Netflix’s Space Force Review: Carell and Malkovich create potential the rest of the series can’t support
The new Netflix comedy that’s inspired from the newest branch of our military, Space Force, brings together Greg Daniels, creator of The Office (U.S.) and Parks and Recreation, and Steve Carell once again for a comedic adventure that’s a tad too under-whelming.
The series follows General Mark R. Naird (Carell) – who is tasked to lead a new division of the U.S. military, Space Force, after being promoted to the rank of a four-star general. However, the position is met with scrutiny as Mark’s family is upset that they have to move to a desolate area and Mark struggles to be the leader his division needs. He’s constantly clashing with Dr. Mallory (John Malkovich), Space Force’s lead cynical scientist, dealing with annoyingly inept employees, and situations gone wrong as he attempts to please the always unpleased POTUS. However, through his determination and drive to prove his worth, Mark is leading the charge in making Space Force the top branch of the military and putting “boots on the Moon by 2024.”
Daniels and Carell reteaming is an absolute joy as Carell is easily one of the best aspects of Space Force alongside Malkovich’s familiar, but funny performance. While he’s definitely just Michael Scott in a general’s uniform, Carell really gives it his all every time he’s in frame. He’s the driving force of all of Mark’s hilarity and sometimes he’s so overly serious about wanting to succeed and maintaining his leadership status that it puts him in some situations that are really damn funny. From him putting himself in a psychological experiment that he’s not qualified for to trying to direct a space chimp to fix a satellite that was sabotaged by China, Carell is elevating even the more menial aspects of Mark’s life to hilarious heights. He even makes the more narcissistic and selfish parts of Mark a little more endearing with how he becomes closer with Dr. Mallory and his daughter Erin (Diana Silvers).
Malkovich is also incredibly funny here as he acts as a more logical foil to Mark’s bull-headed mindset. The way he kind of knows that everything happening around him is stupid is hilarious and watching him cut people around him down, expect for his right-hand scientist Dr. Chan (Jimmy O. Yang), is a genuine treat. His entire dismantling of the “moon battle” against the Air Force was perfect and Malkovich is this cynical, logical energy that gives the show a lot of balance. Not to mention, him and Carell bounce off one another greatly and their chemistry with one another is what makes Space Force a little unique – aside from some of the issues they encounter trying to get the division off the ground.
The overall premise of the show strikes up enough humor to create some pretty great moments – even if they’re kind of generic. Mark placing himself into Mallory’s social experiment is great as he becomes this disruptive force that comes to a head with a scene of him running outside in a spacesuit that had me dying the second he pops into frame. Honestly, the second episode had a lot of hilarity with Mark and the crew trying to get the division’s top space chimp to fix a satellite and the way it all wraps up is perfect. To also give some credit to the writing from Daniels and Carell, the series also hits some surprising emotional beats that I didn’t expect it to. From a heartbreaking moment with the space chimp in space to Mark having guilt over exposing a secret of Mallory’s, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my heart didn’t swell at some of strong moment of this series.
However, I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that some of the premises and concepts of these episodes tread into familiar and typical territory. Things like going to a budget meeting and finding a traitor in their mix are just super familiar and without Carell and Malkovich giving it all they got, this series probably wouldn’t be as lively as they make it. Hell, they even have a summer camp style battle with the Air Force that’s kind of anti-climactic and not as grand it would seem. Each episode also kind of has the same kind of format with zany nonsense leading to a heartwarming ending of sorts and it makes the overall experience a little bland and lacking variety.
The series also lacks a sense of support as Carell and Malkovich carry a lot of the comedic weight for supporting characters that just aren’t interesting. Frankly, the most interesting supporting character of these is Chan because Yang does add a nice comedic energy and has a good dynamic with Malkovich. However, he and the rest of the other characters aren’t given as many interesting story threads or jokes to make them standout. Not to mention, they all just kind of represent typical work stereotypes and positions, like an annoyingly overbearing social media manager (Ben Swartz), a nosy Russian who is a possible spy (Owen Daniels), and a plucky hopeful (Tawny Newsome), and even the family troubles that Mark has with Erin aren’t all that interesting. The series’ main antagonist, General Kick Grabaston (Noah Emmerich) of the Air Force, is not even all that intimidating or funny, so when he’s on-screen he’s such a joke that you just ignore him completely. Even the jokes with POTUS, obviously being about Trump, slowly start to lose their luster over time and feel like easy shots that aren’t all that impressive.
Space Force certainly shows its potential with great performances from Carell and Malkovich and some interesting premises, but it’s only because of these things that this series doesn’t completely buckle due to the complete lack of support from other characters and more unique ideas. Netflix users looking for a fun Carell and Malkovich dynamic and an interesting setting will certainly find something to enjoy with Space Force, but it fails to reach the heights of plenty of Daniels’ past works.
Watch the Trailer Here: