Warner Bros. // 2012 // 860 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jason Panella // September 20th, 2013
15 years after the blackout...they will light the way
Two years after Lost went off the air, J.J. Abrams and his pals will try to light the way.
It's been 15 years since the world changed. All electricity across the world suddenly stopped, which caused infrastructures to crumble and societies to plunge into chaos. In the United States, a number of militias and confederations struggled to regain some semblance of order amidst the lawlessness, while rebels fight back in the name of good 'ol America. Most folks just want to survive, though, setting up small self-sufficient communities across the post-apocalyptic landscape. Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos, Being Human) lives a relatively quiet life in one of these communities with her dad (Tim Guinee, The Good Wife). Militia captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad) unexpectedly invades the village, sheds blood, and kidnaps Charlie's brother Danny (Graham Rogers, Crazy Kind of Love). Charlie's goal is clear -- brave the dangerous remains of civilization, enlist her killing machine uncle Miles (Billy Burke, Twilight), and get her brother back.
Revolution: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) features all 20 episodes on four discs.
After the success of Lost, there have been many attempts to recreate that show's critical and commercial appeal. Most of these attempts flopped, despite interesting plot hooks. FlashForward? Sorry, no. The Event? Nope. Terra Nova? No way. Revolution, though, is one of the exceptions. The show's first season on NBC drew in a lot of viewers. Having J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) and Jon Favreau (Iron Man) as executive producers and Eric Kripke (Supernatural) as the show's creator probably helped, but the show also works really well when it plays to its strengths. Too bad Revolution doesn't always play to its strengths.
Revolution has a pretty simple premise. The lack of power has reduced the world to a post-apocalyptic jungle. The things people take for granted -- cars, mobile phones, even something as simple as lights -- are gone. Cities are rendered almost unlivable as lush vegetation starts reclaiming the land. People kill each other with swords and muskets, since modern ammunition evaporated pretty quickly (how often do you see peaceful post-apocalyptic stories?). In some ways, Revolution is a lot like a swashbuckling Colonial-era adventure set in the surprisingly beautiful remains of modern America. The resistance are the ramshackle underdogs, trying to bring back freedom for the common folk. The various militias, while trying to establish some form of law and order, end up hurting the people they're trying to help. While the protagonists have a seemingly simple quest, they get caught up in larger story. It's no-frills, pulpy storytelling, and when Revolution sticks to this it's a blast. Especially when you factor in the action scenes (the many, many action scenes), which pack a surprising punch for network TV. The show also plays out in a surprisingly beautiful setting. The blackout didn't leave the country a post-nuke wasteland; instead, the rusting cars and collapsing houses make way for wildlife to flourish. (The setting also seems to have an effect on the survivors, who always seem to put on clean, well-tailored clothing after they take their dirt baths.)
But when Revolution deviates from this template, things get hairy. A good number of episodes, especially early on, have the main characters stopping to right some wrong or get distracted from their main goal. What makes this frustrating is that it feels like a distraction, like the main story arc is getting shoved aside in favor of helpin'-the-orphans-type do-goodery. Good writing could save situations like this (and, honestly, it does salvage some episodes during the first season), but more often than not the writing is just awful. Dialogue is stilted and expository, and plot holes pile up at an astonishing rate. This is the sort of show that benefits from binge-watching, as it's easily to gloss over how goofy the plot actually is. The show uses a number of flashbacks that, while not as well-handled as Lost's, are pretty effective. But these flashbacks also introduce some of the most ridiculous aspects of the show, especially anything having to do with why the lights went out.
While she's essentially the show's protagonist, Charlie doesn't do much of anything. It feels like her character exists solely to move the plot forward, and it doesn't help that Tracy Spiridakos plays her with such limited range. Miles, on the other hand, does everything, including leaving a trail of dead bad guys that numbers in the hundreds. (When Charlie's father says uncle Miles is "good at killing," he wasn't kidding.) Billy Burke does a nice job with Miles -- he plays gruff well, and gives the character enough nuance to hint at the demons he keeps at bay. He's not the only cast member to stand out, though. Comedian Zak Orth (Wet Hot American Summer) does a convincing job as Aaron, a former Google executive who travels with Charlie and her band. Giancarlo Esposito is also great as Captain Neville, who grows increasingly more complex as a character as the series moves along (he also has a southern accent that seems to come and go with the wind). There are a number of great supporting roles, and the show even becomes a Lost and Justified reunion at one point. The biggest disappointments come from Elizabeth Mitchell (V) and David Lyons (The Cape). Mitchell, who plays the Matheson kids' long-lost mother, is given some of the most groan-worthy lines in the show. It's a shame too, since she's a decent actress. Lyons, who plays the show's primary antagonist (and Miles's old best friend), never gets anything even resembling menace across.
Warner Bros. does a great job with Revolution: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray). The 1.78:1/1080p anamorphic transfer is gorgeous, with colors that are consistently rich and an image that is always sharp. The picture looks so good in spots it actually works against the show. Some of the post-apocalyptic landscape shots have an uncanny valley effect that is mildly off-putting. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is also excellent, featuring full-bodied sound effects and incredibly clear dialogue. Warner also piles on some great extras, all in HD...
* A stash of deleted scenes from over half of the episodes, some of which are quite good;
* Several webisodes;
* "An In Depth Look at the Revolution Pilot" (14:00) -- The team of executive producers walk through the pilot and explain key scenes and concepts
* "Creating a Revolution" (18:57) -- The look at the show's concept art
* Gag Reel (2:04) -- A gag reel. Duh.
* "Revolution: Cast and Creative Team at the 2013 PaleyFest" (27:39, blu-ray exclusive) -- A substantial Q&A with the show's cast and crew about all things Revolution
This Blu-ray set also comes with the season in DVD format (on five discs) and an Ultraviolet digital copy of the entire season as well.
Revolution is a mess, but often an entertaining mess. The acting and plot are all over the place, but when the show buckles down and keeps it simple it great popcorn TV. Warner Bros. does a great job with their Blu-ray release, too, so it might just be worth checking out.
Not great, but not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2013 Jason Panella; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 860 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy
* UltraViolet Download
* Official Site
* Facebook Page