Cleverman might be unique with its first Aboriginal superhero. Even non-indigenous local superheroes have been rare with the adult fantasy genre overall not really embraced by film-makers or TV networks here as it should.
Cleverman changes all this with striking proof there is a need for Australian tales told in a fantastical way. With solid production values and a fine ensemble cast, Cleverman effectively shows its pride in its topical locality in an engaging way.
The Cleverman (Hunter Page-Lochard) is a young man who is associated with The Hairypeople. As minority group who have various extraordinary physical traits, the Hairypeople are feared by a society living in a constantly anxious world. Coming to terms with his new powers, Cleverman tries to use them to unite his world in spite of the emotional challenges he faces daily as new threats emerge.
As with last year’s zombie series Glitch, Cleverman is a slow-burn production making full use of its limited budget. It doesn’t heavily rely on CGI or explosive pyrotechnics but more on the characters and situations. The newly minted Cleverman is a flawed hero who makes mistakes. He isn’t perfect and nor does he live in a perfect world. Like any good series, Cleverman uses its myriad of themes, from immigration, racism and media manipulation, to weave an interesting story refusing to subside.
Page-Lochard does well in the title role with his co-stars turning in equally fine performances. All contribute to ensuring Cleverman remains grounded in a form of relatable reality whilst mixing in the fantasy elements. It’s encouraging that more local series appear eager to move along this path after ignoring the genre for decades.
Cleverman proves we have the skills and talent to produce such works with each episode effectively and slowly unfurling the surprises the story offers. The relationships and emotional tension are what drives the fast-paced narrative with the direction utilising the locations to their maximum.
Cleverman is a solid fantasy drama making good use of local mythology whilst creating its own. It stands out from others with its authenticity. It also creates hope more producers will unshackle decades of neglect and firmly embrace a genre Australia can certainly make its own.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 8
Cleverman will be released on Blu-ray and Digital from 24 August and is available now for Digital Download.