"Origin" (2018) REVIEW

The latest YouTube series set to premiere is one that exemplifies the best of science-fiction. "Origin" is an exciting, suspenseful treat that centers around a group of strangers that wake in a ship that was supposed to lead them to a new life of paradise. Instead what they find is a horrific threat that has hit the ship, leading to an evacuation of most of the ship's passengers and crew before the show's central characters woke up.

From a filmmaking perspective, "Origin" offers a higher production value than one might expect, considering that YouTube's original content hasn't previously been able to establish the same standing and credibility of other streaming platforms. There are some decent sets built and the CGI looks well attended to, but certain shots stand out as particularly artistic in the show's first episode including a sideways pan showing a powerfully reflective body of water next to two characters having dinner in a flashback sequence.

The storytelling utilises a great deal of flashbacks to better explore the origins of the ship's passengers and some excellent mystery writing to entice the viewers to keep watching. There's some incredible horror effects that are mostly practical, though we'll admit that there were just a couple more jump-scares than necessary. The writing and acting on the show is strong enough that relying on too many jump-scares cheapens the impact of a largely well put-together sci-fi drama.

Having had the privilege of screening the first two episodes of this show, the bulk of our praise must be laid on Sen Mitsuji (Shun), and Natalie Tena (Lana). Though Tena is best known to fans for her portray of Nymphadora Tonks in the "Harry Potter" film series and Osha in "Game of Thrones" her portrayal of Lana has all the makings to become another iconic character. There's often discourse surrounding the need for more "strong female characters" in Hollywood content but the true need is for better written ones. A "strong female character" can often become a stereotypical badass with the ability to kick and punch without any deeper character content or interesting arc. Lana subverts from these pitfalls in that the show wastes no time in exploring her psychological and emotional state as a character, far beyond her ability to be physically strong and capable.

Without a doubt, the most praiseworthy component of the show is Sen Mitsuji. In episode one, he commands attention with a gripping, magnetic performance. With so much emotional intensity packed into a brooding stare, Mitsuji takes the audience on a riveting journey that debunks several of the stereotypes Hollywood has spent decades perpetuating against Asians. It's an important character introduction that sets up Shun to be the most important character in saving the group from what's lurking in the shadows of the ship.

"Origin" premieres on YouTube Red on November 14.


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