My opinion of J.J. Abrams is well-documented on here. It’s not positive.
Nonetheless, I sat down and gave Revolution an hour of my time because, first of all, it’s only fair and second of all, I liked the concept. A world without electricity is physically impossible, but it’s pleasingly silly, a thought experiment that will never happen but is nice to think about.
I should have realized that this is J.J. Abrams, and thought was the last thing I was going to see.
Update: It is true that Abrams is not credited as writer or director for this episode. That said, my understanding is that Abrams was heavily involved in the conception and the overall direction of the series, which is where the bulk of my problems lie and something I didn’t make clear. That was my mistake, and I’ve edited the piece accordingly to spread the blame out a little bit.
That said, some commenters have said that I should dole out some blame to Eric Kripke, the series creator and writer of the pilot, and Jon Favreau, who directed, and leave Abrams out of it, since he’s “only” an executive producer. The truth is neither do their best work here, but on a fairly basic level, it’s competent television. My problems are with the overall arc and direction of the show, and at best, Abrams either did not see these problems, which it is his job to do… or, considering they have the hallmarks of his writing, is actively at fault for.
#5) Contrived Contrived Contrived
One of the things that sticks in my craw about Abrams and the productions that he works on is that to be blunt, he can’t write a plot for crap, and he can’t see a bad one on paper. Everything relies on ridiculous contrivances, most of which are papered over by a time jump. Apparently now we live in a world that’s reverted to the eighteenth century, and is full of fascists because hey, the people need a bad guy! Why? Because f*** you, that’s why.
#4) Forgot About… Damn Near Everything
One of the things about this show that drove me crazy was the whole “ooooh no electricity or Internet means we’re all suddenly retarded” theme. We can still read. It’s not like we’ve always had electricity as a species, or that we haven’t been working on and refining non-electric technologies or that militaries and governments haven’t been working on living without electricity for lengthy periods of time. We don’t have more refined survival or farming techniques, there have been no advances in chemistry, certainly medical doctors have not studied the medical benefits of traditional remedies, we certainly couldn’t refine gasoline or biodiesel or use basic cars, I could keep going but you get the point.
A world without electricity is compelling, because it raises the question of how modern and sophisticated humans would deal with that problem. Revolution rushes through the answer, and worse, the answer is boring.
This is what drives me crazy about Abrams. He never cracks a book, he never sits down and tries to seriously think out the implications of his ideas or the idea of others, like an actual science-fiction writer. He comes up with a plot and then smashes it against his setting until he makes the two fit. If the show was going for a pulpy air, I could forgive this. Instead it’s going for a preachy one.
#3) The Unbearable Smugness Of The Opening
The overall message is that the Internet is making us less connected to actual people and losing it would be a good thing. Leaving aside for a minute that this is generally an opinion held by old people scared the computer will eat their soul and crazy people who live in the woods and eat bugs, it’s also a bit hypocritical coming from a TV writer who heavily relies on Internet hype to sell his shows and in fact has had the pilot to this anti-Internet show sitting hopefully on the Internet for months. The underlying theme here is that technology is eeeeeeevil, and it gets grating fast.