'The Get Down' Might Be The Biggest Superhero Story Of 2016
Netflix‘s new series about the birth of hip-hop, The Get Down, is being called numerous things by reviewers in the press. “Flabby,” “muddled” and “overcooked” are just some of the language used when describing the Baz Luhrmann-created original program. Yet, one significant item they’re missing is the word “super-heroic,” and in this post I will explain why it is fitting for The Get Down.
First, let’s break down The Get Down, as the Baz Luhrmann-created, Nelson George-written, Nas-produced tale about the early days of hip-hop culture has a lot in its favor. There’s an unlikely lead character in Ezekiel (Justice Smith), a nostalgic-driven story and an element of fun that differentiates itself from that other ’70s romp, Vinyl, in a smart way. I was invited to see the first episode of The Get Down at Sony’s new location in New York City. While there I learned that “Books” (Ezekiel) has experienced a trauma, but he writes poems to help cope. His pining for Mylene (Herizen Guardiola), the preacher’s daughter with dreams of becoming the next Donna Summer, is a major crux to The Get Down‘s 90-minute pilot.
As a coming-of-age story, The Get Down is populated by a host of young, budding actors who showcase varying degree of skill and aplomb. There’s Cadillac (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the requisite coked-out gangster with eyes for Mylene. Dizzee (Jaden Smith), an enigmatic graffiti writer, his brothers Ra-Ra (Skylan Brooks) and Boo-Boo (T.J. Brown Jr.), who are both wise beyond their years. And last, but certainly not least, Shaolin Fantastic (Dope‘s Shameik Moore) — a graffiti artist who is learning the art of DJ-ing from Grandmaster Flash (Mamoudou Athie). These players help to tell + build out the “super-hero” story within The Get Down — essentially becoming the “Superfriends” to Ezekiel and Shaolin’s “Batman and Superman” personas.
The Netflix series, more specifically episode one, attempts to cram the early history of hip-hop culture (graffiti, breaking, rap); a love story; the crime wave and corruption in New York City and the transition between disco and rap in a 90-minute pilot. Where it succeeds most though is in introducing a new audience to the gritty details and facts of hip-hop through a mixture of passion, clever wit, imaginative storytelling and a comic-book inspired act of hero-building. As Books and Shaolin Fantastic compete over an item that serves as a major plot device, The Get Down frames the latter as a hip-hop master-in-training, equipped with the kung-fu swoosh. It is in that energy where the show, at least in this first offering, gives us a thrilling look at hip-hop as a superhero.