SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this review unless you have watched Believe – episode one.
Believe, a new sci-fi thriller that began on Watch last night, may boast the combined talents of recent Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón (director of Gravity) and new Star Wars supremo JJ Abrams, but it is far from a sci-fi extravaganza, invoking groans instead of wonder with its hackneyed characters and lazy acts of contrivance – or should that be fate, considering the blue butterfly that binds the characters together?
As you may expect from this Cuarón-directed pilot, there’s plenty of cinematic thrills to help the clunky plot along as a precocious child and her guardians are pursued by a ruthless assassin who’s late for a date with her mom.
With Cuarón once again utilizing the long tracking shot to great effect, the opening salvo in which a family’s car is rammed off a dark road momentarily evokes the stomach-churning sensation of Gravity’s famous opening.
The plot follows cute-as-a-button Bo (Johnny Sequoyah), a 10-year-old orphan with superpowers (telepathy and pigeon sonar, apparently) who is being hunted by a shady organization led by Skouras (a philanthropist businessman, obviously). That’s where Tate (Jake McLaughlin) comes in as a newly-escaped death row inmate who reluctantly agrees to keep Bo safe from Skouras’s clutches. For a sack load of cash, that is.
Although Bo and Tate are fundamentally character archetypes ripped right out of the odd-couple-genre handbook – she’s a naïve moppet; he’s got the combative aggression of the perennially wronged – McLaughlin and Sequoyah have good comic chemistry.
From Bo’s remark about why Tate cried on first meeting her (‘You remembered you were good once.”) it seems their relationship will focus on Bo’s unwavering kindness gradually thawing the hardened criminal.
Indeed, Bo’s attempts to change the life of a young doctor struggling with his dying father suggests there will be a procedural episode-structure whereby Bo elects to help a new good Samaritan each week, much to Tate’s chagrin.
The rest of the storyline, however, is really very silly with lazy leaps in logic, such as Bo and Tate successfully hiding in the one locker their assassin doesn’t search, and an ill though-out plot twist that is greeted with groans rather than bursts of shock.
Still, there’s potential for a nice little conspiracy thriller here with the purpose of Skouras’s organization and the origins of Bo’s powers left uncovered. If the writers can tone down the their silly imagination and ramp up the spectacle some more, then audiences may start to believe it is worth the watch.
Click here to watch the trailer for Believe