Promises Of High Value
This is the second Amazon Studios pilot I review. In contrast to The After this is neither yet cancelled nor picked up for series (which in fact both happened to The After before airing a single regular episode). But considering the good reviews and Amazon not wanting genre fans to completely lose faith in its own production house after butchering Zombieland and shutting down The After we can assume that we’ll see more of The Man in the High Castle in the future.
The Man in the High Castle is based upon the book of the same name by famous American sci-fi novelist Philip K. Dick from 1962. It describes an alternate universe where the nazis won World War II and split the United States in two parts: the eastern part ruled by the German, the western part by the Japanese. Interestingly Amazon’s version passes on the currently popular method of setting the plot into a present-day environment but still shows the world of 1962 as in Dick’s novel. In my opinion a really good decision because this puts the focus on the social and political aspects and not no much on 70 years of crazy nazi science.
Although the pilot accomplishes very well to directly pull you into this strange and dystopian world, it unfortunately lacks a lot in terms of story. We learn a lot about the world and how life in the States is organized, but it’s very little going on in particular. The Man in the High Castle has two main characters: Juliana and Joe, who both make their way into the slim Neutral Zone between the two territories following after receiving a mysterious film reel showing propaganda of the resistence (in Joe’s case he seems to not even know about what the film is). And when they arrive the pilot ends. That’s a little disappointing because we learn next to nothing about the mysterious “man in the high castle” who claims ownership of the film reels. We don’t even know exactly why the two characters are heading there.
There’s nearly nothing to complain about in terms of production values. The pilot looks astonishing, the actors are excellent, music is applied well. A few mistakes or very confusing decisions in production design (why is the Japanese train station german-labeled on the inside?) cannot drag it down too much.
In the end this pilot is more like a promise of what’s to come (didn’t yet mention the side plot yet about Hitler’s bad health and the danger of his successor declaring war against Japan and nuking the Japanese Pacific States) than being a good appetizer. It will leave you kinda unsatisfied and wanting more.