Asking why the television show Dark angel is so interesting, is pretty self-explanatory.
For starters, it was produced by none other than master-director James Cameron. Another reason might be that the main part is played by upcoming glamour girl Jessica Alba who could light up an entire city with just her looks. But despite the famous people behind it – not the mention the enormous talent – the show ran into some serious trouble and by the time the second season was unleashed onto the public, the show was already more dead than alive.
One thing is still a dead giveaway: Season 1 of Dark angel is a lust for the cinematic eye!
The greatest feat of Dark angel lies within its looks and the atmosphere built. In stark contrast to most science-fiction made, Dark angel does not represent a clean and colorful world of flying cars, intelligent killer robots and all kinds of groundbreaking, hocus pocus machines. Forget the self-tying shoes of Back to the Future and imagine more of a dark, dirty city like the one you see in Blade Runner.
In Dark angel the whole world is in ruins and the post-apocalyptic city where this show plays out, seems like some god-forgotten, wretched slum. Shanty houses fill the empty streets. People are dishonest and dirty and wear old, shabby clothing. Good and raw materials are scarce (and if you find them, super-expensive). And a dominion of soldiers – all wearing the same silly outfit – rule the streets with an iron fist, resulting in more deadly casualties than the corrupt government is willing to let on.
It is a raw and somber image of a world living on the brink of society with little or nothing to look forward to.
But thank God, Dark angel isn’t a drama. It’s someone’s science-fiction pet project and it’s a lotta fun to watch!
In the midst of all this dark chaos, we find a special young lady with very special abilities. Her name is Max and she is faster and stronger than anyone she knows. She can jump higher than a professional basketball player and appears to be athletic like some sort of a superhero-acrobat, doing things that are impossible for a normal human being. No surprises there as Max isn’t human at all!
Max wasn’t born, she was bred by a secret branch of the US government as some sort of a super-soldier. A human of flesh and blood, mind you, but genetically upgraded with unlimited power and stamina. Max is an X5.
That is pretty much the basic formula of the show. The turbulent story will entertain you for more than 20 hours with a wealth of fun-loving plot changes and cool characters running around, although truth be told, the end of Season 1 is slightly unsatisfying. But don’t hang your head in despair. There is more than enough eye-candy to enjoy. Especially the atmosphere in and around the television show is fantastic!
When looking at the action, one might immediately think of The Matrix. Our heroine Max makes the same dizzying somersaults and gravity-defying martial-arts movements to outmaneuver her enemies.
Imagine a fight between Max and Neo, now that would make for a great movie!!
But despite some similarities here and there, Dark angel isn’t just another replica or dead copy. The series pays tribute to the groundbreaking Keanu Reeves-movie in a very respectable way, often so subtle you won’t even think of The Matrix. A prime example for anyone else out there who wants to lean on the shoulders of a classic action movie yet stay true to themselves.
Dark angel may not be the most successful TV-show (in retrospect, it wasn’t successful to begin with), but by God, it’s very original in terms of atmosphere and story.
Equally powerful as the original atmosphere of the TV-show were the actors chosen to bring the story alive.
The main part is of course for Jessica Alba who would enjoy her breakthrough with this stellar performance. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, Jessica Alba may star as an emotionless super-human whose strongest assets are breaking the arms of a thug four times bigger and stronger than she is, the actress pulls in a performance which can only be described as absolute beauty! And for once we *not* talking about her delicious looks.
Jessica Alba acts – and bloody hell! – she acts so good an Emmy-Award would not even be considered a wrong move. It may appear as a part that doesn’t seem all that hard to play, yet she does it with such devotion – not to mention that she appears so natural in her role – that you cannot do anything but fall for her …
But you can’t make a movie – or in this case, a television show – around one person. So the rest of the cast had better be good too! And it is …
There is John Savage who can wear the mantle of the bad guy. Savage is most famous for his performance as the tormented war veteran in The deer hunter and a bit part as the young priest in The Godfather part III.
The cherry on top of the cake is hand-delivered by a fun group of people who are all colleagues of Max. These persons have the same job she does. They are all postmen – or women on bikes delivering letters and packages around.
Max’s best friend (a character who continuously refers to herself in third person as ‘Original Cindy’) is played with the necessary ‘woohaa’ by Valarie Rae Miller. She seems familiar but you wouldn’t know any of the movies she played. Then there is Richard Gunn who looks like a cross-over between Jim Carrey and a young Christian Bale (and has a chance to shine in a couple of brilliant moments) and Alimi Ballard who starts out with this terrible Jamaican accent but luckily becomes so much more as the show progresses.
The funniest guy on the lot is actor J.C. MacKenzie. He appears as the character Reagon Ronald (even though everyone keeps calling him ‘Normal‘) and he is the boss of Max and everyone else at work. ‘Normal’ is a guy who seldom smiles and it’s precisely this so-obvious lack of sympathy – strengthened by a colorful rainbow of well-timed one liners – that make this character a favorite amongst fans of the show.
It’s just a darn shame that we don’t get to see so much of ‘Normal’ … if Jessica Alba wasn’t so disgustingly attractive and Season 1 of Dark angel wasn’t so pleasing to watch, we would actually miss the guy. Bip, bip, bip!
did you know?
Co-producer Kenneth Biller said in an interview that their filming location, Vancouver, would not allow them to ‘trash’ a nice neighborhood. Hence, Terminal City had to be built from scratch.
Give it to me straight:
Dark angel is not much of a success formula seeing as how only Season 1 is worthy of watching (it’s almost like Season 2 never happened).
Star of the show is undoubtedly Jessica Alba who proves that’s she is much more than just a pretty face. With her role as the near-indestructible courier Max she plays the part beautifully and all-natural. It’s a joy to watch her.
Of all of the other characters running around, actress Valarie Rae Miller as Max’s best friend and J.C. MacKenzie as her boss take the biggest chunks of cake. They are truly very well cast.
The action sequences are very spectacular for such a modest TV-show … though not always, some action scenes are very simple in nature, but this is deliberately done to allow you to suck in the raw atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic city in ruins.
The story seems to be continuously in motion, but sometimes seems to neglect what is really important. Because of that, Season 1 has a few dreary moments that shows the first signs of weaknesses of a television show that’s amazing in every department, but simply wasn’t meant to be!