Utopia (3 stars)

Utopia

Appears to offer something fresh and exciting before being sadly bogged down

With writer Dennis Kelly and director Marc Munden helping to spook Sky viewers right now with The Third Day, here's a chance to reflect on some of their dark material from almost a decade ago. Utopia was a smash hit for Channel 4 when it first aired in 2013, quickly burning out and fading away during its second series. Long-term talk of a US remake has finally resulted in this big-budget affair penned by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) which retains some elements from the original while attempting to carve its own path.

With the sequel to comic book Dystopia on the way, fans are getting very excited about the imminent publication of Utopia. But a whole set of other determined individuals and shadowy groups are so keen to get their hands on the new comic that they're willing to activate a series of atrocities such as gouging eyes out with a spoon, shooting to kill without mercy, framing a ten-year-old boy for mass murder, that sort of thing. Some deeply personal stories as well as the secrets of the universe are apparently embedded deep within these two comic books. And connected to all this somehow is, and this is where it gets a little too close to all our bones, the race for a virus to halt a pandemic: at one point, a character even compares the impending heath crisis to the Spanish Flu, and a bat is mentioned as a possible carrier.

Folk such as John Cusack and Rainn Wilson have been drafted in as star attractions, but Utopia's younger stars are the ones who keep its often convoluted and rather arch plot ticking over. As with the original series, its opening couple of episodes appear to offer something fresh and exciting before being sadly bogged down in conspiracy thriller and shoot-em-up cliché.
Amazon Prime Video, Friday 25 September.

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