'Krypton': TV Review | SXSW 2018

For die-hards only.
3/21/2018

In Syfy's newest comic book adaptation, it's not about Superman, it's about his grandfather — which probably sounded great in theory.

One of the problems with Syfy's new Superman-genesis story Krypton, premiering Thursday, March 15, at SXSW, is not that the series focuses on his grandfather (a strapping young lad at this point) or even knowing that you won't get to see Superman himself. It's something entirely more simple but troubling.

How, you might be asking yourself if you watch Krypton, do you get to be such a Superman fan boy/girl that you'd allow yourself to watch the drab, half-paced Krypton and lie to yourself that it's compelling? How insanely devoted do you need to be so that arguing about canon and delving deep into the Kal-El background story becomes defensible, when the series upon which those arguments rest feels like a lifeless mess not even committed to the idea of making something glossy and brainless but fun?

No, Krypton is the kind of series where you wonder what direction is being given to, well, everyone. Any series that looks and feels, at least 50 percent of the time, like a spoof is already in a pretty bad spot. But if that series gives off the vibe that the characters inside it look completely uninspired, then you have a whopper of a problem.

If you were to watch the first two episodes, theoretically, of Krypton, the one thing you'd be guaranteed to experience is the ultra-rare phenomenon where the pacing looks like it's been slowed down to 60 percent of live action and individual scenes play out as almost slow-motion rehearsals. Or as if the entire cast had taken a very long lunch break and stuffed themselves with an egregious amount of food and they're all standing about wearily hoping someone else has the energy to spark the next scene.

They don't.

Krypton is meant to be light cable fare (well, even if it's not meant to be that way, that's the way it is), and it's hard to quibble with a show that seems to stage a series of clunky, uninspired fight scenes in what appears to be the same alley. It's like the show is telegraphing that fact it doesn't have a ton of money to throw around so, Quick, down the alley on a chase scene and then fisticuffs! When guns are drawn, or blasters or whatever, they are rarely fired without prolonged monologues that seem to be aiming at light, banter-filled action but usually end up somewhere closer to insipid, poorly choreographed exchanges of tired dialogue.

At some point all you really want is for everyone involved to have a better time than they appear to be having while making Krypton. There is no crime in making a light romp of a superhero story, but maybe there ought to be one for a show that seems completely unaware that it's pompous and boring and moving at a glacial pace that in no way bestows gravitas on things just by being ponderous.

If you're dying to know about Krypton then, well, you're lying. Anyone like that would already know all there is to know and will probably love this unconditionally — Syfy should be so lucky. For everybody else, Krypton is not about Superman, aka Kal-El, really. It's not even about Superman's father, Jor-El. No, it's about Superman's grandfather, Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), who we first meet as a very young boy watching his own grandfather, Something-Something-El, get unceremoniously dumped off of the planet Krypton by the god of gods, who takes ostensibly the best costume of the series — a golden head of many faces — and proceeds to make it seem like a heavy anvil, lolling forward uncomfortably. This character looks as if someone has an extra wearing something crazy from the prop closet, which was the only reason after a while to keep watching. It brought so much joy.

Anyway, once Seg-El's grandfather is given the boot, the family is unceremoniously stripped of its "rank" and subjected to the lower regions of the CGI universe on Krypton. Seg-El grows up to be a twenty-something British actor who will one day be the grandfather of Superman but right now appears to be a...bland rascal?

He is visited by Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos), a time traveler from the future wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap, who tells Seg-El about his grandson. Unfortunately, Seg-El doesn't want to know much about the future, he wants to slacker around Krypton doing nothing. Well, okay, that's not entirely true but it seems like it.

Look, Krypton is hokey. One of the best parts is watching Paula Malcomson, a fine actress playing Seg-El's mom, Charys-El, look in every scene like she's too bored to finish her lines, like she's desperate to be somewhere else. Others give off this same vibe, and it won't matter much if you want all things Superman.

But for everybody else, a show without Superman and centered around his rather bland grandfather, well, that's a pretty tough sell, so a little more enthusiasm and zing from everyone would have been welcome.

Cast: Cameron Cuffe, Georgina Campbell, Ann Ogbomo, Elliot Cowan, Rasmus Hardiker, Wallis Day, Aaron Pierre, Shaun Sipos
Developed by: David S. Goyer, Damian Kindler, Ian Goldberg
Premieres: Wednesday, March 21, 10 p.m. ET/PT (Syfy)

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