Monday, August 20, 2012

Web Series Review: The Mercury Men

Status: One Season Completed Totaling 10 Episodes
Credits: Christopher Preksta (Creator/Writer/Director), Mark Tierno (Edward Borman), Curt Wootton (Jack Yaeger), Amy Staggs (Grace)
Winner IAWTV Awards: Best Directing (Drama), Best Visual Effects, Best Supplemental Content, Also Nominated for Best Editing

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 Stars

Synopsis: This web-series focuses on dour government worker Edward Borman (played by Mark Tierno) who finds himself thrust in the middle of a plot by the Mercury Men (beings of pure light from the planet of . . . well . . . Mercury) to pull the Moon into the Earth and destroy the human race. It seems that these beings see humanity as a threat and believe the best way to deal with this danger is to wipe us out of existence. Borman finds himself drafted into action against the Mercury Men by Jack Yaeger (played by Curt Wootton) of “The League” (led by the mysterious Dr. Tomorrow) as these beings attempt to plant their nefarious gravity engine in the City Building to fulfill their nefarious plan.

Review/Commentary: The Mercury Men is a retro-sci fi web series written and directed by Chris Preska that harkens back to the old serials from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. It began as a short concept film that was featured at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con and since that time Preska has expanded it into a full ten episode series (of about six to nine minutes per episode) and Syfy picked it up as a feature series on their website (though now it has moved over to Hulu). Preska made the entire series on a budget of less than ten thousand dollars.

And if the plot synopsis above sounds rather hokey, it is, and that’s part of the charm of this series. It throws in plenty of camp fun, just like the serials of old, even if its story does get a bit muddled at times and suffers from plenty of leaps of logic and plot holes. But where this series succeeds is the look and feel that it creates with its stylized throwback visuals. It’s filmed in black and white, lending to its movie serial homage, and throws in plenty of retro-future technology for good measure. And the special effects are actually quite good, much better than you would expect from a web series made on such an economical budget (and they won the series an IAWTV award).

Unfortunately, its camp appeal seems to work against it as often as not with many attempts at humor or winks to the audience seeming to fall flat. And while both Tierno and Wootton are likeable and seem to fit their roles, too often they vacillate between over-the-top acting and just plain wooden delivery of their parts. Plus, despite emulating the action-packed old movie serials, The Mercury Men can be slow and plodding at times with several scenes drawn out way too long. And surprisingly, it managed to grab the IAWTV’s Best Directing award, beating out several series which I considered much more deserving (particularly Pioneer One and CELL: The Web Series).

But all that aside, conceptually the series works and it has potential. This first ten-part serial may suffer from occasional flawed execution, but I stayed with it through to the end and look forward to more adventures of Jack Yaeger, Ed Borman, and Dr. Tomorrow’s League. Call this one a trial run for the concept and a chance to work out the kinks. And Preska definitely has his sights on a second season as well as comics and other possible venues for his story, so I’m hoping the exposure he gets from Syfy and the IAWTV awards will allow him to run with this and unlock potential beneath the surface of this web series.

Links/More Information: This had been a feature web series for Syfy just like Reise: Kingdom Falling, but The Mercury Men has since disappeared from their site (even though they still advertise it in some places). But it has moved to Hulu now and you can watch the entire first season on that site. And you can find more information on the series at the show’s website.

Watch the First Season of The Mercury Men on Hulu at This Link

Read More About the Series at its Website at This Link>

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