The Weekend Australian - Review
Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame has written a conspiracy thriller that is eerily prescient, a story of truth, spin and friendship — set against a pandemic
stage by gravity and tragedy, though there’s just a hint of profundity when it comes to Utopia itself and the hold it has on their lives. Flynn is such a good writer that she quickly makes us empathise with their nerdy, obsessive lives.
Flynn says that she took her inspiration from 1970s paranoia movies like Parallax View and All the President’s Men, and a time when it was easy to believe in the existence of a rightist conspiracy within that establishment aimed at destroying anyone who threatened the power of the military-industrial complex.
“Gnarly, nasty, raw and unnerving – and yet I wanted to be sure it was peopled with the kinds of characters you really become fond of,” she says. “As I was pitching my vision, I described it as Marathon Man meets The Goonies. I wanted bursts of fear, epiphany and the kinds of laughs that burst out of you unexpectedly.”
Well, she certainly achieves that combination of elements as the first episode unfolds. And as Haynes says the central conceit of a conspiracy thriller where the secret is hidden inside a comic book is irresistible. And Flynn, a master storyteller, knows how to milk it. As a writer what she is particularly good at is alluding to mysteries you know are there but can’t yet see, stories with contours you can’t totally make out.
Brazilian artist Joao Ruas provided the drawings integrating the graphic novels into the narrative at Flynn’s insistence too, so we become invested in them as characters “instead of just throwaway McGuffins”. And she and Ruas have hidden what writers call “Easter eggs”, small parcels of extra information, inside the panels to add an extra layer of fun.
And there are many fun dimensions as the drama begins and we get to know the young comic fans. But the good-natured, nerdy feel dissipates halfway through that first episode, in a spasm of violence that is totally unexpected and moves it all into something far more twisted and compelling.
There’s nothing like Utopia around, it’s original and from a seemingly different planet, yet knowable and absolutely compelling.