Thursday, February 18, 2010

Genres & Judgements: TRENCHES

It's been a bit of a rough week. Dollhouse is over, Lost has been underwhelming thus far this season, Fringe is on a mini-hiatus and Caprica took last week off, so I've been jonesin' for a good sci-fi fix. Fortunately, I stumbled upon Trenches [2010], another interesting web series from Crackle.
Trenches is about a small group of soldiers stranded behind enemy lines on an alien planet in the wake of a disastrous battle. By the end of the fourth episode, the strained collection of survivors are trying to get themselves rescued just as they are spotted by someone, or perhaps something, else.
This series was directed by Shane Felux, who made a name for himself by directing the fan-made film Star Wars: Revelations in 2005. I never got around to watching Revelations, but I recall it was quite the internet sensation when it came out, some saying they preferred it to the prequels. Clearly he's a rarity -- a sci-fi savant in the indie film community.
Back to the series. Felux displays quick clips of intergalactic space battles and fast-paced, warfare sequences in (you guessed it) trenches very effectively. Considering this series probably didn't have a huge budget, they're pretty decent. Much like The Bannen Way and Angel of Death, the camerawork is sharp and professional when on the actors. The special effects jar you out of the moment a bit, but they're not what I'm watching Trenches for. The costumes and sets seem pretty top notch. There's an unmistakable BSG influence evident here, and I don't see that as a bad thing.
Meanwhile, there hasn't been a lot to judge the actors by after four eps. The focus has largely been on the action, of which there's been quite a bit in the four- to six-minute webisodes. Aaron Mathias, who has kind of a Nathan Fillion/Aaron Eckhart vibe about him, plays Lt. Andrews. The second primary character is Cpt. Racine, as played by the very cute Mercy Malik, who is being held hostage by Andrews and his uneasy cohorts. She's had even fewer lines at this point than Mathias, but I like what I've seen thus far.
I only have one quibble with Trenches. Obviously, only 40% of the webisodes have been released, so this issue could be moot in a few weeks, but I wasn't quite sure why the audience should care about our main character until part three, which I thought was too long at first. But it was really only about 10-15 minutes into the story, and I realized I needed to give it more time. There are some other plot elements that I wish were expanded upon -- who are these races/enemies, why are they at war, etc. Evaluating this shorter form of film takes a bit of an adjustment because the pieces of the story seem to be all there, they're just so short that it feels like you're not getting a whole lot.
I wonder if companies are underestimating people's attention spans with viewing videos on the internet. Not everyone on the net is burdened with ADD. Sure, viewers can always click away to another webpage, but that same problem exists with standard television and the remote control. Produce a quality story, and I guarantee people will devour it. I'd happily sit in front of my computer and watch an engaging clip for 20 minutes with no problem.
Anyway, it's nice to see that Crackle has found a little collection of interesting and well-made shows for their site. Hopefully other viewers are finding this stuff, because I want to see more of it.
The fourth part of Trenches was released today, with each improving on the previous one. New episodes are being released on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. It'll wrap up on March 10th after 10 installments, so you have plenty of time to catch up.I'll probably check back in with the series after it has wrapped up and see how it turned out.


Dennis said...

Good review - I noticed the Fillion resemblance when the producers showed this at a local convention in 2009.

As far as backstory, I find that in a show like this I'm not all that interested in why the characters are fighting or what they think the issues are. When are human beings ever not fighting? It's almost like asking why the folks on "The Office" feel the need to earn a living.

Unknown said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Dennis.

I see your point, but it's hard for me not to wonder about the backstory for any tale. A good one will enrich the narrative that much more, and I always root for good things to be better, which is where "Trenches" is at this point (for me). I'm very jealous you've gotten to see the whole film already.