By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief
Considering the number of movies and TV serials that have been filmed in Pacific Palisades and how many creative forces behind them live in town, it’s odd how rarely the Palisades plays itself on the big or small screen.
There was the eponymous 1997 Aaron Spelling TV soap, very glossy, very silly, very different from 1990 eponymous French movie with Sophie Marceau, which was very French.
And, of course Amazon’s ground-trembling “Transparent” was set in Rustic Canyon, albeit filmed in Pasadena. (Why? Couldn’t have been for the tax credits.)
And then there is Larry David, whose recent vision of the Palisades was shot in Brentwood. Very, very confusing.
But “Marvel’s Runaways,” a 10-part series on Hulu, bakes its Palisadian ambiance into the plot even if it was not filmed here and worse, name checked Brentwood. Maybe that is the influence of Marvel’s head honcho Kevin Feige, who lives in the Riviera.
It’s presented as street safe, compared to the opening scene at a downtown bus station, which makes the betrayals that follow like so much in the Palisades, much darker behind closed doors.
The protagonists are a miserable bunch, even before they discover their tiger mom/lawyer parents belong to a super-powered secret organization of baddies called The Pride.
(Which, sadly, has nothing to do with Palisades Pride, the Village beautification group. Super powers would make their fundraising so much easier.)
Our six teens decide to run away from home and, after some prolonged dithering, eventually, run away from home, only to discover they, too, have super powers of their own.
They can lift things, throw things, burn things. Like every other Palisades Charter High School kid, then, but with enhanced CGI.
Yes, it’s Marvel, right up there in the title, with the young actors largely former Disney apprentices. What were you expecting, less than perfect teeth or abs, Brecht?
The acting is smart and occasionally sassy: The teens created by acclaimed graphic novel writer Brian K. Vaughan come to life. Even if, on the screen, they are locked into Skinner boxes marked bespectacled nerd, purple haired goth, good looking dumb jock or angry riot grrrl—for ease of sale to international TV markets.
They are ably spooked by now-grown stars of a previous TV genre generation such as the always-watchable James Masters, Spike in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.”
The reviews have been largely positive, glowing when it came to how wonderful Palisadian kitchens are, complaining that the kids lack a sense of rebel spontaneity—maybe that has been over-scheduled out of them.
The only widespread critique is a more general issue with Disney/Marvel’s TV “serials” such as “Iron Fist” or “The Punisher”—at 10 episodes, it would have been more successful at five.
You are probably still going to have more laughs spending two hours at “Thor: Ragnorak,” but until the Norse god turns up on the Village Green, this is teen-angst fun to go.
One final pensive question. It’s about our planet.
With oh-so-many small screen superheroes due over the next few months, with lesser-known exotics such as Night Thrasher, Speedball, Cloak and Dagger (Marvel’s answer to Romeo and Juliet), and, best of all, Squirrel Girl, is there room for everyone to save the world—even if it’s only from their parents?