LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – There’s something elemental about the desire to look to the stars, to imagine oneself as well as, perhaps, all humanity, finding a future beyond the planet we once called home. This innate desire to explore and discover is, indeed, so deeply encoded that it presents a trap for artists — it can too easily be traded on for an easy emotional charge without other, necessary storytelling work having been done.
That’s, unfortunately, the case with “Away,” Netflix’s new drama series starring Hilary Swank as the astronaut leading an international expedition to Mars. Created by Andrew Hinderaker and boasting executive producers including Jessica Goldberg, Jason Katims, and Matt Reeves, the series has all the markers of a prestige consideration of what it means for humanity to take flight, but leans so heavily on inspirational tropes of the genre that it never, itself, soars.
Swank, here, plays Emma Green, so mission-driven that she won’t allow herself to meaningfully register the pain of leaving behind her husband (Josh Charles) and teen daughter (Talitha Bateman); her crew is made up of scientists (among them fellow travelers played by Ato Essandoh, Mark Ivanir, Ray Panthaki, and Vivian Wu) who bring their own charged personal or family histories to bear on the mission. There’s a significant chance of failure and the requisite brushes with terror and the limitations of the human body, all of which tend to feel somewhat like boxes checked.