Entertainment Magazine

Is It Time to Get Excited About Sense8, the Upcoming Netflix Show from the Wachowskis’ and J. Michael Straczynski?

Posted on the 09 January 2014 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

Netflix’s push into original programming has been stealing headlines over the past year, with reserved praise heaped upon the first season of House of Cards, much debate surrounding the quality of the Netflix season of Arrested Development, and almost embarrassing enthusiastic adulation thrown Orange is the New Black’s way.  The future holds additional seasons of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black as well four separate 10-episodes shows centered around Marvel superheroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Power Man, and Iron Fist before culminating in a Defenders mini-series.

With all of that, it can be easy to forget that Netflix actually have other things going on with their original programming.  There’s Lilyhammer.   Okay, no seems to actually watch that one.  But then there’s Hemlock Grove, which some people kind of liked (if only to mock it).   Then there’s the forthcoming new sci-fi show – Sense8 – from the Wachowskis (Matrix) and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Stryzinski.  The highly secretive project was first announced last March, but up until yesterday we didn’t know much about it.  TVLine got the scoop on the show’s basic premise and character descriptions:

The sci-fi drama will focus on eight people scattered around the globe who are connected by a shared — violent — vision. (Because it’s never a vision of kittens, is it?) Each episode — shot in the UK, Seoul, Mumbai, Nairobi, Berlin, Mexico City, San Francisco and Chicago — will follow the characters’ separate stories, even as one entity tries to bring the octet together and another tries to kill them.

Among the regulars (as yet uncast) are: a closeted Mexican telenovela hunk, an Icelandic party girl, a German safe-cracker, a Korean businesswoman, an African bus driver and a transgender American blogger. Perhaps most intriguing, though, are Jonas, an apparently magic African-American who appears to all of the “visionaries,” and his evil counterpart, Mr. Whispers (arguably the best-named villain since The X-Files’ Cigarette-Smoking Man).

Since they last blew us all away with The Matrix (1999) the Wachowskis gave us the two divisive Matrix sequels, the off the wall, seizure-inducing, largely reviled live-action adaptation of Speed Racer (2008), and the ambitious, stunning, but odd and confusing Cloud Atlas (2012).  They also wrote and produced V for Vendetta (2006).  They now have the big-budget sci-fi pic Jupiter Ascending coming out this summer.


Here is Jupiter from Jupiter Ascending clearly doing just the opposite: descending

Their track record is mixed.  The jury is still out on Jupiter Ascending, but their most recent effort, Cloud Atlas, was their most ambitious effort yet, weaving together six storylines through different settings while recasting its actors in various roles throughout time and space.  It’s no wonder they needed Tom Tykwer around to help co-direct it.  It was just too much for audiences to accept, though, in no small part because it’s nearly 3 hours long, turning into a definite box office bomb.  However, these are still the people who made The Matrix. The level of ambition displayed in their subsequent projects means anything they do demands our attention if perhaps with lowered expectations.  

J. Michael Straczynski is a freakishly prolific writer, most known for having created and written almost every script for the cult sci-fi classic Babylon 5.  Beyond Babylon 5, he also co-created and executive produced the Babylon 5 spin-off Crusade as well as the the post-apocalyptic Jeremiah at Showtime.  On the film side of things, he is a credited writer for World War Z, The Changeling, and Thor.  To some, he might be best known for his work in comic books, heading up The Amazing Spider-Man from 2001-2007.  He has since moved on to DC.  However, the work he did with Thor from 2007-2009 is easily the best stuff anyone had done with the character in the comics in years.


Straczynski’s graphic novel series Superman: Earth One features a more Spider-Man-like Superman, a bit of a smartass, barely scraping by, and always tempted to use his powers for financial gain.  Two volumes in with a third on the way this year, it’s certainly not for everyone.  However, it probably makes a more interesting version of Superman than Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder, and David S. Goyer did in Man of Steel, even if Man of Steel kind of steals elements of Superman: Earth One, Vol. 1′s plot.

Frankly, it is the presence of Straczynski on Sense8 that intrigues more than the Wachowskis.  The set-up for the show sounds vaguely similar, like a sci-fi version of the ill-fated ABC drama The Nine.  Plus, its multi-ethnic cast is maybe Captain Planet-esque but its aim for diversity is undeniably admirable.  Ultimately, this seems tailor-made for Netflix’s original programming formula which calls for all episodes to be released at the same time.  The solution to this non-traditional format for Arrested Development and Orange is the New Black was to primarily focus on individual characters per episode, which is also what Marvel is doing just to an absolute extreme where each of the heroes will get 10 episodes of their own on their own show before teaming up together in The Defenders.   So, Sense8 seems like it will follow each of our characters one at a time, the episodes tied together by an outside force stalking each character.   It could be kind of awesome, but then I remember that one of the characters will be named Mr. Whispers and can’t stop laughing.  Now, I’m worried.

Sense8 starts filming this June, and is expected to premiere on Netflix at some point in late 2014.

What do you think?  Are you holding this at arms length given the Wachowskis’ track record?  Are you completely drinking the Sense8 kool-aid?  Let us know in the comments.

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