Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SyFy's Mercury Men -- "Skyscraper Saboteurs"

"Skyscraper Saboteurs," the second episode of the intriguing Mercury Men web series, went live this morning. The episode builds on all the qualities that worked in the first episode, and features fewer of the drawbacks. It appears that the series is quickly getting past the sense of "pilotitis" I felt regarding the first episode.

The series takes place in Pittsburgh in 1975 where Jack Yeager (Curt Wootton) -- a character wonderfully inspired by classic pulp figures -- discovers a sinister plan by Venusian invaders, a plan that only he can stop. Lucky for the Earth, Jack is a combination Flash Gordon, Doc Savage, and Blackhawk:

Daring League captain, aerospace engineer, and former US Air Force pilot, Jack travels the galaxy to explore unknown worlds, new alien races, and advanced technological wonders. Always at Jack's side is the Lumiére, his trusted revolver which fires bolts of condensed light. Jack is dispatched to Earth to investigate the glowing men of Mercury.

Like the pilot, I do have some complements and criticisms regarding the episode, but watch the episode first. It is well worth your time. Join me in discovering the sinister plan of the Mercury Men!



Pros:

I've got to give the production team at Mercury Men Pictures credit for their focus on sound design. Poor design can really tank a feature, particularly a genre feature, but the MMP crew have added some interesting environmental sound effects that add depth to the feature. I am particularly fond of the "fuzz" sound of the Mercury Men themselves.

The visuals continue to be fairly impressive. I was particularly impressed by the scene where our heroes were on one side of a wall constructed of glass bricks, and the Mercury Men were on the other. The image where we look through Jack's looking glass was also impressive as it included "warping" around the edges and was more than a mere "circular cutout" image. Jack's hologram projector was a nice touch, and a nice effect.

Like the serials that Mercury Men is based upon, the MMP crew use a lot of visual storytelling. When the Mercury Men's plan is revealed, it is shown and not told. Very nice!

Cons:

I still find Mark Tierno's performance as Edward Borman a little forced. He seems to be acting in a style more akin to silent films than talkies. He isn't bad, but his movements have an odd fluidity that seems natural in a purely visual story. His line delivery is good, but I'm on the fence. If Edward gets blasted by the invaders I won't be overly distraught.

When Jack and Edward are walking down a stairway there is a wipe effect -- a nice homage to the serials -- that goes against the movement of the action taking place. This has the visual effect of slowing down the pace of the story and decreasing urgency. It almost feels as if the action is being rewound. I think wipes should follow movement, not run against the grain. Just a personal opinion.

Now that I've seen the story so far, I am more convinced than ever that I need to lift ideas from it for a short term Savage Worlds or Cortex+ campaign. I will certainly be statting up some of the characters as the show goes on and we learn more about them.

The MMP crew have captured the tone perfectly. This show is obviously done of love of the material and lacks the kind of ironic distance that too often seeps into the gaps and ruins a good story. Let's hope they keep it up. If their website, and their digital props, are any hint I think they will.

I already wish they'd build a flash based game based on their fictional Atari 2600 game.








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