TV streaming review - April 30 to May 3: Shadow and Bone, Exterminate All The Brutes

CENTRAL FIGURE: Jessie Mei Li plays reluctant hero Alina Starkov in Netflix's new fantasy epic series Shadow and Bone. Below, Raoul Peck's documentary Exterminate All The Brutes is harrowing viewing.
CENTRAL FIGURE: Jessie Mei Li plays reluctant hero Alina Starkov in Netflix's new fantasy epic series Shadow and Bone. Below, Raoul Peck's documentary Exterminate All The Brutes is harrowing viewing.

SHADOW AND BONE

Netflix

BEFORE it debuted Shadow and Bone was unfairly saddled with the label of the "next Game Of Thrones."

Yes, it's a violent fantasy epic and the menacing Shadow Fold with its winged monsters, called volcra, feel a little like GoT's wall and white walkers.

However, Shadow and Bone is no GoT. But what is, seriously? Once you get over that expectation the more young adult-orientated Shadow and Bone, which is based on US author Leigh Bardugo's novels, is a satisfying watch.

The show is partly set in the war torn Kingdom of Ravka, inspired by 19th century Russia. Ravka is cut off from the rest of the world by the Fold, a perpetually dark and clouded strip of land inhabited by volcra monsters.

When a young mapmaker Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and her childhood best friend and soldier Mal (Archie Renaux) are attacked by volcra while attempting to cross the Fold most of their crew are killed. However, the pair are spared when Alina inadvertently releases bright beams of light from her body.

That leads the Grisha - a race of people with the power to manipulate matter - to believe Alina is the prophesised Sun Summoner, who can destroy the Fold. Alina is taken by the leader of the Grisha, General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), to his palace to learn how to harness her power.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Fold in the Victorian London-inspired city of Ketterdam, life is more prosperous but just as dangerous.

Several criminal gangs are competing for the contract to travel through the Fold and capture Alina. The most likable criminal boss is Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), leader of The Dregs, a band of cockney gangsters who wear waist coats, pork pie hats and canes.

Shadow and Bone's various ethnic groups, each with their differing prejudices, does feel realistic and modern. However, the central story of Alina's "chosen one" ability could have been lifted from classic fantasy folklore.

Fantasy buffs will find plenty to keep them streaming, but watch the re-runs if you want more Jon Snow.

INSIGHTFUL: Raoul Peck's documentary Exterminate All The Brutes is harrowing viewing.

INSIGHTFUL: Raoul Peck's documentary Exterminate All The Brutes is harrowing viewing.

EXTERMINATE ALL THE BRUTES

Binge

WHEN the Black Lives Matter movement raged across the world last year after the police murder of African-American man George Floyd, it led to a revaluation of colonialism and the deeds of Europeans throughout history.

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Raoul Peck's (I Am Not Your Negro) four-part documentary Exterminate All the Brutes critiques the role of colonialism, racism and mass genocide to reveal how it lies at the heart of modern Western mythology, particularly in America's claim of being the "land of the free."

While Peck's ideas aren't new, his rationally-based arguments are presented concisely through historical material and re-enactments to reveal how the horrors of history have been repeated consistently through the centuries.

Exterminate All the Brutesis essentially an academic essay presented in documentary form. Peck doesn't attempt to use other talking heads to present arguments, rather he executes his case through source evidence. It's a case that hits with frightening clarity.

Exterminate All the Brutes isn't enjoyable viewing, but it's highly thought-provoking.