Make My Day ONA – Review

Make My Day is, simply put, forgettable. The basics are there, but there is not enough originality or spark to get much going before the credits roll.

The most apparent criticism that jumps out almost immediately is the sense of “been there, done that.” The setup is a science-fiction action-horror/survival-horror premise. There is a greedy corporation plundering resources from a desolate planet, underpaid and over-confident paramilitary security forces, and strange creatures who break out and cause all sorts of gory havoc. The technicalities are never delved into with much scientific rigor. Still, the general aesthetic is hard sci-fi with sensible vacuum suits and rugged equipment that tries to pass as functional and practical. The aliens are strange and highly resistant to the cast’s standard military tech, and any scenes involving them are usually about running as fast as possible toward the nearest exit if you don’t want to end up as a messy splotch on the floor.

If you’ve seen the Alien or >Avatar films (okay, basically any James Cameron flick of the past forty years), you’ll pick up the vibe right away. There’s some light sprinkling of Starship Troopers at the end for good measure too. If you’re familiar with works like the Alien films, you clock the comparison almost instantly, and that is one of the biggest problems with the series right out of the gate. Because of its obvious visual and tonal similarities, it’s hard not to compare it to those films, and (shocking absolutely no one) when you compare a budget television production to some of the greatest films of the 20th century, the budget show looks quaint and silly. Even details like the aliens have dangerous/volatile innards are ported over with a slightly different coat of paint, making it impossible to ignore.

Even if you aren’t directly familiar with those works, finding novelty in Make My Day is still challenging. At this point, there are entire swathes of media whose origin point is “I saw Aliens and want to do that.” Thus you’ve probably experienced half a dozen derivatives purely by accident. “Is that an Aliens reference?” is probably the science-fiction horror equivalent of “Is that a Jojo’s reference?” by this point.

That’s not to say it is entirely bereft of original ideas. Jim is a likable enough protagonist, and the sequences of his artwork and people-watching are good character details. Between Ed, Marnie, and Walter, there’s a significant supporting cast with more than a few interesting story beats between them. The issue is the size of the cast balloons very quickly, and the audience is juggling multiple plot threads that the show needs more runtime to handle. By the time the credits roll and the survivors are all lined up talking about their future plans, you realize just how many of them there are for only an eight-episode series. It’s a challenge to remember all of their names, let alone be invested in the arcs they went through in (what amounts to) a slightly longer-than-average movie.

Don’t hold your breath if you were hoping for interesting themes or social commentary of any type. There’s a vague sort of anti-corporate, anti-security state vibe initially. But by the end of the show, every single villain gets redeemed, and their evils are shrugged off in the banalest of ways. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, one character literally tied Jim up, beat him to a pulp, pissed on his face, and then left him for dead. But in the finale, it’s all just “no hard feelings, bestie!” and uh… look, I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but if someone peed on my face, I’d need more than 12 hours to get over it is all I’m saying.

Whether intentional or not, the audience is made to feel that the various cruel entities involved in this fiasco get forgiven or have their evil shrugged off. There’s no reflection on the abject cruelty of forcing prisoners to work in hazardous conditions to generate profit for corporate interests despite the environmental, social, or ecological impacts of doing so – never mind continuing this work while exploding alien goo monsters slaughtered people with abandon. Are we going to reflect at all on the part where they took the creatures off world to study or- no, no, I guess Jim wants to be an artist now. Okay.

So in lieu of any meaningful message or engaging characters, all we are left with are the visuals and action sequences to go off of. And folks… you take one look at the key art and you know what you’re getting here. This is the kind of stodgy CG work that makes people turn it off within the first episode. There’s no life or excitement to anything that happens. Instead, the doll-like characters run from one bland locale to the next, chased by an unending swarm of identical-looking creatures chugging along at what seems like five frames per second. At times it made me nostalgic for watching Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles back when I was a kid, given the CG animation and bug fighting. Sadly, Make My Day would have you think these CG shows have not improved all that much in the intervening decades.

Speaking of which, the aliens are about as generic as they come. Visually, they are giant orange tardigrades (you may also know them as water bears). While they have an interesting tentacle tongue attack thing, they are visually just… tardigrades that glow. But what initially starts as an unknowable singular entity quickly becomes a copy-paste job of comical proportions, with literally hundreds and thousands of orange blobs filling the screen to be gunned down with abandon. Whatever attempt there was at painting a sympathetic picture of these creatures whose habitat was disrupted and whose primary food source was being mined is shot to oblivion with laser beams and missiles in awkwardly paced action scenes. It’s Earth Defense Force but without the interactivity and infinitely less funny.

Also, there’s a subplot with a robot named Casper that is… I guess it’s supposed to be something, but it’s not entirely clear what. Casper’s design is somewhere between an ostrich and a Titanfall mech, and his personality is “beep boop, we friends.” The big dramatic finale fight is supposed to be about overriding programming for friendship, which manages to be painfully predictable and yet entirely out of left field simultaneously. The intent was to make the audience see this budget AT-ST as a cute mascot character, and it flops pretty hard.

Make My Day is a derivative work lacking any identity of its own. Its visuals make it hard to watch at best. Whatever potential its cast has is squandered on trying to do too much with too little and saying nothing in the process. Skip it and save yourself the time.

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