Holding The Black back, just a bit, in its first season, is the story itself taking a while to fully gel. That, plus numerous sci-fi tropes being swirled together (mute mystery kid, siblings in search of parents, the emotionally-scarred loner, etc), sinks the saga just a touch. Especially since if a series takes three or four episodes to kick in and the season is only seven episodes total, the clunkiness is taking up almost half the time. Once The Black does find its legs though, it’s a grim good time.
Just the fact that The Black is set on an abandoned continent that’s been completely crushed by the Precursors’ Kaiju already makes this a bleaker ride than the films. Though the world is brutally beset by monsters in the movies, the story is always about humanity trying to defeat these interdimensional enemies once and for all. To end the siege. This isn’t even an option in The Black, as the main focus here, at least in this first season, is a young brother and sister duo Taylor (Calum Worthy) and Hayley (Gideon Adlon) trying to traverse the Aussie badlands in a quest to find their long lost mom and dad. There’s no mention of defeating the Precursors or putting an end to the Kaiju blight. This is a smaller, more intimate family story set among the ruin.
The transition of the mythos and mayhem from live-action to 3D animation is entrancingly handled by Polygon Pictures, which delivers to us the same colorful vibrancy seen in the films while also creating a world that’s very much its own, with new Kaiju designs and a wasteland paradise to explore. The story is a heavy one and it sometimes moves a bit too quickly past some of its grittiness (the two teens have a habit of getting a lot of people killed, er, inadvertently), but once you realize that burying guilt and fear down deep is just a core survival mechanism for these kids, it makes more sense.