24 August 2018 | kitellis-98121
Sense8 Lite. Bleak and slightly depressing, but with some promise.
I can't help comparing this with Sense8, even though the comparison is perhaps a little unfair.
Sense8 was a massively ambitious and expensive globe-trotting extravaganza, that transcended all genres and invented a completely new grammar of screen storytelling. It was brave, bombastic and brilliant, and polarised its viewers. Many people didn't "get" it at all. Those that did "get" it almost unanimously agreed that it was an acquired taste; one that required patience and commitment from its audience. After an initial false start, I eventually "gave-in" to the Sense8 way of storytelling, and was rewarded with the absolute best viewing experience of my life.
So when I saw the trailer for The Innocents, and it immediately reminded me of Sense8, I decided to watch it in the same way; allowing it to wash over me and (hopefully) worm its way into my consciousness in a similar fashion. I wanted to love it. I was ready for a new addiction. It took most people three episodes to get properly into Sense8, so I decided to give The Innocents at least that much of a chance.
So far I've made it almost to the end of episode 4, and I'm still waiting for it to hook me. No joy yet.
I'm finding it to be bleak and depressing. Also slow and insipid. The shape-shifting idea has been done a lot in the past - as has telepathy, of course - but unlike Sense8, which brought total originality and inspiration to the idea of telepathy, The Innocents seems to be (so far) utterly unimaginative and rather limp in its treatment of shape-shifters. The best device they could come up with to visually demonstrate someone having taken the shape of someone else is to have their "true" image conveniently reflected in mirrors - visible to themselves and also to non-shapeshifters. This is a lazy and uninspired shortcut to tell the audience who is who, and also allow them to "prove" to other people who they are. But so far I'm not buying it. It just feels like they couldn't be bothered.
Also, the bleak mood of the piece is failing to grab me. I'm not a big fan of Nordic Noir - which is what I assume they're aiming for. This feels like a rather forced cross-breed. It's shot in England and Norway, with a cast and crew that seems to be Anglo-Scandinavian, and the two flavours don't mix very well, in my opinion. They're too similar, like two notes next to each other on a piano being played simultaneously. It makes a discord.
And the presence of Guy Pierce in the cast is also strangely unappealing. He looks somewhat similar to Terrence Mann in Sense8, and seems to be (so far) filling a similar sort of role. But it really feels like stunt casting. Every time he pops up in a scene you remember every other Guy Pierce film you've seen (plus Mike in Neighbours if you're of a certain age) and it becomes a distraction from, rather than a benefit to, the overall experience.
The two lead actors are not bad, although Sorcha Groundsell is oddly similar in appearance to a young Fairuza Balk (albeit without the monster gnashers), but her weirdly demonic eyes and variable accent are, again, more than a little distracting.
The plot is, so far, nothing to write home about. It has certainly failed to hook me. And the overall production is similar in quality to any standard low-budget BBC or ITV mid-range television drama. Nothing about it suggests that its creators had much in the way of ambition or inspiration, and the whole product is noticeably lacking in passion and energy. It feels, in fact, like someone at Netflix suggested that they try to do something similar to Sense8, but without spending all that damn money, and without being so damn cerebral, gosh darn it!
Well, speaking purely for myself, I'd have preferred it if they'd used the budget from The Innocents to add an extra couple more hours to the Sense8 finale. But maybe I'm just spoiled now.