Monday, 10 February 2014

Review: State of Syn (Ep. 1-3)

This review is about State of Syn, a multiplatform sci-fi webseries that was released along with an App. It stars David Hewlett - of whom I am a fan, check out my review of another his films Nothing, and hence how I found it - along with his Stargate Atlantis co-stars Jewel Staite, Rainbow Francks and Torri Higgson, who does the opening voice-over. Currently there are only three episodes available in the UK, but it hopefully it should be made internationally available.

Unlike other series, State of Syn is not life action per se, but an animated graphic novel with the story told in panels and shots, with some animated movement - such as hands, expressions, walking etc. The effect was created by photographing the actors in front of green screens and then adding backgrounds.

I must admit, I wasn't so keen on the style at first - some of the movements look a little odd, especially character's running feet - but a second viewing has made me appreciate the 'comic that come to life' look, and the series truly does feel like some dark, science fiction graphic novel come to life. The settings have an atmoshperic contrast of darkness and neon colours, and the environments look sleek, whilst being detailed - it just looks great. And let's not forget the cast, who pull off their character's emotions and personalities brilliantly, in the snap shots and through their voice performances. 

Meanwhile, from a production point of view, I think the comic and green screen photography concept is brilliant. It opens up so many possibilities for webseries creators, as you can literally put your actors in any setting you want - as long as you have the time to create it. You could even re-use the same shots, but just change the settings and order to create a new story. 

Anyway, now I should probably explain the story. Basically, its your typical futuristic dystopia, with a giant gap between the rich and poor, and corporate companies now in charge. A new type of drug - or rather techno drug, it looks like a pair of ear buds - called Vibe is being released. It's developer is the father of our hero Annika, and when he dies she begins to uncover secrets surrounding Vibe and her dad. 

This is solid sci-fi stuff, but its not particularly new, in fact its rather typical. The really interesting concept, for me, is what Annika and the drug can do. Annika has synesthesia, a neurological condition where if one sense is stimulated, another sense also kicks in - for example, people with synesthesia see specific colours along with specific numbers, so when they look at 4 it always looks green. I think this is fascinating, and I love it when sci-fi shows use real science concepts.

The other thing I enjoyed about State of Syn was following and getting involved with the series through social media - and I must say, the show engages with its audience really well. They respond to tweets, they've run competitions, they've asked for what people want to see on merchandise, and even got David Hewlett to do an Ask Me Anything interview on Reddit that anyone could participate in. 

Obviously this benefits the webseries, but its also really fun for fans too, so basically everyone wins. I recommend you check them out if you're intending to start your own webseries, as they have come up with some nifty ideas to get people involved - meme competition? Genius!

In summary: State of Syn is a stylish, sleek sci-fi webseries with an excellent cast, a fascinating real life science idea at its core and an engaging online presence. Definitely one for Stargate Atlantis fans (and Firefly fans) to check out - and lets hope the next five episodes reach the UK soon. 

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