What Up Yo.
To doubt and count out the Wachowski's is to count out visual-storytelling genius.
By the time "Jupiter Ascending" had opened after a few delays, what ended up on the screen was not what the Wachowski's had wanted to convey to us, this was not the film they wanted us to see.
Tampering had been done, suits were afoot and confidence had been lost.
In a move I assume was born out of the desire to purely create without being held back at all by the industry...by anybody...the Wachowski's turned their backs on the silver screen, went to a financier that would fund their visions without interfering with them...Netflix.
They made a 12 hour film, broke it into 12 episodes...and bang...the Wachowski's created their first TV series.
To realize this world, they would need time to tell each story, to allow us to explore the characters inside and out, to hate and love them, to hate and love with them.
They needed the restraints removed.
Well, they weren't just given a green light, they were met with open arms it seems and were allowed to do almost anything they could think of.
I hope the exposure this project has garnered already has made an impact on their thinking, and I hope dearly that they stay they stay here...basking in the glow of the golden age of television with us...
Because their contribution to that world just made it a lot fucking brighter.
This is a milestone and not only allowed them to do whatever they wanted, but it seems that Netflix encouraged them to go balls out....because this behemoth was no doubt expensive as fuck.
This is an experience that you couldn't accomplish in film, not with the rating system, the time constraints and the big business producers, studio heads and shareholders breathing down their necks.
The result of this collaboration between Netflix and The Wachowski's is a 12 episode series called "Sense8"
If it had to be rated, it's a 12 hour, NC-17 film. But thats not because it's controversial. It's honest, real, sexual and violent. It's filmmaking on a level I've simply never seen on TV before.
You get Wachowski's staples. The action, the explosions, the strong female characters, representations of all races, genders and creeds...all conducted like a grand ballet.
But what you also get is a visionary epic where elements of love, freedom, truth, revenge, human relationships social & political story lines play out on a global scale.
It's brave ambitious new territory for the Wachowski's, they have grown so fucking much as filmmakers since The Matrix man.
100% vision wrapped up in a beautiful first season. Netflix announced the series will return for a second season.
For myself, I knew of the series, but I had no idea what it was about...or that The Wachowski's were involved.
I began the first episode last week, I watched the credits, and was kind of bewildered...
"Wait...The Wachowski's did this???"
Each of the 12 episodes are written by The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski...who was the show runner and writer (he wrote 92 of the 110 episodes) of the long running sci-fi series, "Babylon 5"
7 of the 12 episodes are personally directed by the Wachowski's.
I started to recognize the rest of the directors.
2 of the remaining 3 are directed by James McTeigue, director of the Wachowski's excellent "V For Vendetta".
The remaining episode is directed by Dan Glass, Visual Effects Supervisor for the Wachowski's on all 3 Matrix films, Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending and Speed Racer in addition to Terence Mallick's wonderful "Tree Of Life", Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins", Tim Burton's beautiful "Sleepy Hollow"...and the list goes on man.
That upped the quality of the look of the series alone.
After reading this, it explains why every episode looked so fucking amazing.
Let's begin with the cast.
The story focuses on 8 people living on 8 different continents around the planet.
A local bus driver who lives in Nairobi with his mother who is suffering from HIV. His hero is Jean-Claude Van Damm.
Sun is born into a wealthy South Korean family, she is a trained and skilled martial arts fighter. After her mother dies, she is the natural choice to take over her fathers empire...but because of tradition, the business will go to her brother, a drug addicted money squandering fool.
Sun, the stronger of the two, learns that the brother is stealing from the investors and that the police know for the embezzlement and will come the next day to arrest him, disgracing him, her father and the family business.
She assumes the blame and surrenders to police in his place, and then is sent to prison.
On the precipice of her wedding, Kala has doubts that she has found the man of her dreams. A massive wedding is organized for her and her future husband. Terrified that she is making a mistake, she suddenly begins to see and fall in love with another member of the cluster, Wolfie.
Wolfie was an abused child from a prominent crime family in Berlin. His father was a safe cracker.
When his father died he was raised by his rich uncle. He is a Stoic man, intelligent always accompanied by his best friend since childhood, Felix (Maximilian Mauff).
Soon after waking up. he begins to see and fall in love with Kala.
Lito is a famous film action star in Mexico. He is also gay, living with his long time partner Herrnando.
He is terrified of the consequences of coming out as gay for for what it will do to his career.
San Francisco, USA:
Jamie Clayton plays Nomi
In a story line I found beautiful and in what I assume was very near and dear to Lana Wachowski's heart, Nomi is a woman born into a mans body.
She now lives as a woman in San Francisco with her lover Amanita (a brilliant and beautiful Freema Agyeman) . She is a master computer hacker and is the first of the cluster to be caught by "Whispers".
An Icelandic woman living in the UK after a horrible life incident causes her to run away from her home land to begin a new life.
Riley, trapped in a life surrounded by drug dealers and a criminal element is living a self destructive life when she begins to see and fall in love with Will.
Will is a second generation Chicago cop. He is the son of a disgraced alcoholic cop (Joe Pantoliano).
Will lives an honorable life as a Chicago police officer.
He in many ways is the most proficient with his abilities early on. Jonas approaches him and begins to explain to him regularly, and as he learns the ins and outs of being a Senseate, he begins to investigate the death of Angelica.
He is drawn to Riley, the Icelandic woman who keeps appearing to him and he to her.
The spiritual father of this specific Senseate "Cluster" who appears to all in the cluster...specifically Will. He advises Will, teaches him and informss him of any forthcoming danger. He explains to him the phenomenon of being a senseate and how to use his new gifts.
Daryl Hannah plays Angelica
Angelica is the mother figure of this cluster of Senseates
She tried to elude "Whispers" before her cluster became active, to protect them.
She and Jonas are in an abandoned warehouse moments before she is to be captured. To protect the 8, she must take her own life. This is because Whispers in her head. O
She makes contact, awaking each of them.
She appears once to each of them, she then asks Jonas to take care of them, turns the gun on herself and takes her own life, which they all witness or feel. The cluster of Sensates are now active.
This...is the bad guy. I think. What the hell do we know really? He is also a Senseate, but he hunts down other Senseate's by getting ahold of a member of a cluster, He stares into their eyes which gives him the ability to see or hear anything that member can see or hear. He then puts them into a research facility and monitors them, waiting for them to be contacted so he can apprehend others.
I feel intimidated even starting this review...
How do I do this in a way that I won't give anything away...while at the same time providing you with everything you need to enjoy the ride on your own?
OK I don't want to give too much away so I'll starat at the beginning and then I'll leave you hanging.
Episode one opens pre-credits.
We see Angeica in an empty warehouse on a mattress. She's terrified and she is trying to evade Whispers before he catches her.
What we will come to understand later is that he has looked into her eyes and knows where she is.
Her cluster hasn't awoken yet. Whispers is threatening her by making psychic connection with her and taunting her, whispering into her ear psychically.
"Give them up. I'll find them anyway."
She will end her life once she has made contact with each of the Senseates.
She then says:
"I see them!"
With that, we are taken around the world to each of the 8 where they all experience their first Senseate experience...seeing Angelica end her life...and begin theirs.
Riley sees her on a rooftop in London.
Kaya sees her in a shoppin mall in India.
Wolfgang sees her at a club in Berlin. .
Leo sees her on a movie set during the shooting of a a film.
Van Damm sees her while driving on his bus route.
Nomi sees her while preparing for a bath.
Will sees her on patrol, sitting in the middle of the street.
Sun sees her while she exercises.
Whispers walks into the warehouse, surrounded by heavily armed private security. He is clearly backed by powerful people, and has unlimited resources.
Contact has been made...Angelica asks Jonas:
"Please keep them safe."
At which point he vanishes,?she pulls the trigger and ends her life...
They all experience it, and so it begins their journey.
Once activated, each of the Senseate's slowly begin to have experiences.
They begin to hear what the others are hearing, feel what the others are feeling and transport to where another Senseate is physically, while that Senseate transports to where they are.
It's as mind bending for us as it is for them....the Wachowski's utilizing the same form of storytelling tool they had with The Matrix.
As if each of hem were Neo, as they learn who they are and what they can do, we learn with them.
We begin to share the experience with them as we did with Neo in the first Matrix film.
It's an effective storytelling tool that draws you into each of the characters on a personal level allowing you to live their lives through each of their eyes.
Each of the 8 are born on the same day. August 8...during the same year, at the same moment in time across the planet.
There is a mind blowing blowing sequence where Riley watches her father, a professional pianist, play a symphony with a full orchestra in an Icelandic concert hall.
As it is extremely emotional for her, each of the other Senseate's are transported there also, to sit in the audience watch the performance.
While watching this, they each...one by one...begin to relive their births.
We see each of their births take place as they happened in that same moment in time on August 8 during whatever year it was supposed to be, probably 1990 at this point...i'm getting old.
It's startling to watch, both the birth sequences and each characters reactions as they re-live them during this performance and are brought to tears.
Each except Wolfgang, he's too bad ass.
The first scene where we witness the characters transport between each other's worlds and then enter into each others bodies is when Van Damm's bus is robbed at gunpoint, all of his passengers are robbed along with himself who had his mothers medication taken from him.
We know he's a kind man very loving very honorable. We know he loves Jean Claude Van Damm, but we have never seen any evidence that he even knows how to throw a punch.
His mother is his world caring for her is what he does and he simply refuses to allow a gang of 15 rob him. Even if it means he will be killed, he decides to chase them down and get back his mothers medication from them.
He decides to seek out justice.
This takes place during the seasons third episode, called "Smart Money Is On The Skinny Bitch"
He chases the robbers, they are in 2 vehicles. He begins ramming into the one closest with his bus, until he drives them off the road into a dirt parking lot.
Now at the same moment in time Van Damm is in Nairobi chasing down the gang:
- Will is in Chicago at a gun firing range
- Sun is in a South Korean underground boxing match, in a brutal martial arts/UFC type battle. She's Incredible.
When the car pulls over, Van Damm does well disarming a man in the back seat and subduing a second man in the front.
When he see's the gun from the man he has just disarmed, he picks it up to stop the second vehicle from running him down. But he can't shoot a gun.
As he pics up the gun, we see Will is in Chicago picking up his:
Suddenly Van Damn is in Chicago at the firing range, and Will is in Nairobi.
Will sees the danger approaching Van Damm and instinctually reacts.
Simultaneously firing at both the oncoming truck in Africa and at the target in Chicago.
Will's gunfire stops the truck, but Van Damm Gets jumped from behind...
Van Damm gets knocked to the ground.
Beaten, he is now in trouble. He looks up and he is now on the floor of the boxing ring in Seoul where Sun is in the middle of fighting.
She looks down in the middle of her fight to see him laying there bleeding, then she looks up and she is in Nairobi staring at the danger he is facing.
She looks back down at him and and he asks her:
As the thugs go to strike Van Damm with a pipe, a foot stops them.
It's not Van Damms foot.
Sun transports into his body and begins to destroys the attackers in a beautifully violent scene that takes place in both Nairobi and Seoul .
As she fights in the boxing ring, she also fights as Van Damm, each blow she strikes...she strikes in both continents...
And when the fight ends, Van Damm stands with his fists clenched. He has beaten all of the attackers around him, all that remain are the two in the truck that were approaching.
To everyone around, he just became a martial arts expert.
They both stand and watch as the truck as it drives away...and he now has his mothers medicine back.
This is a confusing moment for the both of them, but as Jonas will explain to Will later, it's not a power you control, its a power you allow.
They don't always control what the other is doing, sometimes they appear to speak to the other...
Sometimes they watch the other
And sometime the other needs their skill set to get out of a jam.
Each inherit the others strengths, instincts, language, but more than that...the longer they exist with these gifts, the greater they develop as a unified Cluster.
When Riley and Will meet, they immediately begin to fall in love.
These are the risks.
When one is in danger, they all feel it.
Soon they begin to appear to each other frequently, the visits become frequent, the members become friends...familiar with each other.
When Wolfgang is fighting gangsters, his cousin, he had a plan...he's a smart one...but in the end he doesn't have enough time to execute it.
He is then visited by Lito.
Lito is facinated that Wolfgang lives the life he plays in the movies.
They both stand back and analyze the situation together.
If Wolfgang could buy himself enough time to reach for the gun hidden under his car he could change the outcome of this fioght.
But he can't small talk his cousin who holds the gun to his head. He hates him. He reminds him of his father.
Lito sees what needs to be done and takes over...
He takes Wolfgangs place and talks to the cousin, long enough for the cousin to become distracted by what he has said...and to turn his back on Wolfgang.
Wolfgang has his shot...he grabs the gun, things unfold...and in the end the cousin gets in his car to speed away threatening death to Wolfgang.
Thats when Wolfgang pulls out an RPG and...
I could go on and on. But what comes next is for you to experience and fall in love with as I did...
Or to be confused by, as I was at points (multiple viewings may be necessary)...
Or to hate if you're a fool.
I will tell you this,
I'm a recent interview about Jupiter Ascending, Andy & Lana spoke of their success in Hollywood after the cinema altering The Matrix, and the box office failures that followed.
Asked what they would do if Jupiter did not succeed they said:
"Well, we did our best, but this is it...they won't give us money anymore to bring our visions to the screen."
"It was a good ride."
That hurt me to read.
So to see this series, to realize how involved they were with it I was so pumped I watched most of it in one day.
They seized the 12 hours and have infused this wonderful tale with diversity on all fronts, represented people of all nationalities and genders, from all walks of life, from 8 different continents...
Sense8 is more than TV series.
It's bold, beautiful and no holds barred.
It's the pinnacle of their careers, and possibly of the Golden Age of Television in my opinion.
By the end I knew, as they had done with The Matrix 15 years ago, The Wachowski's had just altered the face of visual storytelling again.