Part 1: Rick and Morty season 4.
One of my favorite movie reviewers recently said that “we live in the age of reactions”. Everything is sacred. Nothing is fair game. Social commentary and cultural observations get denounced as hate speech even when the logic is sound. Opinions are either anodyne, or divisive, with the middle ground red-shifting in the rear view. The tiniest misstep now requires an act of public obeisance in the form of a lengthy written apology assembled with surgical precision to eliminate any possibility of someone nitpicking one of the words because it has a second (much less common) meaning (which wouldn’t make any sense in this context) and which some people might feel triggered by. They sound sterile, insincere, and procedural.
Season 4 is currently enjoying a 94% positive critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the criticisms that I did find with it were mostly in comparison to previous seasons, and not attacking the show in and of itself. I was shocked to discover that although a small portion of the fanbase is acting badly and upsetting people, the show itself gets nothing but praise. It continues to shine without any indication that the quality is dipping.
So what’s to say about it? All of the technical elements are top level, the voice acting and animation are superb, and the jokes stay true to the spirit of the show established in the first three seasons. The writers have taken the time to, no so subtly, take a swing at their own audience as if to ask them “What if anything could ever please you?” in response to the aforementioned unpleasant segment of the fanbase. There’s an entire episode devoted to denouncing heist movies like Ocean’s Eleven, which I think was something of a waste. It’s a very limited and specific target for a platform as good as R&M to spend so much time on, and it could have been much better spent on character development or…just anything else. Any original story that let the writers imaginations run wild, which is when the show hits its many peaks. But that aside the it has been a good season. Instead of just screaming about how self aware they are, the writers of the show turn self awareness into a story element that’s entertaining in it’s own right without depending too much on having seen specific previous episodes.
That being said, the Rick and Morty is showing early signs of becoming a show that new fans won’t understand enough to enjoy it. I firmly believe that it can still pick up new viewers through word of mouth and incidental exposure, but they’re going to need some more self-contained, one-off episodes that aren’t 80% references to previous episodes if they want to interest those people enough for them to go back and binge the previous three seasons of material to get up to speed.
From one of the co-creators of (and voice actor for both) Rick and Morty we get…a show that is a lot like Rick and Morty. Solar Opposites revolves around a crew of aliens who got shipwrecked on Earth after escaping from their doomed home world, trying to adjust while not so subtly preparing to wipe out humanity and rebuilt Earth into a new homeworld for their people. Or they would be, if they weren’t constantly being distracted by…almost everything.
The leader of the aliens is a technician named Korvo who is alternatively laser focused on repairing their ship and hopelessly fascinated with understanding human peculiarities, often becoming obsessed with the approval of the same humans he fully intends to exterminate. The humor is more focused than R&M, and the plot is more equally distributed to the other characters. The jokes have a familiar if slightly different flavor, focusing more on the aforementioned contradiction in Korvo’s two goals (popularity and human genocide).
A major subplot revolves around a society of miniaturized humans living in the wall of the alien children’s bedroom, which one of them created out of a mixture of boredom and callous scientific curiosity. An entire episode (out of only 8 in the whole season) is given over to the story of humans trapped in The Wall going through political upheaval and revolution.
I’ve heard Solar Opposites described as ‘Rick and Morty Lite’. This is not true. It is every bit as dark and 100% aimed at an adult audience, although it isn’t as cynical. And personally, I’m fine with that. Long ago when I worked at a video game shop (before games were all downloaded directly to your gaming device) a game entitled ‘Dante’s Inferno’ was released. Dante’s Inferno was pretty good. And it better well have been since it was a shameless, blatant, were-not-even-going-to-pretend-it-isn’t rip off of God of War. When I pointed out to my coworker that it was, in fact, a GoW clone with a slightly different costume on the main character he just shrugged and said: “At least they ripped of a good game.”
If Solar Opposites is the first in a long line of Rick and Morty clones, then so be it. I love this type of humor and I want as much of it as possible to grace my screen. And they’re all doing short seasons that are further broken up into two halves spaced out by a six month long hiatus in between, so it’ll take five or six of them to create a solid enough lineup to keep us going for a full calendar year.
No review. I refuse.