How do you remake a classic like Utopia? With big budgets – and John Cusack

How do you remake a classic like Utopia? With big budgets – and John CusackSeptember 19, 2020

The cult conspiracy drama is given a flashy US revamp, starring Cusack as a cult-of-personality CEO

A delicious little pleasure of mine is when a TV show kills off an interesting character within minutes of introducing them. A squalid little treat for the pig boy. I mean, think about it: how many shows go entire five-season runs without introducing a single interesting character? Interesting characters on TV are rare and difficult and should be clutched closely like jewels. And then Utopia turns up, and … sorry, did they just shoot that person in the head?

That jangling feeling of deja vu you have is correct: Utopia (Amazon Prime Video, Friday), is a glossy new remake of … Utopia, the Channel 4 dark comedy in the shape of a conspiracy thriller, only this time headed up by Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn. As with every US interpretation of UK original material, it replaces the stuff we do well – a certain texture, a certain subtlety, dialogue that doesn’t end in someone shouting: “YOU JUST DON’T GET IT, DO YOU?” – and replaces it with what they are good at, which is sheen and John Cusack. This has done that, exactly. The original was dark and uncomfortable, a woozily ambitious series that was gone too soon. The new one isn’t really any of that but it does look really good, it’s still gleefully violent, and the story is still intricate like a clock is.

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