This new futuristic teen drama is equal parts The Hunger Games and Pitch Perfect, without the action or comedy of either, and plays like it was specifically made to air on Freeform. If that sounds like it would be something you like, it probably will be. If you’re not so sure, well then you’ll probably find it to be a bit… weird.
Utopia Falls wastes no time putting you into your classic cheesy sci-fi universe, complete with bad futuristic clothing, a utopian/dystopian environment and character names with numbers in them. Basically all the cliche sci-fi tropes. It also immediately hits you with an intense exposition dump, in which the main character explains everything about how this future came to be and even caps it off by looking into the camera and asking “any questions?”
It’s a lot to take in all at once but the show quickly transitions into introducing you to its characters, most of whom are both interesting and likable. The Hunger Games elements show up quickly as you see them all waiting to see if their name will be called for a city-wide competition called the Exemplar, in which they either dance, sing or play an instrument to honor the founders of the city. See? It’s just like The Hunger Games except you know, without any stakes at all.
Once you get beyond the truly bizarre concept though, those interesting characters draw you into their respective stories and you find yourself attaching to them rather than the whole ridiculous universe around them. Aliyah (Robyn Alomar) and Bohdi (Akiel Julien) take over the primary narrative and you can easily get lost in their story.
Of course, the musical element continues to pop up throughout in the form of performances from the various teens competing in The Exemplar. Typically, in shows like this, I feel the performances are overdone and take up too much time, but here I think they’re actually done well. You only see one or two per episode and they are usually very brief, not taking too much time away from the actual story.
The performances are also mostly entertaining except for the distracting element of the songs they use. Given that this is set hundreds of years in the future, I would have assumed original music would be used for the performances. Instead though, it’s just pop songs from today (or even years ago) with either different lyrics or no lyrics at all. And you might think it’s just used for the sake of the viewer and not what the kids are actually performing to, but no. One of the characters even specifically says “you love that song” to another one while he’s training.
That only gets even more confusing when the story reveals that today’s music has been hidden from the futuristic society and deemed as dangerous. So somehow they’re familiar with some songs from today but others have been erased from history.
That confusing aspect aside, the story does become interesting when Aliyah and Bohdi stumble upon a bunker filled with art from the past, including a seemingly endless library of music. They’re rediscovery of hip-hop leads them both to change their performances into something no one there had ever seen before. Although, their reactions to hearing a person rap for the first time are a little over the top.
Like I said, Utopia Falls has some bad weird and some good weird. For every pop song that shouldn’t exist in this world, there’s a captivating performance to go along with it. For every cheesy futuristic outfit, there’s an interesting character wearing it. And for every terrible dystopian future movie trope, there’s an automated library voiced by Snoop Dogg! (Ok there’s just one of those but that’s all you need!)
Utopia Falls has potential to be very interesting. You just need to look past the overplayed, over-the-top, dystopian sci-fi universe it takes place in. Of course, some better acting and dialogue wouldn’t hurt either, but you know what to expect when watching a teen drama. If you boil it down to the story of the main characters and some fun musical performances, Utopia Falls is worth a watch.
Every episode of Utopia Falls premieres February 14 on Hulu.
Mike is a writer that has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed “nerd.”