As I have, you’ve probably also read a recent article or two on whether the Wachowskis still have *it*, and if their Hollywood filmmaking careers are next to done, given the lackluster critical and commercial performances of the films they’ve made since the groundbreaking hit that was "The Matrix," which inspired a trilogy. Namely, "Speed Racer," "Cloud Atlas" and most recently "Jupiter Ascending."
Time will tell. I’m still an appreciative fan of their ideas (emphasis on n"ideas"), although I can’t speak for everyone. If money is the only language film studios speak, then the "Matrix" trilogy, which collectively grossed close to $2 billion worldwide, has certainly bought the siblings some time; meaning, a few "failures" will be tolerated. But just a few…
The duo teamed up with Netflix for what sounds like another trippy project (based on the official description of it and trailer) – a new series titled "Sense8," which becomes available – all 12 episodes – for you to binge-watch, starting today, June 5, 2015.
The series’ international ensemble cast includes Naveen Andrews, Daryl Hannah, Brian J. Smith, Tuppence Middleton, Aml Ameen, Freema Agyeman, Tena Desae, Doona Bae, Max Riemelt, Alfonso Herrera, Erendira Ibarra, Jamie Clayton, Miguel Silvestre and Terrence Mann.
The description of "Sense8" reads: "Eight characters around the world who, in the aftermath of a tragic death, find themselves linked to each other mentally and emotionally… They can not only see and talk to each other as though they were in the same place, they have access to each other’s deepest secrets… Not only must they figure out what happened and why and what it means for the future of humanity, they must do so while being hunted by an organization out to capture, kill or vivisect them.”
The sprawling production spanned 9 locations on 4 continents – Chicago, San Francisco, London, Iceland, Seoul, Mumbai, Berlin, Mexico City and Nairobi.
Reviews thus far haven’t been very good, unfortunately for Netflix, the Wachowskis and their fans. Here’s Variety’s summary (based on the first 3 episodes, which is what Netflix gave to the press): "It’s easy to see why Netflix would jump at a series from the Wachowskis and science-fiction writer J. Michael Straczynski… Yet while the streaming service was no doubt hoping for “The Matrix,” in commercial terms, it wound up with something closer to “Jupiter Ascending” and “Cloud Atlas” – or worse, its own “Marco Polo.” A dense sci-fi construct that’s poorly explained through three episodes, “Sense8” bears some resemblance to Fox’s short-lived “Touch,” infusing a sense of global interconnectedness with mystical mumbo-jumbo. But the main problem, simply, is that the show doesn’t make much sense."
The New York Times has this to say about it: "The creators of the “Matrix” movies, Andy and Lana Wachowski, have teamed up with J. Michael Straczynski (“Babylon 5”) to make a transcendental action-adventure drama with romantic undertones. In “Sense8,” an unknown force defies time and space to connect eight strangers who seem to have only two things in common: youth and good looks. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that an extraterrestrial millennial is using a dating app, moving from continent to continent, swiping right on eight gorgeous people in alluringly exotic settings. On Friday, Netflix will begin streaming the show’s 12 episodes, which snake through Mumbai, Seoul, Chicago, Mexico City, San Francisco, Berlin, Nairobi and London. Beautifully shot and sublimely silly, “Sense8” is slower than “The Matrix” and not nearly as thrilling."
And from Collider: "Sadly, this is all par for the course in the land of the Wachowskis in the years following ‘The Matrix,’ with the notable exception of the visually dazzling ‘Speed Racer.’ This year’s ‘Jupiter Ascending’ dealt in a similar thick-as-a-brick, largely dull narrative that rendered any imaginative elements of the plot or thematic structure moot, but even that offered occasional visual thrills, such as Channing Tatum’s not-werewolf running on air. ‘Sense8’ cuts down vastly on the imagistic invention while relying on a similarly vague overarching plot as ‘Jupiter Ascending,’ which, in this case, barely gets any traction within the first three episodes. What’s left is a whole lot of forced urgency and unrelenting preaching in the service of a kind of origins story, bringing together a team of eight super-beings who might just be able to make the world a utopia through their devotion. It’s a crass, unthinking, and fatally nostalgic conception, tossed at the audience like Will’s father’s colostomy bag and sold as a science fiction fantasia, despite the fact that ‘Sense8’ is nearly as shallowly sanctimonious as a Tyler Perry film."
And the guys are JoBlo say: "The Wachowskis attempt to explore territory not covered by mainstream science fiction like sexuality, gender bias, homophobia, AIDS, and more. It is admirable that they have found a vehicle to tell these stories but, unfortunately, they didn’t make them very interesting. I continued watching all three episodes hoping for something to stand out and really make me want to watch the whole season once it’s released, but I instead have a feeling I will tune in for the rest just to find out what the big payoff is going to be. Aside from a cameo from a cast member from THE MATRIX, the first hours of Sense8 are rather dull."
Finally, from across the pond, in the UK, here’s what The List had to say: "Many sci-fi shows are deliberately mysterious but Sense8 takes too long to iron out its premise. Like all of the Wachowskis’ post-Matrix projects, there are flashes of brilliance. There’s a kernel of a great idea at the heart of it, but it takes too long to get going. Even by the end of episode three, it still feels like we’re in set-up mode. And with so many quality viewing options on offer these days, will anyone be willing to put in the hours to get to the good stuff?"
So, like I said, not very good. But, again, keep in mind that these reviews are based on the first 3 episodes alone. Maybe it gets better afterward – there are 12 total episodes after all. Although, really, if one isn’t hooked after the first 3 episodes, getting through the rest may be asking a lot of today’s fast-food crowd. But it’ll probably find its audience, even if it’s not a mainstream one. I’m still looking forward to checking it out myself.
Of note, Aml Ameen plays a Kenyan named Capheus. His story is set in Nairobi, Kenya, and he’s said to be a bus driver, with his "area of expertise" being "high-difficulty driving."
More: "Optimistic and kind, Capheus knows every back alley because he drives bus called the ‘VanDam.’ He is also desperately trying to earn money for medicine that will save his dying mother."
Freema Agyeman is part of the series’ cast, but not one of the 8 stars.
Netflix has released what it calls a "concept trailer" for the series, which is embedded immediately below (under it, meet Ameen’s Capheus in a character video intro):
Meet Capheus below (for the rest of the 8 players, visit Buzzfeed here http://bzfd.it/1dzHDNW: