Friday, 20 September 2013

The Future of Entertainment: Aim High Season One Review

Stars: Jackson Rathbone, Aimee Teegarden, Johnny Pemberton, Greg Germann

Nick Green (Jackson Rathbone) is one of 64 highly trained, teenage government operatives and spends his nights killing bad guys. However, Nick’s night job is easy by comparison to his days at school where his physics teacher keeps hitting on him; Amanda (Aimee Teegarden), the girl he likes, is dating a swimming jock who wants to kill him; and his best friend keeps threatening to expose his secret on his gossip blog.

What if Ferris Bueller were recruited by the CIA? That is the premise behind Aim High, an original web series that crosses Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider books. The series opens with Nick having been in his job for three years, and as it progresses, Nick is faced with the dilemma of whether to continue risking his life for the government or throw it all in for a chance at passing his SATs and getting the girl of his dreams. Tough choice - not. Of course, Nick’s job isn’t exactly one you can just walk away from, and before you know it, pretty much everyone is trying to get Nick, one way or another, leading to the inevitable big showdown in the final episode which ties off all the main storylines, while simultaneously setting things up for the next season.

Developed by Warner Bros. and produced by action director McG, Aim High has a bigger budget and higher production values than the majority of web series made to date, and as such, is able to alternate smart dialogue (some of which is delivered directly to the camera, Ferris Bueller style) with television-quality action sequences, and include actors you might actually have heard of (Rathbone, Teegarden and Germann having previously appeared in Twilight, Friday Night Lights and Ally McBeal respectively).

The makers of Aim High have also made the unusual decision of having 8 – 12 minute episodes, instead of the webisode standard 3 – 5 minutes and it works well in their favour. The longer episode length gives the writers greater opportunities to develop characters and scenarios, and as 10 minutes is approximately the length between ad breaks in a network TV series, it feels more natural and avoids that stopping and starting feeling you often get with three minute webisodes.

Premiered on Facebook, Aim High is the world’s first social media series and can be watched through a Facebook app in “personalised mode”, which incorporates your own personal data and pictures into the video. For example, you may see your photo on a poster in Nick’s school or your name on a sign. Ironically, though, considering its social media ties (as well as the coolness factor of its gimmick), Aim High didn’t receive nearly as much publicity as you would expect. The first I heard of it was when I stumbled upon the DVD release in a bricks and mortar store. Still, enough people saw it to prompt Warner to green light Season Two and it’s nice to see a major studio finally starting to utilise the full potential of web-based entertainment.

Verdict: If this is a sign of things to come in web-based entertainment, the future is looking bright.

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