Review by Sean Boelman
Writer Scott Z. Burns is behind some very good films — The Report, Contagion, and The Bourne Ultimatum, among others. As such, his star-studded new anthology series, Extrapolations, was one of the most hotly anticipated shows of the year. Unfortunately, it does not live up to the hype, its nearly unwatchable cynicism becoming overbearing.
The series is an anthology set in the future, in years ranging from 2037 to 2070, as humanity finds itself torn apart after the effects of climate change tear their nasty claws into the planet. The stories take many forms, from chamber dramas to heist thrillers and even one episode being a sci-fi epic.
There are really only two good episodes in the show — and they happen to be the ones that are set in the same year. Episodes 4 and 5, both set in 2059, are the only two parts of the show that are remotely compelling and thrilling. The rest range from overly melodramatic to just downright boring.
The biggest issue with the show is that it feels overly lethargic. It’s clear that everyone involved is very passionate about the message they have to share, but they sacrifice telling a good story in favor of didacticism. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is extremely direct, and even some of the best actors in the world can’t salvage it.
There’s no denying that the series has a very important message, and it’s one that needs to be heard, but there are better ways to do it than this. Unfortunately, the target audience of this show will be heavily liberal, and its environmentalist message is preaching to the choir. The outlook of the show is extremely cynical, with a “doom and gloom” mentality that won’t help us get to any real solution.
It’s utterly shocking how bad this show is considering how amazing the ensemble is. Some big names include Diane Lane, Edward Norton, Kit Harrington, Marion Cotillard, Meryl Streep, Eiza González, Tobey Maguire, Forest Whitaker, Daveed Diggs, Tahar Rahim, and Matthew Rhys — and that’s just scratching the surface. It reeks of the cast members taking the job because they agree with the political message, and for no other reason.
The series is also disappointing on a visual level. One would have hoped that the filmmakers could have done something more immersive with the world, but the best they can do are backpacks to make the air breathable or reflective shields to protect cars from heat waves. Worse yet, the whole show has an ugly yellow hue to it.
Extrapolations is a massive disappointment considering how much talent is involved in front of and behind the camera. A good message does not make a great series alone, and Scott Z. Burns has lost track of what makes a show worth watching: quality entertainment value.
Extrapolations streams on Apple TV+ beginning March 17. All eight episodes reviewed.