Aidan 5 is one of the most striking web series out there today, which is particularly impressive since it was done on no budget. Take a look a the trailer, and then join me after the jump:
OK, to be honest Aidan 5 is done with no budget in the same sense that this review is. I already have a computer, editing software, and a net connection. Producers John Jackson and Ben Bays both have professional experience with commercial television and access to a large green screen studio. Nevertheless, the results are impressive.
The series is based on the award-winning short film of the same name, which is very close to the first episode in both look and plot. Jackson and Tim Baldwin came up with the idea for a 48 hour film challenge. The film won several awards, and caught the eye of Bays who wanted to see the story continued. He worked with Jackson to expand the story and turn it into a web series.
Set in the futuristic city of New Columbus in 2064, Aidan 5 tells the story of Detective James Aidan (Michael Block) and his partner Riley (Maya Sayre) as they seek to unravel the serial murders of several clones. As a futuristic noir detective show the series obviously treads similar ground as Blade Runner and the short-lived TV series Total Recall:2070, but it finds its own path. The moral, social, and personal impact of having a large population of clones informs every aspect of the story, including the inevitable backstory reveals of our two heroes. This is a pleasingly complex world.
The visual style is the most striking thing about Aidan 5, of course. It's an ingenious solution to the problem of depicting a vast futuristic landscape. By literally sketching in the background, we get the broad outlines without the uncanny valley of sets that are almost good. At its best, the virtual sets enhance the noir feel of the series. However, it doesn't always work -- particularly when characters interact with virtual props -- and it occasionally feels cartoonish.
The directing and editing are well suited to this style. You rarely get the feeling that the actors are trying to avoid "walking into the holodeck wall." George Lucas could pick up a few tips here. The acting is also quite good. Most have had some experience, usually with short films, and all of them are well cast.
The episodes are about six to ten minutes long, which seems to be the sweet spot for internet video. So far ten have been relased with a new one being posted every other Friday. An eleventh should drop tonight, with a total of sixteen planned for this season (two more seasons are envisioned.) You can find the series on the Aidan 5 website and on their YouTube channel.
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