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Rediff.com  » Movies » Review: Tom Hanks' Electric City is intriguing

Review: Tom Hanks' Electric City is intriguing

July 20, 2012 15:55 IST

Poster of Electric CityAnkur Pathak feel the amazing animation, complemented by a good voice over makes Electric City  worth a watch.

Hollywood actor Tom Hanks has launched an inventive direct-to-web animated series called Electric City which is clipped into twenty episodes each clocking not more than seven minutes.

Electric City is set in a futuristic society, one which has seemingly risen from the ruins. Initially, it seems like a Utopian setting.

Cleveland Carr (voiced by Tom Hanks) is a former police officer and presently an assassin by profession working for an unnamed organisation recognised only by a group of knitting grannies headed by one Ruth Orwell. It is assumed that these are the founders of Electric City, which is a consequence of post-apocalyptic doom. Knowing how we have reached here is unimportant, how we function remains the key question.

Energy is scarce and supplied by the commanding force as natural sources have dried up. Its consumption is rigidly monitored by an autocratic body called AMP (like the Thought Police of Orwellian society). This provokes the people to seek alternatives to source power that basically involves stealing.

The authoritarian regime doesn't restrict its interference to just this fundamental necessity of survival. In plot devices largely borrowed from George Orwell's revolutionary novel 1984, the administration has control over every aspect of a citizen's life.

There is no concept of individualism and an overpowering loss of privacy. The tele-screens of 1984 are here replaced by Wave Units. "Nobody is untraceable," as Big Brother would say.

As the series progresses, each suitably titled and entirely relevant to the current times, we realise that what Hanks has essentially done is twisted the Orwellian concept with the aid of old school animation, creating a futuristic society of unnerving dystopia.

In each seven-minute episode, he explores the themes of loss of identity and what it's like living in a fascist regime where licensing is required to "extend the family". In short, sex becomes a political act.

There is heavy censorship of information. Any kind of rebellion is seen as an act of sedition and the mildest of crimes is dealt with as if it is an act of anarchy.

Countless unreported murders are committed by the powers that be, and people "disappear".

With an interesting cast of characters that represent each strata of society, Hanks' series evokes provocative questions concerning the future to which we are manipulatively headed. Although, when the tech-related knick-knacks take over, Electric City becomes the standard science-fiction tale. But the well-maintained suspense and the consistently gloomy environment makes us uncomfortably curious to know what lies ahead.

We never know what is the force that runs this City, but common themes like class conflict and social hierarchy still persist, and, as always, the ones with powerful means end up as the main beneficiaries.

Although the concept of a dystopian society has been adapted in many movies, what works fabulously with this web series is the vintage quality of animation, complemented by a cast of undeniably talented voice-over artistes that include Hanks himself, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Holland Taylor.

Yahoo has released 10 of 20 episodes on its portal, while in India, Electric City is facilitated by Big Flix.

The involvement of a huge Hollywood star has extensively hyped the web-series. Hanks has not only voiced one of the central characters but is also credited with creating the series.

It's ironical that the series releases online, as one of the themes it deals with is inescapable censorship.

Rediff Rating:

Ankur Pathak in Mumbai