Scavengers Reign has so much more to say

In the media landscape of 2024 Scavengers rule feels like nothing short of a miracle. Initially conceived as a 20-minute short film by co-creators Joseph Bennett and Charles Huettner, the series was greenlit for a 12-episode season for Max (then called HBO Max) and slowly remained in production for several years before it premiered in the fall of 2012. last year. With an emphasis on visual storytelling, phantasmagorical imagery, and intoxicating themes of survival and symbiosis, the most obvious question is simple: how did the creators of Scavengers rule are about tackling its peculiar sci-fi universe?

“The main principle (of the original short) was that we followed these characters (as they) went through a process through nature, and you see a kind of Rube Goldberg-esque process of cause and effect, trial and error. Bennett tells Polygon. “It had no dialogue, so it was all a visual story. (…) Gradually we began to delve into the nature of planet Vesta and what it might be.”

What grew from that young seed of an idea was a densely populated world of exotic fauna, unfathomable native lifeforms, and a vast, interconnected ecology of creatures that existed in harmony with each other. “(The idea was) if every character uses these organisms as some sort of functionality, make sure that’s consistent throughout the show,” Bennett said. “It’s never just that the characters are the focus. (…) These characters are struggling with so much inner turmoil and psychological stress, and given the backdrop of this planet, it’s brutal in many ways – that dichotomy was always important to keep in mind.

Drawing on influences as far-flung as the comics of Jean “Mœbius” Giraud and the animation of René Laloux on the Primitive Technology YouTube channel, Scavengers rule was unique in design and from the jump. “One of the things I always heard from Joe and Charles was that you wanted this thing to breathe,” says Titmouse founder Chris Prynoski. “If you watch an episode of Lower decks, we try to cram as much story as possible into one of those episodes. (…) (On Scavengers), even the number of shots, it’s like, We can have a lower number of shots, but spend more time making them special.

Image: Max

But that balance was important; As cliché as it may be, Planet Vesta is a character in itself Scavengers rule, neither benevolent nor explicitly malicious; a truly alien frontier in which the survivors of Demeter 227 must bear not only the limits of their physical bodies, but also the full weight of their personal histories. The focus is never just on the human characters themselves. The series spends as much time, if not more, exploring the micro and macroscopic creatures of this beautiful and often hostile world as it does the hapless people who struggle to navigate and survive it.

The audience sees this not only on screen, but also in the way the series is edited, with close-ups of the survivors of Demeter regularly interspersed with wide shots that situate them as small iotas dwarfed by the immense scale of the strange and unknown landscape that surrounds them. . It makes sense that Scavengers rule would put so much emphasis on Vesta’s vistas and biomes given the amount of time and attention the production team invested in capturing the look and feel of the planet.

“We had a nice runway for concept design and building out the ecosystems and all that kind of stuff,” Bennett told Polygon. From character and creature designs to the environments and sound design, every element of the show’s creation flowed together. “I’m a big believer in making any show in just that thread (of the creative process) where the composer makes music, and you send that to the animators, and that would inspire them in some way. Then you take some of the drawings that the concept designers do and send them to the writers, and it’s inspiring to them.

A woman standing in an oasis surrounded by strange alien plants and creatures in Scavengers Reign.

Image: Max

Luminous pods grow from the ground, while in the animated series Scavengers Reign a man appears to be growing.

Image: Max

A woman and a man kneel under a tree branch decorated with strange leech-like creatures in Scavengers Reign.

Image: Max

And you can really see the creative cycle and symbiosis resonating throughout Scavengers rule, such as in the first episode, when Ursula and Sam reuse a blowfish-like creature as an air filtration mask and later as an escape device, or when Azi uses the pheromones of a jellyfish-like creature to repel the advance of a herd of presumably hostile aliens. “That was the really fun part. You’re like, These creatures fit really well with these organisms and this foliage, which goes well with this entire landscape,says Bennett. ‘It was just the idea that no matter how different they are, it all still feels like part of one planet, and also that there is some meaning to these things. Whether it’s a utility for the characters, or even what their functionality is on this planet.”

The result, even in a show with less dialogue, speaks volumes. The first season of Scavengers rule settles into a deliberately paced and thoughtful sci-fi story about more than just a group of survivors stranded on an alien planet, but a story about what a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship between humans and their environment should ideally strive for. “We were trying to tell a heartfelt story,” Bennett said. “The pacing was really important and gave some brevity to this kind of thing. (…) It was such an organic process until the end. And so things just changed and were constantly readjusted.

So much change in such a complicated process can certainly cause anxiety. But it felt important to the tone of the show. “You get so many better results when people feel like they can inject themselves into it,” says Prynoski. “A lot of these primetime comedy-style shows (…) are very much about phone-in jokes, and we’re so happy that that wasn’t the tone of this show.”

A golden cloaked skeleton holding an uprooted tree in one hand and an incense lantern in the other in Scavengers Reign.

Image: Max

At the time of writing, it’s been over a month since the news first broke Scavengers rule was canceled by Max after its premiere last October. Fans and newcomers to the show have been waiting with bated breath for news of a possible renewal of the series via Netflix, which added the series to its streaming library on May 31. When asked what his plans for a possible season 2 would look like, he replied: Bennett emphasized that the film would focus in part on the mysterious group of gold-masked figures who encounter one of Lev’s techno-organic descendants aboard a stranded scavenger ship . “I think there’s definitely some kind of roadmap,” Bennett said. “It might start to get vague after five or six episodes. But there’s definitely a roadmap and an idea for those guys.

“If we are lucky and can make a season 2, you will see a lot more context and it will make more sense. But I also really like the idea of ​​not knowing and just going with the flow, and things just change.

Season 1 of Scavengers rule is now streaming on Netflix and Max.