Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3/5
Remaking a cult classic is always a risky endeavour. Doctor Who and Star Trek have both managed to reach out and grab a whole wave of new fans, although the latter continues to undermine what made the original and The Next Generation so good. Cobra Kai is another great example of when this can work within the continuity of a show, revamping old ideas and bringing that to a new audience.
This brings us to Utopia. Heralded by many as a sci-fi classic when it dropped back in 2013, Channel 4’s series was a smartly written, edgy and visually striking show. From the opening scenes inside that comic book through to the (admittedly frustrating) open ending in season 2, Utopia left the door wide open for a follow-up.
With Amazon Studios picking up the rights, what we get here is not a follow-up. Instead, we’re given an Americanized reboot for a whole new wave of fans. The result is an overly stylized, tonally confused series that grabs elements of The Boys, the original Utopia and a brand new direction altogether.
The result is something that feels overly diluted like adding too much water to squash. The result is a weak, pale imitation of what’s come before with just enough to watch through but not enough to carve a unique place in the sci-fi market.
Going into this fresh though may whet the appetite to check out the original show and see what all the fuss is about. For those unaware though, the series itself revolves around a strange graphic novel known as Utopia.
Instead of a comic book store, the series opens with a couple moving into a new house. There, they find pages of Utopia strewn across the floor and immediately do some research online. Realizing it may be worth something to “comic book geeks”, they decide to try and flog it to the highest bidder. This brings a whole slew of fans from across America to a hotel. Unfortunately they’re not alone.
With assassins working for a shadowy group and a viral pandemic starting to spread across the country, a misfit group of fans are forced to team up with a dangerous and eccentric woman to stop the end of the world.
The story intersperses this with a few other sub-plots, shifting the focus across to a virologist known as Michael to give more clarity around the virus. Alongside that are numerous scenes of those working within Christie Labs and therein lies the biggest problem with the series.
Alongside the tone (which we’ll get to in a second), the characters play catch-up to events we’ve learned several episodes prior. The result is something that immediately feels poorly paced and in desperate need of some compelling mystery to hold everything together.
That mystery is seemingly supposed to come from the viral outbreak but again, these problems about the plot become immediately apparent when our group learn who’s responsible, what’s going on and how to stop it long after we have.
This is only made worse by a confusingly uneven tone that is all over the shop. There’s some seriously visceral violence thrown in with one such scene depicting a close-up of a man’s eye being removed. This moments are oftentimes followed up by some slapstick comedy as a way of counteracting this but it all feels poorly handled and directed.
That’s to say nothing of the visuals either which are overly stylized and feel very studio-driven. The original was visually striking and interesting to look at, with a fascinating colour palette and a delightfully moody musical score. Here though everything feels very bright and lacks that same edge.
There will undoubtedly be fans for this remake though and if enough people make it to the end, there’s enough scope for a second season. Unfortunately this just does not hold a candle to the original.
Utopia is yet another example of a remake we didn’t ask for nor need. Unlike Cobra Kai or Doctor Who, this remake brings nothing new to the table nor does it reinvent the wheel in a compelling way. Instead, it’s an Americanized version of a British cult classic that proves lightning doesn’t strike twice after the genius act of remaking The Office.
Unfortunately Utopia is more like a forgettable dystopia and if you haven’t already you should definitely check out the 2013 series to see what all the fuss is about.