Before sitting down to watch the first three episodes of Shane Felux’s Trenches, which premiered today on Crackle.com, I took some time to lower my expectations. After all, I’ve been waiting to watch the special-effects-heavy series since July 2007 — it’d be easy to to feel let down.
Of course, it’d also be easy to feel let down by Trenches if you were expecting what the show appeared to be on the surface based on the trailers — an epic sci-fi space battle set in a not-too-distant future. The first episode does in fact deliver a heavy burst of spaceships, laser fire and futuristic transporters, but by the end the action has come down to Earth — that is to say, the strange world that Lt. Andrews (Aaron Mathias) has just found himself marooned on.
From there, the drama takes on a much more terrestrial note, as Andrews is forced to deal with his fellow marooned soldiers, who hold him responsible for their situation, as well as an enemy captive who, from her first introduction, seems to be nothing but trouble. In short, the bulk of Trenches is much closer to a World War II-era war drama than something dreamed up by Gene Roddenberry or George Lucas; Quentin Tarantino’s basterds wouldn’t feel terribly out of place.
However, while the in medias res approach to the storytelling does do a great job of launching the viewer immediately into the action, the casual audience member will undoubtedly want to know a little bit more about the war being waged, and these first installments will leave them SOL and potentially discouraged. It’s hard to care about a war in progress when you’re not sure what the stakes are.
In addition, while the effects are solid, especially the all-CGI space battle that kicks things off, Trenches packs almost too many visuals into a relatively small screen, to the point where it’s almost necessary to watch the video full-screen, with the HD setting turned on. This sort of visual spectacle is definitely impressive, but perhaps not best-suited to the web video world. Episodes 2 and 3, which feature some stunt work but visually are much simpler, prove easier to watch.
The big question is this: Was it worth the wait — and is it worth continuing to check in on the daily-released episodes (running through March 5)? I’m honestly not sure yet. Personally, I’m somewhat intrigued by the war action, but the promise of a bigger twist still to come (“They’re not alone on this planet!” Maybe there’ll be aliens soon!) is what’s really keeping my nerdy self engaged. So, at this stage, I’ll say that Trenches has earned my patience — which is something it’d already taught me a while ago.
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