"Confusing Pagan Fantasy Series Is Not Compelling"
What You Need To Know:
SHADOW AND BONE serves up a non-stop assortment of convoluted character names and invented fantasy jargon that’s delivered in confusing fashion. The characters dress like they’re in the 1800s and ride what look like old-time pirate ships. Just as confusing, the program’s special effects are futuristic. As a result, it’s hard to find any of the characters emotionally engaging. SHADOW AND BONE has a mixed pagan worldview where there are atheists, agnostics and believers, but in a religion invented for the story. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for that and bloody violence, brief foul language and some lewd references.
SHADOW AND BONE is a streaming series based on three Young Adult fantasy novels and marks the latest effort by Netflix to capture the teenage market with an adventurous series featuring a young heroine who comes up against various villains wanting to use her supernatural powers for their own benefit. Containing strong violence and some foul language, the first two episodes of SHADOW AND BONE are mounted with impressive visuals, but the jargon-heavy dialogue is difficult to follow, which requires greater-than-usual concentration and dilutes the enjoyment the series is aiming for in this toned-down version of GAME OF THRONES-style pagan fantasy.
MOVIEGUIDE® screened the first two episodes to get a feel for the series. The story follows a heroine named Alina Starkov, a mapmaker who lives in a region called East Ravka and finds herself happily reunited with her childhood friend, Mal Oretsev. The two are based in a military camp in their oppressed and ravaged country, where they and the rest of their citizenry yearn to cross into better climes but are thwarted by the presence of the Fold.
The Fold is like a giant black hole that divides East Ravka from its surrounding nations and is made even more dangerous thanks to the presence of Volcra, a vicious breed of flying monsters that will attempt to kill anyone crossing on sight. Mal is chosen to join a dangerous mission across this arduous space. Since Alina is afraid to lose him again, she burns all the maps for the journey so that the organizers will be forced to take her along.
Just as they enter the Fold, the enemy General Kirigan and his Second Army arrives at the camp but fails to stop them. However, the young heroes have to fight off a swarm of Volcra, where many of their fellow explorers are killed in blood-spattering fashion. Only Alina’s display of previously unused powers as a Sun Summoner, with the ability to control vast amounts of bright lights, wards off the Volcra to save her and Mal.
Meanwhile, in the city of Ketterdam, three rogues named Kaz Brekker, Inej Ghafa and Jesper Fahey compete with a mob boss named Pekka Rollins for a job that pays one million kruge, the currency of their realm. They must cross the Fold and retrieve a valuable object to earn the prize. Pekka is determined to seize control of Alina and use her newfound abilities to pull off his own nefarious mission.
Will Alina manage to survive while managing to avoid helping this ruthless villain?
SHADOW AND BONE serves up a non-stop assortment of convoluted character names and invented fantasy jargon that’s delivered in confusing fashion. Any attempt to explain the plot coherently beyond what’s listed above is a pretty hopeless endeavor.
The first two episodes also create a hopeless jumble in setting up its world. For example, characters dress like they’re in the 1800s and ride what look like old-time pirate ships into the Fold. Meanwhile, the action serves up plenty of visual effects that would normally be associated with futuristic storylines, not fantasy. It’s hard to find any of the characters emotionally engaging as a result, and the heavily shadowed proceedings add to the confusion.
The actors try hard, but the sad fact is SHADOW AND BONE just isn’t much fun to watch. Based on a Young Adult novel series, it’s intended for teenagers, but too much of its content, including a homosexual relationship that apparently is revealed midway through the series, makes SHADOW AND BONE inappropriate for children and teenagers and requiring extreme caution for adults. The series has a mixed pagan worldview with some moral and redemptive elements and metaphors. The world in SHADOW AND BONE contains atheists, agnostics and believers, but in a made-up religion invented for the story. Also, characters discuss praying to “saints” in some episodes.