Brave New World Review: a surprisingly funny Hunger Games / Black Mirror mashup

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Half-way Brave New World, one of the most important launch series for NBC’s new Peacock streaming service, Wilhelmina “Helm” Watson (Killjoys‘Hannah John-Kamen) discusses the challenge of constantly entertaining residents obsessed with the fun of New London.

“They want the New Thing, because with every new thing, there is a chance that it will be the Big Thing,” she thinks. “So we give them the New Thing. Bigger, hotter, harder, faster. We have to give it to them like that, because if we don’t, they might realize that the New Thing is not at all new. It’s really just the old thing, but more. And if it’s old, it’s boring. And if it’s boring, they’ll turn it off and they’ll be alone with their thoughts. We know where it leads, don’t we? “

Helm directs Feelies, a form of film writer that Aldous Huxley envisioned in his 1932 novel Brave New World. Feelies incorporate physical sensations as well as images and sounds, but these are just another iteration of the movies. Helm is worried about the novelty that is dissipating, but his monologue could easily be the expression of the anxieties felt by the scriptwriters of the series. the Brave New World The television series are certainly not new for an audience accustomed to stories of oppressive dystopia. And because it is broadcast on a brand new streaming service without the integrated audience investment that Disney + has brought to projects like The Mandalorian, it’s unlikely to be the next big thing.

Photo: Steve Schofield / USA Network

However, it is far from boring. Showrunner David Wiener (Back home and The slaughter) managed to produce a surprisingly funny work of dystopian fiction. By focusing on the absurd aspects of the show’s setting and sharing stories of largely sympathetic or at least very connected characters, Wiener and his team produced a series that was much less emotionally distressing than Hulu. The tale of the servant, but always provides accurate information about human nature and the societies we build.

Huxley synthesized the latest innovations of the 1930s in industrialized capitalism, genetics and psychology to imagine a future where people are divided into rigid caste systems, where pleasure and stability are the highest priorities. His novel was so troubling of prophecy that it takes relatively little updating to modernize it.

The story is largely centered on Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd, who played Viserys Targaryen in The iron Throne), a New London counselor who keeps people happy by prescribing them the right color for the mood-altering drug Soma, and Lenina Crowne (Jessica Brown Findlay), a reproductive specialist who prefers monogamy to the orgies that her peers practice. regularly. two of them go on vacation to wild lands, a seaside resort and an amusement park where the elites of New London can observe the Americans in their natural and wild state, an uprising of the natives forces them to flee to save their life, with their savior, John the Savage (Solo: a story from Star Wars star Alden Ehrenreich).

Huxley’s novel was so influential in the science fiction genre that everything Brave New World the adaptation may seem derivative due to the more recent works which it inspired. The costume used to divide the New London caste system is strangely similar to that used in Communitythe dystopian parody of “App Development and Condiments”, while the contrast between the excesses of New London and the difficult life of the residents of Savage Lands reminds The hunger Games.

Photo: Steve Schofield / Peacock

The first two episodes, directed by Black mirror Veteran Owen Harris also remembers this series a lot, thanks to the introduction of Indra, a sophisticated artificial intelligence that connects all New Londoners with high-tech contact lenses. Although it is intended to provide a central mystery and to align Huxley’s book with modern technology, the intrigue involving the development and evolution of Indra seems to belong to a different spectacle.

Brave New World really takes its stride when the characters return from the wilderness and must understand how they fit into a supposedly perfect society that feels on the verge of collapse. Ehrenreich does a solid job playing on John’s internal troubles as he takes advantage of all the luxury New London has to offer, while stirring up chaos wherever he goes by talking to people who aren’t supposed to have opinions and teaching his new compatriots how to punch. In many ways, Brave New World sounds more like a terminally ill person story than a traditional dystopian drama, as John tries to argue for the need for negative emotions like jealousy and anger, while Bernard wonders why he doesn’t just want to be happy all the time.

Lenina is a little less consistent. It is electrifying as it tries to go beyond the limits of its beta status, discovering a passion for competition while struggling to cope with the trauma it experienced in the wilderness. Brave New World undermines her story by putting it in the center of a love triangle with John and Bernard, although there is an additional nuance, given that the idea that one or the other of the men claims it is indeed heretical.

But the real star is Bernard, whom Lloyd plays with the same mixture of insecurity and power that he captured as heir in exile from the Iron Throne. Although he is an Alpha Plus, the highest level, Bernard is said to have been largely the result of an incident of genetic engineering and suffers from a brutal case of imposter syndrome. He is constantly in search of status and acceptance, and his melodramatic helmet scenes, which are filled with harsh criticism from their peers and serious and periodic discussions about the challenges they face, are among the best in the world. series.

Harry Lloyd, looking nervous, sits in front of a large table by Hannah John-Kamen in Brave New World.

Photo: Steve Schofield / USA Network

While Bernard’s jokes are always hilarious, much of the better mood comes from the visual gags. When John hangs out in Helm’s waiting room and begins to stir up trouble, the other guests all respond by distributing Soma to calm their nerves. When Bernard throws a glass of sparkling Soma on the ground in a rare explosion, a group of servant-class Gammas immediately descends on the scene to clean up his mess. The same level of choreography can also be used for an off-putting effect, such as when John tries to hide among a crowd of Epsilon workers, but is blocked when he cannot keep up with the rhythms they all walk towards .

The absurd amount of sex, the exaggerated costumes, the awkward bursts of humor and the soapy plots keep Brave New World to really feel like prestige TV. But this lighter approach works well with the series setting, which replaces the relentless brutality and monstrous villains of most dystopian stories with oppressive sweetness. Brave New World offers a relatively easy way of examining the timeless problems of class consciousness and escape, just relevant enough not to resemble the meaningless amusements against which he preaches. It’s a good thing, because when the real world is so dark, it’s hard to turn off the TV and be alone with your thoughts.

The nine episodes of Brave New World are now available for streaming on Peacock.


Brave New World

A dark and satirical vision of a utopian future where humans are genetically raised and anesthetized in pharmacies to passively serve an order in power. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has captivated and terrified readers for generations.

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Amazon.com / $ 3.99 Kindle / $ 10.39 (paperback)

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