Featuring an intentionally diverse cast of actors, Rooster Teeth’s original animated series Gen:Lock is set in a dystopian future that follows a ragtag team of fighter-pilots who subject themselves to experimental neuroscience in order to upload their consciousnesses into special giant mecha suits. Why? To wage war against an oppressive autocratic force threatening to take over free society, naturally.
With such heavy topics folded into the story, the series’ pilot episode is a wild ride. Unfortunately, with its short 30-minute run time, it takes on a little bit more than it can chew story-wise.
Early in the first half of the episode, the story drops its characters into a desperate situation. The stakes are high. They have everything to lose. While this creates some intrigue and suspense, there is a missing connection between the audience and the characters that somewhat inhibits immersion into the story.
In essence, the episode needs more time devoted to character development before disaster strikes. Without that extra time, it’s difficult for a viewer to sympathize with them right off the bat. As a result, the first half of the pilot doesn’t have as much emotional impact. If the episodes were 40 minutes in length as opposed to 30, this likely would not be an issue.
Despite this, Michael B. Jordan as Julian Chase, David Tennant as Dr. Rufus Weller and Dakota Fanning as Miranda Worth give fantastic performances. As the story unfolds, each of their characters become distinct, relatable and charming in their own ways. Even though it takes a bit more time to get to know them, they are definitely worth the wait.
While the story and character development are just a touch off base, the show excels in a number of different areas. For one, its visuals and animation style are gorgeous.
The world of the show is resplendent, futuristic and downright cool. It’s a classic, technologically advanced sci-fi space with a unique flare. It’s sharp, colourful, detailed and sleek. In many ways, the aesthetic of the world alone almost makes up for the show’s initial deficits.
In addition to the visuals, the mecha combat scenes are incredible. They’re slick, fast, action-packed and adrenaline-inducing – not to mention they flaunt the show’s exceptional animation style. This, alongside the epic orchestral score, generates a feeling of awe during those scenes. All in all, the pilot episode is a thrill to watch.
With Gen:Lock being picked up by HBO Max, additional BIPOC writers joining the production team and its key cast members set to return for the second season, there is a lot to be excited about for the future. With so much to look forward to, it’s definitely worth watching, right from the beginning.
Published in Volume 75, Number 06 of The Uniter (October 22, 2020)