BluRay/DVD Reviews

H+

By • Jul 31st, 2012 •

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The press screening I went to was held in a Warner Bros state-of-the-art screening room which seated several hundred. The image was projected on a large screen, and looked gorgeous. The resolution was sharp, and the colors were robust. The sound was full-bodied, and the dialogue clear. It lacked nothing that a theatrical feature would contain both visually and aurally.

But H+’s primary target is the internet.

Having seen twenty of the first forty-eight 5-minute webisodes that night, I can say, with relief, that H+ takes a stance just short of being a cautionary tale, else it might throw viewers into a worrisome quandary. You see, the story concerns a time in the near future where most of the Earth’s population has installed chips into their nervous systems, allowing them instant access to the internet by just thinking about it – something I suspect that all of us now living may live to see. What the information-addicted public in this sci-fi drama doesn’t anticipate is a virus, which instantly wipes out 1/3 of the Earth’s citizens, leaving the rest in paranoid disarray. What follows is what we are privy to as the series unfolds – panic, disorientation, mystery, espionage, thrills, a little romance when possible. Plus solid direction and performances, uniform despite the challenge of different casts in seemingly different countries, dealing with the apocalypse in different ways.

There have been numerous web series to date, but none, I would imagine, certainly none that I’ve seen, with this kind of budgetary support and canny marketing potential. It represents a possible turning point in film-going demographics. Accessing H+ on the internet, a viewer can re-order the sequence in which they watch the episodes: they can arrange the different story-lines in a linear fashion, or mix them up in terms not only of locale, but of time sequence (flashbacks or flash-forwards, which is the way I viewed them). They can string them together and eliminate the front or back credits.

Will this be the future of the new medium? For someone like me, who has held out against even owning a cell phone much to the annoyance of my friends (though I’m told Christopher Nolan hasn’t gotten one yet either), I suspect I can endure the wait for the series to appear on DVD, and though I may not be able to do all the fun things with it that an internet denizen can, I’ll still get satisfaction from the experience. But it’s not made for people like me – it’s made for the new generation, those whose attention spans and multi-tasking existences are better suited for five-minute-installments, and who, armed with digital gadgetry, can choose the time and place for their sensory experiences.

At the School of Visual Arts, where I teach several film history classes, I make it clear on the first day that a) there can be no cell-phones, blackberries, etc. turned on in class, and b) that no one can walk out during the screenings. If they do, they can just keep walking… Inevitably, a few students abandon ship after the first week – those simple rules, so imperative and easily accepted just a few decades ago, are too difficult today for some, who are literally addicted to the new media. And I get it; I just won’t let them disrupt the kind of viewing conditions under which most of our film history was meant to be experienced. Still, outside of history classes, or repertory houses, the writing is clearly on the wall.

A juicy tidbit about the production of H+. Way back in the ’80s, when I took a Production Design class at the New School, the teacher claimed that New York was God’s movie studio, and that any cultural location could be found within ten miles of the city. We then were assigned different locations – Greece, Paris, Italy, Russia, etc., and had to find and photograph them as a class assignment.

H+ has gone a step further, creating facsimiles of disparate cultures in, of all places, Chile!? I quickly suspended my disbelief and accepted that I was watching scenes shot in locations as far flung as Paris and India. Later, Producer Jason Taylor laughed as he explained how all these locales could be recreated/found in one South American territory: “It’s a long country…”

H+ debuts on August 8th on YouTube. You’ll want to check it out and see what the future might be – the entertainment part, not the death-virus part.

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