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★★★★ | New alternative resource: nightmare fuel.
Charting the effects of climate change over the coming decades, Extrapolations is a haunting and gorgeously crafted mini-series that doesn't quite stick the landing.
If you go in with that expectation, you're bound to get more out of it. Written and directed by Scott Z. Burns, who wrote the sublime pandemic thriller Contagion, Extrapolations is even more ambitious and well-intentioned. Its highs are way higher than most TV series ever get. Which makes its lows feel that much worse.
As a forward history, the series' first half captures the horror of what we're about to face with haunting brutality. The second half, dealing with the fallout, is less successful. Taken together, the two sections balance each other out just enough.
Each episode is a vignette of a year in different corners of the planet. The cast is a sprawling mosaic of superstars and character actors, each delivering brilliant, vivid performances. The stories, ranging from extinction events to trans-humanism, and, eventually, the future of our future, are captivating. Some tend to veer towards the hokey, and the science gets shakier as it goes on. But it's always sincere, which matters a lot more when it comes to the end of the world.
But as with most apocalyptic depictions, Extrapolations can't decide where it wants to end. Every vision of this has to make a choice that reveals the artist's worldview. Most try to stumble around it and revel in the destruction and death, only to turn around and offer complacent lies about happy endings. Audiences want to flirt with danger; they don't want to open their doors for the gnawing doubt that we're not here forever.
Extrapolations doesn't fall for the complacent, but it does fool around with it. Like many filmmakers of their age, Burns places the onus of our planet on the next generation. The series kicks the can down the road. Surely the next generation will fix our mistakes. They are, after all, the better versions of us.
As a solution, it's a disingenuous one. Not just in film, but in life in general. The stumble doesn't take away from Extrapolations achievements. But I wish it had the strength to affix its unflinching gaze back on itself by the end.
But that could just be me placing too much expectation on Burns. After all, no one person holds all the answers.