Forget about the rising sea levels or mass extinction of threatened species. According to the new Netflix series V Wars, the real danger posed by climate change is that it will turn us all into rubber-faced vampire-werewolf monsters. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, hard science like that is tough to deny.
Ian Somerhalder spent eight years playing an immortal bloodsucker on The Vampire Diaries. Now he gets to fight them as the goofily-named Dr. Luther Swann, perhaps the least convincing depiction of a scientist on screen since Denise Richards in The World Is Not Enough. Swann is, at various points, either a brain surgeon, a pathologist, or a climatologist. Whatever the case, he must be smart since he wears glasses and gives lectures in which he says a bunch of words that sound important.
Based on a comic series by Jonathan Maberry that's said to be better than the TV adaptation, the show posits a world where melting polar icecaps release a prehistoric super-virus for which modern humanity has no resistance or immunity. Once exposed, victims who possess a dormant gene in their DNA develop heightened senses, enhanced strength, and a thirst for human blood. They also periodically morph into toothy were-beasts that bear more than a passing resemblance to the one from the '80s cheeseball horror flick Rawhead Rex.
When Swann is called to investigate the disappearance of fellow scientists at an Arctic research camp straight out of The Thing, he and best bud Mike Fayne (Adrian Holmes) are promptly exposed to the virus. After a brief period quarantined by the apparently incompetent CDC, the pathogen is declared harmless and both are released. Luther feels fine and has seemingly no ill-effects. Sadly, Mike isn't so lucky. Within days, the previously affable helicopter pilot blacks out, goes on a murder spree, and begins spreading the infection around town as Patient Zero.
Before you know it, a pandemic is unleashed and it's up to our hero Dr. Swann to find a cure and stop the vampires from taking over the world. He's either helped or hindered in this quest by an opportunistic young blogger (Jacky Lai) who wants to break the story, an FBI agent (Michael Greyeyes) working undercover in a biker gang, and a sexy vampire (Laura Vandervoort) who hates what she has become. Meanwhile, the fictional Department of National Security institutes a heartless policy of rounding up anyone suspected of being infected and imprisoning them in illegal internment camps for torture or worse.
At a time when Netflix has dumped almost unfathomable sums of money into the development of original content, V Wars looks and feels like a very cheap show. This apocalyptic story is mostly confined to the small town of Seneca, NY for some reason. Most of the makeup and visual effects are of laughable quality, and the writing and acting are usually even worse. The dialogue is sprinkled with copious profanity in an attempt to sound edgy, but comes across as forced and juvenile.
The story becomes slightly more interesting in the second half of the ten-episode season, when the vampires develop awareness of what they are, declare themselves a new species called "Bloods," and band together under Mike's leadership to form their own society. Luther and a sympathetic U.S. Senator (Laura de Carteret) believe that humans and vampires can coexist (which would effectively make this a prequel to True Blood), but other powerful parties in the government and military have different plans.
Even so, the plotting is pretty dumb and the show is very cheesy on the whole. It can be fitfully entertaining as camp or schlock, but the most interesting thing about it is observing how much Somerhalder appears to have morphed into a younger clone of Rob Lowe. From his appearance to his expressions, mannerisms, and even his voice, he's one "literally" away from being ready for a Parks and Recreation reboot.
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Josh Zyber has written about TV, movies, and home theater for the past two decades. Most recently, he spent more than nine years managing a daily blog at High-Def Digest.