The Twilight Zone (2019)

Brashly politicized with okay production value & cinematography, but watered-down tone, C-list cameos, forgettable scoring, overstretched length, & a fundamental misunderstanding of the (far-superior) original Twilight Zone. 2.5/10.

Plot Synopsis: An updated version of the classic TV series featuring various tales of science fiction, horror and mystery.

*Possible spoilers ahead*


They butchered The Twilight Zone. I cannot believe it; I guess Peele was due for a failure. This reboot of the iconic original 1959 Twilight Zone (9.7/10, one of the greatest and most game-changing TV series of All-Time) should have been an absolute slam dunk on paper. Show-ran by new-icon director Jordan Peele coming fresh off a majestic sophomore entry in Us following his viral race-horror scare Get Out, and with a promised star-studded cast and all the luxuries modern film affords it over its 60-year old counterpart, there should have been no possible way it could fail. Yet, that’s exactly what happened – and it deserves an an autopsy of what went wrong: Brashly politicized with okay production value & cinematography, but watered-down tone, C-list cameos, forgettable scoring, overstretched length, & a fundamental misunderstanding of the (far-superior) original Twilight Zone.

Abrasive politicization and a fundamental misunderstanding of the original Twilight Zone. The literal first second of the reboot opens into an extremely hot topic: gun control. Across the first season, it does not even attempt to hide or cleverly obscure its extremely left/SJW heart on its sleeve, obsessively bringing up talking points like gun politics to “white man bad” to forced diversity to police racism to the point of shoving it in the audience’s faces and feeling more like a political ad than TV Series. I even agree with most of its sentiments/political notions (with the exception of “white man bad”; Guess I’m one of the only true progressives out there against the demonization of *any* race or gender) like stricter gun regulation and entry profiling for policemen to sort out the few bad apples, but the way it’s excessively put on display in condescending or one-sided fashion is extremely off-putting.

That is where I knew this new Twilight Zone was doomed to fail: because it has fails to even basically understand what the original Twilight Zone’s point was. The original Twilight Zone first focused on the inventive dystopia, starting from distant imaginative points to brilliantly connect the dots back to society with light social commentary it took analysis/thought to realize (while also being centered and never leaning ostentatiously one way or the other on social issues). Examples of this are the man selling his soul for immortality to demonstrate death’s importance in human experience, being stranded in a distant dimension alone to demonstrate man’s need for social interaction (plus governmental experimentation), alive slot machines to show gambling’s primordial hold over us, the fleeting nature of time and aging against the nostalgic perfection of hindsight/regret, etc.

What we’re given here is the complete opposite, starting with society today, finding the most political/opinionated points you could possibly muster on a list of incite-able heated discussions, taking into account only the filmmakers’ singular opinions, dumbing them down while not even bothering to try to write/add symbolic, thoughtful screenplays requiring modest stimulation of the brain to decipher (e.g. having a white policeman follow around a black family for *HUNDREDS* of miles – apparently ignoring any other police duties whatsoever and even leaving his town/precinct to stalk this one random family he saw one day at breakfast – just to personally make sure the kid can’t go to college, because racism! Wow, such symbolic and not laid on thick/obvious at all!).

Beyond that, the acting is mostly awful with barrel-scraped/C-name nobodies clearly out of their depth like freaking Tracy Morgan (really, not a single other person you could get besides TRACY MORGAN?!) and Kumail Nanjiani (even as a fellow Indian myself: he’s not a good actor and not very funny. Definitely does not deserve this big a role it kind of feels like pandering/forced diversity instead of earning it), tone watered-down and much less mystifying/scary than the original, score uninspired (especially shocking considering the absolutely magnificent scoring of Peele’s Us we either misattributed to Peele’s doing or are positing too much that he had any artistic involvement here beyond showing up and collecting a check), and plot structure horrific ill-advisedly going from spot-on 30-minute installments of the original to 45+, painful when these plots are so thin and simple-minded, it could be done in 10-15 without slogging down in boredom.

While there are some things it manages to get right – the cinematography is serviceable with decently inventive camerawork and shot construction, the redo of the iconic Twilight Zone theme and cameos/narration by Jordan Peele good (perhaps the only thing I believe the artistically-prodigal Peele actually did on this series), Easter Eggs clever like seeing a Cadawaller contact in Samir’s phone, devil-bobblehead, and smoking man back-turned in homage to the original, and production value okay by way of its mega budget CBS order. But these are mostly wasted in its final product. The only decent episode in the season in Nightmare at 30,000 feet, which shows a minor glimpse at what could’ve been if they’d not gotten fooled into going down the politics rabbit hole and instead focused on actual storytelling and inventive dystopia, but that’s about it.


Overall, the new Twilight Zone is a massive disappointment. I am absolutely shocked how it squandered the incredible set of intangibles it had – an iconic series name/lore built up over half a century, a mega-budget by CBS and all the luxuries modern film affords it over its 60-year old predecessor, a promise of A-list cameos, and serious Horror-directorial talent in one of the freshest upcoming directors in the game in Peele – on politicized nonsense it claims to be doing so because that’s what “real art is.” To whomever really ran this trainwreck and made nonsensical claims like that (as I again refuse to believe Peele had much involvement as it’s way below his usual work – that’s usually not this politicized either): real art is transportive, primordial, story-focused, beautiful, emotional, escapist, and applicable/accessible to *ALL* – not some. Abrasively politicized with okay direction, production value, camerawork/cinematography, and Easter Eggs, but light-mismatched and neutered in tone, forgettable in scoring, mediocre in acting, and doomed from start with a fundamental misunderstanding of what the original (far-superior) Twilight Zone’s point was, this reboot shouldn’t even have a license to use that sacred name Rod Serling is probably turning in his grave about. I’m glad it’s on CBS All-Access with an arduous and expensive sign-up procedure most people are (thankfully) probably not going to go through instead of Netflix or Hulu. Hopefully, none will see this painful butchering of The Twilight Zone that’s as scary as any dystopian plot of the original, or horror concept you can imagine.

Official CLC Score: 2.5/10