It’s not every day when the best of computer animation, video game technology, and graphic novel intricacy can come together in a graceful feat of storytelling, but the creators of Afterworld, a “multi-platform sci-fi series” launched in February 2007, have done just that.
Produced by Stan Rogow (Lizzie MacGuire) and written by Brent Friedman (Mortal Kombat 2) of Santa Monica-based Electric Farm Entertainment with an estimated $3 million budget, the series follows Russell Shoemaker, a man who wakes up one day after a mysterious global fall-out in the not-too distant future…and appears to be the last man on earth.
The show is as modernist in plot as it is in its distribution ambitions. In a landmark agreement, Sony Pictures has acquired all of Afterworld’s slated 130 episodes for international television, digital, gaming, and mobile rights, meaning viewers can eventually watch the show anytime, anywhere – from television to the Web to cell phones. The deal also seems to have paid off. After an initial successful run on the otherwise unsuccessful Bud.tv, the series attracted interest from MySpaceTV and the Sci-Fi Channel.
In the words of some classic sci-fi villains, when it comes to watching this show, “Resistance is futile”. From the moment we step into Afterworld, we are led into a universe that’s simultaneously familiar and yet chillingly inexplicable.
Each addictive two-minute episode ends in a cliffhanger, and we are compelled to keep watching for answers to all the exasperating questions: Is Russell really all alone? Who are the Four Horsemen that nearly kill him? Most importantly: What was the fall-out that made the world’s population disappear into thin air – and WHY? Along the way, we’re fed certain theories – like the pseudo-scientific EMP theory, or the apocalyptic Bible explanations, but the fun is all about getting sucked into the drama and sharing your own speculations.
Russell Shoemaker narrates the entire series in a way that instantly engages the viewer. His personal story becomes our collective journey, as we travel with him across the country from New York to Seattle in search of answers and a family that may or may not be still alive.
Like that classically sci-fi graphic novel Watchmen, it’s a tale with epic themes – man v. nature, morality and truth, and the meaning of life. The one thing that could be better is having more action sequences amongst the characters’ physical movements, but even with the 2.5D frames fading in and out, the show still moves along with impressive pacing and an even more intriguing premise.
Ever wonder what it’s like to walk through a completely empty Manhattan? Here it is in all its eerie glory: Russell’s solo trek through New York City.