Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 movie Snowpiercer, starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swington, didn’t exactly leave the door open for a sequel. Instead, courtesy of TNT, and streaming on Netflix internationally, we get a reboot with Daveed Diggs, of Hamilton fame, and Jennifer Connelly, who recently starred in the movie adaptation of Alita: Battle Angel (our review here), in the lead roles.

The series, which consists of ten episodes — a Season 2 is underway — follows the basic premise of the long-running French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, on which it and Bong’s movie are based: The world has become a frozen wasteland as a result of catastrophic climate change. Humanity survives aboard the 1,001 cars of Snowpiercer, a huge train built by the eccentric billionaire known as Wilford. (See Big Trains in the Snow.)

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Mrs America

Mrs America

Mrs America is neither the takedown of a conservative activist feared by the right nor the glorification feared by the left.

The Hulu drama series fairly portrays both sides of the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA): the feminist movement, led by the likes of Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), and the anti-feminist reaction, led by Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett).

The series sticks close to the truth (Cornelia Channing has tracked the historical accuracy of all eight episodes for Slate), which is why this review will reveal a little more about the plot than we usually do. If you don’t want any spoilers, watch the series first (I recommend you do anyway!) and then come back.

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Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

It’s 2045. War is the main industry and cryptocurrencies are invalid, leading to even more conflict and civil unrest.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 doesn’t start with a bang. It takes several episodes before the plot gains momentum and you’ve seen enough of the world, and the people in it, to really get into it. But it’s worth sticking with it.

Unlike such dystopias as Mad Max, the post-apocalyptic world of SAC_2045 is familiar to ours. It’s about real people. The series shows the impact of a large economical crisis and currency devaluation on average people.

The impact of the United States as a global power on other countries is another nice touch. It’s a bit of a cautionary tale, and this aspect of the anime is very well done.

What is less well done is the animation. I am not a fan of this style of cheap and basic-looking CGI at all, and I feel the anime deserves better.

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The Plot Against America

The Plot Against America

The Plot Against America is some of the most gripping television I’ve seen in a long time. Almost every one of the six episodes made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It’s a terrifying, and utterly believable, portrayal of how fascism might have come to America.

The HBO miniseries is a loose adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2004 alternate-history novel of the same name. I read it some ten years ago, so I don’t remember all the details, but I did notice some of the supporting characters have been given larger roles in the series and the ending is significantly changed. (Vulture has a recap of all the differences and Slate has more about why the creators of the miniseries changed the ending.)

The basic plot is the same, though: aviator hero and America Firster (the original) Charles Lindbergh runs in the 1940 presidential election on a promise to keep the United States out of World War II and wins. His victory gives license to antisemites, some of whom are in the cabinet. Lindbergh signs a treaty with Hitler and stays silent when American Jews are killed in pogroms.

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Altered Carbon, Season 2

Altered Carbon, Season 2

In our tradition of keeping reviews spoiler-free, you won’t find anything about the plot of Altered Carbon‘s Season 2 here. But to summarize: the Netflix series, based on the book of the same title by Richard K. Morgan, is set in a cyberpunk future where those of means can literally live forever. They store their consciousness on “stacks” and jump from one body — real or synthetic — to the next, indefinitely, never experiencing real death.

The story centers on, Takashi Kovacs, “the last envoy”, what that means, and his place in a society he doesn’t quite fit into.

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Hunters

Hunters

Reviews of Hunters, which is streaming on Amazon Prime, are all over the place. Some praise it as a “bold experiment” that is “visually ostentatious.” Others lament its “cartoonish tone and historical fabrications.”

Much of the criticism centers on the series making up stories about the Holocaust and showing Jews murdering war criminals in cold blood. The director of the USC Shoah Foundation, Stephen D. Smith, has gone so far as to ask Amazon not to renew the show for a second season.

In fairness, Hunters does grapple with the revenge-or-justice question. Famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal even makes an appearance (played by Judd Hirsch) to argue with Al Pacino’s character, Meyer Offerman, about the morality of killing (former) Nazis. The story arc of Offerman’s protégé, Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman), is all about deciding when, if ever, it is right to kill.

As for the show’s “cartoonish tone”, what the critics miss is that Hunters is pulp. Which is why I’m categorizing this review as dieselpunk, despite the series taking place in the 1970s.

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The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle, Season 1

We’re written about Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle here at Never Was, but we never reviewed the series. Now that it’s in its fourth and final season, it’s worth taking a look back on this dieselpunk drama.

Season 1 follows Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel, on which the TV show is based, pretty closely. The Axis have won have the war and North America is divided in two. The Germans control the Western Hemisphere, including Africa and the bulk of the former United States. The Japanese hold the East, including Alaska and the former states of Washington, Oregon and California. An unruly Neutral Zone in the Rocky Mountains separates the two empires.

The main character is Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), a resident of the Japanese Pacific States who is gradually immersed in an American Resistance movement led by Hawthorne Abendsen (Stephen Root), the eponymous “man in the high castle”. In the book, he is the author of an alternate-history novel in which the Allies won the Second World War. In the series, he produces films.

Their nemeses are American SS chief John Smith (Rufus Sewell) and his counterpart in the Pacific States, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido (Joel de la Fuente). Both want to get their hands on the films and the man in the high castle himself.

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Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Kōtetsujō no Kabaneri, or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, is a beautifully done anime, set in a post-apocalyptic Japan.

At the time of industrialization, a mysterious plague broke out, turning corpses into kabane, a kind of blood-drinking zombie that is extremely hard to kill. Get bitten and you turn into one. Die and you turn into a kabane. Or, if you’re lucky, a kabaneri, a halfbreed of man and kabane. Survivors live in stations along the route of heavily armored trains, known as iron fortresses.

It is in these stations and on these trains that we find the characters of this story.

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Carnival Row, Season 1

Carnival Row

Carnival Row, Amazon Prime’s neo-noir Victorian SteamGoth fantasy series, has come to the many fortunate enough to be able to watch it. Combining the worlds of the fae and humanity has never been so well done.

A lot of it is hitting a little close to home: immigrants trying to build a new life after fleeing their wartorn homelands, intolerance, discrimination, ghettos. It’s clear the creators took a good look at human history — Victorian, World War II-era and contemporary.

It shows, not just in the storyline, but in the cinematography. The wardrobes, the uniforms, everything. This is the best fantasy with horror elements since Penny Dreadful (our review here) and it is a shame it isn’t more easily available, because it has a strong story with a talented cast.

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Ostalgie in Cinema

From Deutschland 83 to HBO’s Chernobyl, “Ostalgie” — which is what the Germans call nostalgia for the communist era — has become a trend in period and alternate-history fiction.

There are many variations of this. There is “Yugo-nostalgia” in the former Yugoslavia, Soviet nostalgia in Russia, and “Communist chic” in the West.

Here is an overview of the best productions.

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