“DMZ” Review: Ava DuVernay’s HBO Max Series Disappoints

Showrunner Roberto Patino’s limited series of mothers looking for a son in the war zone of Manhattan refuses to succumb to our worst urges.

The first thing you notice in the “DMZ” is the color. The blue moonlight overflows in the sparse room where Alma (Rosario Dawson) sleeps between shifts. A sickly green covers the detoxified bathroom before meeting the patient. Bright light hits black. The edge of the stadium, which acts as a detention center for people trying to cross the border illegally These opening shots give a strong impression of the United States almost 10 years after the Second Civil War. Alma works in Brooklyn and is waiting for the road to Manhattan. It is now a demilitarized zone between the rest of the United States and the so-called Free State, and is also the last place she met her son Christian.

She said New York City was dangerous. The 300,000 non-citizens still living on the island have no government, police, or law. They either got stuck (the city was on a walled evacuation day) or chose to live. Anarchy. Poor people who wanted to leave were not given help, and those in prison were left there. .. “These are the worst people.”

“DMZ” has many features of a dystopian drama set in the future. “New York 1997,” “I Am Legend,” and “The Walking Dead” come to mind. Episode 1 director Ava DuVernay (and her visual effects team) will also make an ominous shot that’s perfect for a movie poster. The top of the Chrysler Building is upside down, sandwiched between the skyscrapers above 33rd Avenue, and its spire pierces the street like a needlestick skin. But when Alma actually meets the locals in the DMZ, the promised danger disappears. The sunny yellow walls reflect the dilapidated light of a makeshift clinic. Bright vines crawl along the white bricks. Uptown Manhattan is a prism of color. Green stripes of brown hair, purple umbrellas against a clear sky, and murals lined with multicolored blocks. Alma laughs at herself as she walks through the delightful street fair. “People are in the worst condition.” Really?

Alma’s mission is not all sunlight and rainbows — beatings, shooting, and death are steadily stacking — the DMZ’s greatest strength is its rebuttal to harmful assumptions. Rather than instilling fear in abandoned places in the outside world, showrunner Roberto Patino emphasizes the ability of mankind as a caretaker and the responsibilities required of those who seek to govern. A community of clans, love of hatred, and a spectacular unified speech about a full-scale war (filled with such a wide range of emotions). In the previous “11”, the “DMZ” has a real weight as a rebuke for modern speculation about what people do in the apocalyptic landscape.

Horn Lee of “DMZ”

Eli Joshua Adé / HBO Max

The truncated adaptation of breaking down Brian Wood and Riccardo Berchieri’s 72nd cartoon series into a four-hour story can be inaccessible and unnatural. When the scene is clicked, you will want to lengthen the show. , So you can build the drama more effectively and realize that premise in the right sight. But when those half-developed characters and shortcuts to climax moments lost momentum, the solution might have been to trim the “DMZ” to a feature length.

All actions take place in Manhattan, without falling into spoilers (most of which are fairly obvious and will be revealed at the end of the first episode). When Alma arrives, the city is preparing for the first governor’s election, and the field is narrowing. To two candidates: Parco Delgado (Benjamin Bratt), on the one hand, a gang leader who is as feared as respected and preaches unity as a means to achieve national status. There is. Putting a literal crown on his name, there is little illusion about how he will reign if he is elected. Wilson Lin (Hoon Lee), on the other hand, is closer to Politico in your classic cleanup suit. Along with Chinatown’s loyal army, he runs on a simple platform: Freedom. He does not want to be recognized by the United States or the night-watchman state. ..

How the images of each candidate are juxtaposed by their position is an interesting twist that slowly emphasizes their hollow center. At first, Alma doesn’t care about elections. She just wants to find her son and go out. However, her interests begin to overlap. Along with Wilson and Parco, she was forced to pick her side and start lobbying, getting caught up in the city and its people, barely noticed a few hours ago.

The “DMZ” is versatile enough to accept multiple interpretations. This can confuse a particular message with a wide range of rhetoric (for example, the DMZ itself can replace Puerto Rico, when needed, but as the story unfolds, the parable loses momentum. Alternatively, Alma can be considered an agent for those who “do not like politics”. Many details about the setting and history of the ongoing civil war are exposed to the breeze to delve into Alma’s arc. The overall world-building is mysteriously narrow, as Patino’s character-driven script and Duberney’s proximity. To eliminate the possibility that the “DMZ” will establish stakes and motives beyond the Alma. , Break the heavy direction.

But even in a hurry, the “DMZ” forms a moving story of minorities fighting for their place in a country that wants to lock them in and weaken their spirits. All leads are played by colored people, even if they are susceptible to human error, and each character is multidimensional. In particular, Bratt pulsates with energy and walks the thin line between a random artist and a real leader. It’s hard to believe. It’s clear that Parco is suppressing the anger that eats him all the time with all of his frustrated head bows, but the thousands of people behind his “we are all one family”. I collected it. A well-maintained couture, a brat pops off the screen — and helps the “DMZ” do the same.

Grade: B-

“DMZ” was premiered at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. HBO Max will release all four episodes on Thursday, March 17th.

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