AMC Plus’ Moonhaven Review: Homework From The Future

It is by no means a sin to open your TV series with an on-screen text offering known as info dump. For however unsavory that pair of words may be, excellent stories have begun this way before (“Oceans are now battlegrounds anyone?) and will do it again. What doesn’t seem advisable is preloading your series with enough text density that a humble TV critic will be forced to rewind and read your info dump a second time before shrugging and deciding to move on. I will catch up this humble television critic might think. Has anyone ever been this naive?

So it’s a worthwhile exercise to simply try to sum up the premise of the new AMC Plus series moonport. After all, that’s essentially all the show does in its six-episode first season — it explains itself and its world iterates while clearing up remarkably little. This much is clear: It is the year 2201 and the earth has become almost uninhabitable. A century ago, the moon was terraformed and colonized, with that colony observed and managed by the most advanced artificial intelligence in history, an entity called Io (or is it IO? This is the least of the series’ confusing double entenders). The mission’s purpose was to perfect human culture so that the lunar colonists could eventually return to Earth, armed with new technologies and social norms that would transform civilization and ensure the survival of the species.

The story’s preamble alone could provide enough narrative material for at least one feature film, but so far we’ve only covered this text info dump. The main action of the series begins with the murder of a young “mooner” (Nina Barker-Francis), a virtually unprecedented incident in the utopian colony – not only is this a place of peace, but technology has advanced enough that the The Killers can be identified by pointing a futuristic scanner at the victim’s body. So far, so Tech Noir, but there won’t be much time to ponder the case as moments later we meet the series’ protagonist, Earthling pilot Bella Sway (Emma McDonald). Bella makes frequent cargo trips to the moon, but when we meet her, she’s been tasked with transporting the colony’s envoy (Amara Karan) and her bodyguard (Joe Manganiello). Upon arrival, however, Bella’s true mission is revealed: she was hired to smuggle a powerful lunar drug back to Earth. To complicate matters further (for both Bella and the viewer), a key revelation that connects her to the moon will compel her to stay and fold the drug smuggling plot into the insane quilt that is this story is. What are the effects of this seemingly coveted moon drug? That moonport The viewer will quickly learn not to ask questions, as each potential lore rabbit hole is merely gestured at before the story powerwalks to the next.

Bella fixed something and rolled over in a crouch

Photo: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

A group of Mooners stand and wait

Photo: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

The rest of this review could easily be devoted to additional nooks and crannies in the series’ premise. moonport is essentially – and in a sense literally – World Building: The Show. But this would be an obligation of the creators (mainly the former Lodge 49 and Black sails Writer and producer Peter Ocko) own cardinal sin: prioritizing the setup over the drama. With life to be explained on both a future planet and its incredibly livable satellite, the series’ early episodes are so devoted to leaden dialogue that there’s little chance of gut-level associations with the characters, their dilemmas, or their relationships build up. And not to mention a truly dizzying density of ulterior motives, insidiousness and subterfuges. When the fourth hour ends with the suggestion that this show might have a foothold in an entirely different sci-fi subgenre, so many toppings have been added to this big pizza pie that the only appropriate reaction is overstimulated hysteria. At this point, the often stellar cast – including MVPs Dominic Monaghan and Kadeem Hardison as two lovably gentle cops patrolling a community that has previously had little need of them – have sparked enough sparks between them that some investments can be made, shall we say, the result of a violent brawl. But that investment is being sabotaged by the hopelessly muddy operations of the central conflict.

moonports aesthetic vision of the future is at least more coherent than his narrative, although this is only due to his reliance on clichés. The earth is one Bladerunner-esque vertical, smog-shrouded hellscape, while the lunar utopia is a hippie colony with wooden furniture, primary-colored tunics, and frequent group tai chi sessions. If there’s an insurmountable leap of logic in this show, it’s the viewer’s requisite acceptance that decades of rigorous social trial and error, aided by unimaginable technology, have resulted in a lifestyle that’s roughly akin to a SoCal flower-power retreat 1969 corresponds The communication is reduced to a few swapped words (“thoughts” has been “thinks”; “thanks” has been “grats”) and the introduction of some deeply silly emotional neologisms (“giggleheaded” and “nogginswirl” are some prime examples) . In addition, the characters speak and act like 21st-century Westerners. For a show as devoted to world building as moonportCorners are trimmed whenever appropriate, presumably to get back to the important work of unraveling a plot so convoluted that ‘Byzantine’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

moonport is such a hodgepodge of tones and subgenres that it’s difficult to get it talking to any particular set of sci-fi reference points — other than offering a neo-rustic touch minority report School of the dystopian detective (or ‘tective’, in moonport-speak) history, there might be echoes of ephemerality Battlestar Galactica prequel series Caprica in its brick-like transmission density. More than a fictional world that moonport most directly in conversation is our own, and the side effects of that choice undermine its potential for achieving the pulp entertainment value it seems to be aiming for.

A group of people in colorful clothes raising their arms and opening themselves in a foggy grassy glade

Photo: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

The first words of the pilot’s opening info dump are: “The earth is dying and her people with her.” The wording may be harsh, but as anyone with only passing perceptive powers knows, this is not a fantastic premise, but possibly an overt description the situation in which a social structure is collapsing under the weight of deepening crises, exacerbated by the climate catastrophe, to which those in power show stifling indifference. If anything, the assumption that the earth could support human life in 200 years may seem optimistic to some viewers. That’s not to say the series comes at a bad time; So many of the great works of science fiction reflect the culture of their creation and use the lens of speculation to offer prescriptions and/or condemnations. Storytelling has no responsibility to comment on the world as it is – nor really any responsibility other than to reward the viewer’s attention (whether this critic believes moonport should hopefully be clear now). Where this series stumbles most profoundly, however, is in the usefulness of the questions it poses and the conclusions it seems to offer.

As life on the moon descends into chaos, it’s not hard to wonder what the season’s underlying theme might be. That the construction of a functional utopia is probably impossible? That the project to prevent human extinction will be so complicated that it may be hopeless? That our innate nature is violent, paranoid, and selfish, and that no amount of social or technological advancement can change that fact? All of the above seems obvious in the show’s first season, and these implied takeaways are so self-evident that they evoke numb despair and little food for thought into the bargain. moonport may not have substantial responsibility, but a story so directly reflecting and extrapolating from reality should ideally possess some urgency outside of the hermetic stakes of a particular foothunt or fistfight. This is a show that is likely to inspire very genuine fear in some of its audience, and it would be nice to think that such an unnerving experience served any purpose other than providing bargain basement blockbuster thrills.

As the potential clues and red herrings pile up, it’s natural to hope for a finale that reconfigures itself moonport‘s first season in a work of narrative harmony. However, this series of episodes leaves the viewer with a handful of dangling threads, meaning any special sense of satisfaction will apparently have to wait. The show’s producers are clearly confident in its potential and in our desire to see that potential fulfilled. Unfortunately, a few outstanding performances are the only element enticing enough to recommend investing six hours in this story. And with so many of these performers saddled with distracting “futuristic” pan-continental touches, each one’s mileage could be very different. The moon might not be made of cheese, but moonport is predominant, and it already seems to have turned around. AMC Plus’ Moonhaven Review: Homework From The Future

Charles Jones

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