is Defiance, the show won't.

The main characters are not the best. Nolan is the main scruffy hero who grinds up against everyone the wrong way until they figure out he's perfect for whatever they need him for. His character is...fine, but he feels like he's trying to play a Mal Reynolds and he is no Mal Reynolds.  Honestly I was originally thinking this is the character that was going to die to give Irisa the push, but then he just kept on living and became the main character. He's kind of a dope. Irisa would be an interesting character and I want to like her, it's just that she doesn't do or say much. She doesn't get a lot of lines, and she only narrates the opening and closing, and her main character trait is pointing a knife at someone. I want more character than that!  Let's hope she grows and comes into her own.

Not to say that it's all bad. There are a handful of characters I really like, and a bunch of great character moments, some of which made me laugh out loud. So far Doc Yewell(played by Trenna Keating) is my favorite character. Sure she's the archetypical angry doctor, but she's so damn snarky and annoyed I can't help but enjoy every time she's on screen.  Tommy(Dewshane Williams) as the hapless deputy I feel is going to grow on me. He has potential of being a sleeper awesome person, and a possible romantic/friend relationship to Irisia(let the shipping commence!). Kenya(Mia Krishner), the owner of the brothel, seems like she'll be a fun character. So I guess I really like the side characters and I wish the main characters were as enjoyable. I also wish the script was better and the characters had more to say and better ways to let their personality come out. Basically I want it written by Joss Whedon. Basically I want this to be Firefly But With Aliens.
She got her medical degree from
the sci-fi school of sass.

It seems like they went pretty deep with the backstory of the universe, which could have been a place where they cut corners, but there's a lot of detail in this world, and it's one of the main selling points. I mean they have their own kind of Votan club/dance music, and I really hope they put out a soundtrack because it's pretty catchy stuff. Oh geez speaking of the soundtrack and score, it's pretty great. Very epic and futurey. But as far as the backstory, it's interesting and dense, and we'll see if that whole videogame tie-in works out well.

The main point you should take away from this is that it's a pretty fun show. It's got cool looking aliens and gunfights with pew pew lasers and explosions and aliens being politcal, and other aliens being badass and barfights and gambling and prostitutes but not in the putting-females-down way and some giant mutant robots and y'know it's just a fun show to watch! No it's not Firefly, no it's not Farscape, no it's not Alphas(DAMN YOU SYFY UUURGH) and no it might not turn the sci-fi genre on its head, but it's still a fun enjoyable show.

So far.


THE GOOD: Cool aliens, good make-up, a good cast with some good acting, fun concept with great backstory and setting, great soundtrack, some cool characters, fun actiony show.

THE BAD: Can be very cliche at times, main characters aren't that strong, cgi is really bad in places, not a great script, name has too many meanings.

THE VERDICT: $$$$ It's a pretty good show and worth checking out! It does pull from a lot of different(and better) genre shows, but if you like those, you'll enjoy this. Let's hope Syfy sticks with it and it becomes amazing down the road.

SHOWS LIKE IT: Firefly, Farscape, Tera Nova, Falling Skies, Fallout 3, Game of Thrones, Eureka 

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: The two biggest families in Defiance are the Greene family, a human family who owns the mines and is of the common people, and the Tar family, Castithans who hold underhanded dealings but have a high soceity air about them. Both hate each other but both have kids who make puppy eyes at each other. Yes, it turns into Alien Romeo and Juliet.  It has some interesting turns, but a lot of it is exactly what you would expect to happen.

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