The original British series ‘Utopia’ lasted for two six-episode seasons, airing in 2013 and ’14. The story revolved around four comic book nerds who find themselves being pursued by a mysterious organization called The Network after they obtain a copy of the unpublished sequel to their favorite graphic novel, ‘The Utopia Experiments’. It seems the sequel contains information that The Network doesn’t want anyone else to learn.
Dennis Kelly created the series, which was directed by Marc Munden. ‘Utopia’ was generally favorably received, with high praise going to Munden’s eye-popping visual style and use of bold colors. However, the show was widely criticized for excessive violence, with members of the viewing audience going so far as to make official complaints, particularly about a scene that depicted a school shooting.
After a failed attempt by HBO, Amazon Prime Video picked up the rights to make a US adaptation, and novelist/screenwriter/producer Gillian Flynn (‘Gone Girl’, ‘Sharp Objects’) was selected to act as showrunner. And while it seems the US version borrows some of the vibrant visuals of the original, Flynn says that it will be much less violent.
At the Television Critics Association annual fall press tour (held virtually this year), Flynn said:
“I’m more ‘less is more’ as far as violence goes. I’m the person who loves that moment in Rosemary’s Baby where we’re only seeing part of the conversation whereas the whole audience is trying to look around the corner to see what’s happening, or obviously Jaws. I’m a big believer in that. I don’t want it for a cartoon effect or for shock value. I think we as an audience are past most of that as pure shock value. I want to use violence when it’s effective and appropriate.”
Flynn said that less violence is just one way that the Amazon series will differ from the original.
“I stood with that basic DNA and then went from there with my own interests. I would say Dennis Kelly is very Britpop, kind of colorful and sleek with his story. I was inspired by the 1970s conspiracy thrillers, paranoia thrillers like The Parallax View and Marathon Man. In fact, when I was pitching this, I called it The Goonies meets Marathon Man. I took this idea of a group of ragtag, unlikely heroes who get caught in this incredibly dark conspiracy.”
In the US version, Desmin Borges portrays Wilson Wilson, with Dan Byrd as Ian, Ashleigh LaThrop as Becky, Jessica Rothe as Samantha, and Javin “Wanna” Walton as Grant, the ‘Utopia Experiments’ readers whose lives are turned upside down. Sasha Lane portrays Jessica Hyde, the main character in the comic who suddenly appears in real life to assist the kids.
John Cusack, Christopher Denham, Cory Michael Smith, and Rainn Wilson also star.
Amazon has not announced a specific release date, but ‘Utopia’ is expected to arrive this fall.