The Encounter, Season 1 [2016] (Series Review)

With this creepy look, who doesn’t want an encounter?

Plot Summary

When someone is going about their everyday activities, they never know what is about to happen or who they are about to meet.  They all have struggles and secrets that they don’t want anyone to know, but they would be free if they just knew someone they could trust them with.  But people never know when they are about to meet Someone Who will change their life forever.  They never know until they have their own Encounter with Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Encounter series follows a typical production formula that PureFlix has been using for years.  They check the boxes for making the production look good on the surface, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations.  The soundtrack is sometimes engaging but mostly standard.  Sometimes there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the poorly shot actions scenes.  The biggest issue here is that large amount of wasted time throughout the series.  Most episodes are 25-28 minutes long, but the plots are usually so thin that this is too much time.  The exception to this is of episodes one and four, which will be discussed later.  But in the end, this series demonstrates an overall typical and average production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For eight episodes, The Encounter rehashes the same types of ideas, concepts, and conversations over and over again, just with different characters.  Outside of episodes one and four, there is no creativity here, as the opening sequence tells you what’s going to happen in each episode.  Besides being predictable, these stories are also very quick and punctuated, like they’ve been made in a quick plot factory.  While there are some good issues raised in the series, there are too many quick fixes and easy solutions based on creepy and plastic Jesus dialogue.  Thus, the messaging is quite shallow.  However, there is some potential here, as the first episode is very interesting and should have been the focus of the whole series so we could have gotten to know these characters better.  Also, the fourth episode would have made an interesting movie, if done properly.  But overall, this series just hops from high point to high point and discards substance and realism along the way.  It’s a good idea done very poorly.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there are bright spots in this large scale cast, there are also plenty of issues.  For one, it seems like Bruce Marchiano, who has done well portraying Jesus in the past, has lost his touch. Other cast members are typical PureFlix standbys and rejects who seem to be lazy and phoning in their performances.  But as it is, it just comes out as average.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

When the same ideas repeat over and over again in each episode and new characters are constantly being introduced, there is no chance or hope for continuity in this season.  There are no story arcs or character arcs.  We need to see what happens to these characters after their initial encounters, which is why it would have been great to have the characters from the first episode be the main focus of this series.  Yet the way it has been done is shallow and lazy, thus warranting no points here.

Conclusion

There’s nothing wrong with having Jesus intervene in everyday situations, but spitting out a whole bunch of episodes that are all basically the same doesn’t accomplish anything.  It’s easy to create a bunch of surface characters and then leave them; it takes true skill to craft meaningful characters that we can connect with.  It’s also a great idea to create a Christian series, but we need something better than this.  We need sustainable ideas that make people want to follow a set of characters across an arc.  PureFlix has the resources to do this, but will they?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 14 points

 

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Revelation Road 2: The Sea of Glass and Fire (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After witnessing the Rapture, Josh McManus sets out on the road trip of his life to discover the whereabouts of his family, whom he is unable to contact.  But making the trek back won’t be easy with a crazed biker gang on his tail, bent on revenge for how he stole their pride.  Josh is joined by Beth, whose grandparents were taken in the Rapture.  As they travel across the desert, navigating the strange new world they live in, Josh will have to come to grips with who he really is and what he has done in the past.  Not only him, but Hawg will also have to reconcile with the person he has become.  On a collision course, Josh and Hawg will both have to determine how they are going to change who they are.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Believe it or not, production quality improves from the first series installment to the second.  Video quality remains the same, but sound quality also improves.  Special effects are used more responsibly.  The weird lightning is still there, but it’s a step in the right direction.  The camera work is strange at times, but not nearly as bad as the first film.  The editing is still a work in progress, but there seems to be more effort put into this installment.  Overall, that’s the story of Revelation Road 2—the thought is there, but the execution is only half there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The Beginning of the End was obviously driving to something, as that non-plot continually delayed the inevitable next film.  Thankfully, that something was actually worth waiting for.  Who knew that Pureflix would begin using flashbacks to develop characters?  Since when do the Whites and company create character backstories?  Stranger things do happen, and they happened in The Sea of Glass and Fire (whatever that title’s supposed to mean).  The core idea behind Josh’s character is very innovative, and seemingly beyond the reaches of the Pureflix creative realm.  Even Hawg is turned into a somewhat believable villain through flashbacks.  And Cat…oh wait, never mind.  But pitfalls still exist in this film—mindless violence rivals B-grade Hollywood action flicks and time fillers litter the plot.  Dialogue is better in the flashbacks than in the present plot.  The ending inevitably leads to another film, but we have to wonder if this is really necessary at this point.  Overall, this plot is a huge step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Mostly due to the flashbacks, the acting slightly improves from the previous movie.  This is probably the best David A. R. White, Andrea Logan White, and Brian Bosworth will get when it comes to action acting.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are blasé, making this an overall underwhelming cast performance.  But hey, they got one point!

Conclusion

Revelation Road 2 is one of the rare Pureflix movies that really had something, but never found it.  The overarching idea behind the series, if you ignore the strange eschatology, is very creative and breaks genre barriers in Christian film.  Yet under all of this is a sad storyline, and this is the fact that four points is a monumental accomplishment for this creative team.  The Sea of Glass and Fire stands as an example of how good even this crew can be when they put their minds to it, but it also makes us hunger for more.  Unfortunately, that more is probably not going to happen, if history is any indication.  Basically, if this idea were put into the hands of another team, it would have been Hall of Fame and beyond.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points