Meryl Streep in Stiff Apple TV+ Climate Drama – The Hollywood Reporter

In the opening minutes of Apple TV+ Extrapolations, a young environmental activist (Yara Shahidi) prepares to give a speech on the need for action against climate change. As she waits for the cameras to go live, a colleague casually asks if she needs anything. Her not at all random answer: “For people to listen.”

Thus, the tone is set for the rest of the series: serious, heavy and mostly without nuance. The urgency of its message is obviously important enough that no expense has been spared in delivering it. The cast is star-studded, and the production design sumptuous. But all this gravitas comes at the expense of the human characters who should be at the center of its stories, making the series a well-intentioned but mostly dry series of discussions.


Bottom line

Good intentions, poor execution.

Broadcast date: Friday, March 17 (Apple TV+)
Cast: Meryl Streep, Kit Harington, Daveed Diggs, Sienna Miller, Tahar Rahim, Edward Norton, Forest Whitaker, Marion Cotillard, Adarsh ​​Gourav, Gaz Choudhry, Matthew Rhys, Gemma Chan
Creator: Scott Z. Burns

In all fairness, if there’s one writer who’s earned the right to expect people to listen to his predictions about the future, it might be creator Scott Z. Burns, whose script for Infection proved to be an eerie predictor of the COVID-19 pandemic. Extrapolations pushes even further into the realm of theory, unfolding across eight loosely interconnected episodes spanning the years 2037 to 2070. Each is preceded in the opening credits by another chilling (estimated) statistic: the number of species lost in 2046, for example, or the number of deaths from extreme heat in 2059.

A handful of major characters recur through the plots, the most prominent of which is Nick Bilton (Kit Harington) – a billionaire CEO who has seemingly combined all of Big Tech, Big Pharma and Big Ag into a single omnipresent corporation called Alpha. Most, however, flit in and out for just an episode or two, usually in the guise of one instantly recognizable star or another: a dying grandmother played by Meryl Streep, a civil servant played by Edward Norton, a venal businessman played by Matthew Rhys. If the goal is to get people to pay attention, there are worse ways to do it than trotting out high-wattage celebrities.

But Extrapolations’ The awareness of its own importance works against it more than for it, giving characters that look less human than mouthpieces for political debates or mournful speeches. A story about Marshall, a rabbi (Daveed Diggs) trying to save his Miami temple from rising water levels, plays as an excuse for Marshall and an angry young congregant (Neska Rose) to engage in long philosophical arguments about the sins of man . Another, about a scientist (Sienna Miller) trying to save what could be the last humpback whale on Earth, threatens to buckle under the weight of its own metaphors — though at least it falls in the incredible detail, that we will apparently have the technology to casually chat with whales by the year 2046.

The show’s more successful episodes tend to be the ones that let climate change serve as a backdrop for dramas on a more human scale. “2059 pt 2” centers on a pair of smugglers, Neel (Gaz Choudhry) and Gaurav (Adarsh ​​Gourav), who barely seem to be in control of their own destiny – let alone that of the global population – as they wander through India’s drought – burnt landscape. But it’s precisely because they’re nobody that they’re able to offer a down-to-earth perspective on the show’s not-so-improbable scenarios. Unlike the relatively privileged, sheltered characters that make up so many of the show’s other leads — like government officials and billionaires debating geo-engineering from cozy, air-conditioned offices in “2059 pt 1” — Neel and Gaurav have little choice but to to see the elements upside down.

The pair travel at night to avoid the dangerous daytime heat, zipping into special protective sleeping bags to rest, and encountering children who dare each other to sneak out during the day. Along the way, they discuss the state of the planet, but also argue about women, fantasize about how to spend their wages, and develop the kind of bond you only form after you’ve endured a desperate situation together. They act like people, in other words, and in doing so serve as a better reminder of what’s at stake than any flurry of statistics ever could.

I also enjoyed “2068,” a darkly funny chamber piece that goes off the rails when a man (Forest Whitaker) informs his wife (Marion Cotillard) and friends (Tobey Maguire and Eiza Gonzalez) that he’s leaving tomorrow morning. to digitize himself so that his consciousness can be awakened in a better future. The picture this chapter paints is undeniably bleak—the air has become so polluted that San Franciscans don oxygen tanks to step outside, and most human food is some version of seaweed. Still, there’s something relatable, even kind of comforting, about the man’s declaration that he’s more optimistic about the Earth’s ability to heal than his marriage’s. Come what may, our species will find ways to torment each other via Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf-like dinner parties.

Both episodes benefit from a curiosity about human nature that goes beyond hand-wringing monologues about our capacity for greed or complacency, and an affection for humans in all our absurd and messy glory. But more often, Extrapolations seems to work backwards, starting with a development it wants to show us, or a technology it wants to consider, or conversation it wants to have, and slaps thinly-conceived characters together to play them out. “The problem is us. Always has been,” muses a character in the finale. “We did this to the planet, to ourselves, to each other.” Extrapolations fully understands the mechanics of how a world falls into ruin. It has a harder time understanding the souls who are still stuck on it.

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