Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the greatest stars the world has ever seen. This is a man who grew up in Austria, came to America, became Mr. Olympia, became a millionaire thanks to his real estate enterprises, became a movie star, married into American royalty, and then even became the Governor of the state he lives in. All of this in one life. Very few people do even a quarter of what Schwarzenegger has done. And yet, we still love to see him on screen. He really is a movie star, and with FUBAR, his new TV series on Netflix, he wants to give us one last reminder of his greatness.
FUBAR is a TV series created by Nick Santora and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Monica Barbaro, Jay Baruchel, Aparna Brielle, Andy Buckley, Milan Carter, and Gabriel Luna. The series tells the story of Luke Brunner, a veteran agent for the CIA who finally takes a break and decides to retire to be with his family. However, one last mission sends him to a place where he makes a fateful discovery; his older daughter is also an agent. Now, both parent and daughter will have to work together and finally meet each other for the first time after realizing they don’t know each other.
FUBAR comes with the tide of metamodernism permeating most of the content produced for both TV and cinemas. The movement tries to search for the ideas of old, the power of storytelling in its most essential terms, and combine it with the reconstruction of postmodernism. The result has been a series of movies and films that feel self-aware of their own existence and their place on a larger tapestry. FUBAR fits this scenario perfectly as a show that knows what it is and still tries to aim for the emotional resonance present in the movies and TV of old.
That is the goal, and FUBAR achieves it partially. The series takes the character of Luke Brunner and instantly fills it with everything that Schwarzenegger represents. We are in the face of a character that is pretty much taken from True Lies. In this one of Arnold’s most iconic roles, he also played a special agent that needed to balance his duty to save the world and his responsibilities as father and husband. FUBAR basically takes that premise and gives it another try, with Arnold’s character having older kids and having completely failed at his marriage. It all feels quite familiar.
At the same time, the series can’t stop making references to the media that surrounds it. Some characters are basically designed to spit pop culture references left and right. It is all part of the metamodernism that is being placed upon the film as its major cultural version, and while this can be fun, it can be with moderation, like everything else in life. FUBAR sometimes doesn’t know where to stop, and as it keeps reminding us that the series shares similarities with so many other shows and movies, sometimes you would wish you were watching those instead.
Being bombarded by constant pop culture references is a signature characteristic of metamodernism. While the movement is trying to push things forward by making us see stories from a new point of view, it seems like everybody is doing the same right now. Everything, Everywhere All at Once, even won the Oscar for Best Picture this year, and that tells you that the movement has reached or will soon reach its peak. FUBAR is getting released just in time to ride the wave, but I don’t expect many future shows riding the wave will be able to get away with it.
It is fun but tiresome. Fortunately, the show is solid from a filmmaking point of view. It contains enough action and comedic parts to keep people watching and achieve its goal of being an entertaining show. Yes, the dialogue can be a bit stiff, and the jokes are a sure hit or miss, but what is there is enough to warrant a couple of laughs and chuckles to keep interested in how this relationship will develop. The action scenes are also efficient. You will not be seeing something of the caliber of Warrior or Extraction in here, but again you have definitely seen worse in that department.
We need to consider that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a 75-year-old man at this point. He cannot really do the many things he did in his thirties, forties, or even fifties. So, most of the action his character partakes in is mostly done by using camera tricks and doubles. It is quite noticeable, but it works. It will all depend on how much you can keep your suspension of disbelief and how long. Monica Barbaro fairs quite better. After having seen her in Top Gun: Maverick, it is a sure thing that Barbaro can play the lead in any project. She really has a presence on screen.
The cinematography feels very standard. It sits in the middle of being quite good and current and slipping into the Netflix look, where every single shot is over-lit, and it all feels like a set all the time. At times, you can feel there is a lot of effort into making the show look good, and sometimes it seems they needed to shoot in a very tight studio. This makes the show a bit inconsistent from a visual standpoint. It doesn’t really hurt the narrative, but it will be quite the detail for the people who notice it. Other than that, the show’s look is solid.
The pacing is a bit off, especially in the middle of the season. This is not a surprise. The middle of any story is always the hardest to write because the characters are just wandering for a bit, developing themselves, and the story takes a backseat most of the time. The show didn’t need to be eight episodes. At least one hour of the total runtime feels like it could have been cut or at least exchanged for more interesting developments.
In the end, FUBAR achieves what it is set up to do. It creates a nice framework in which Arnold can once again be the start of the show. A solid cast and solid production values accompany him. The metamodernist element is quite strong, and those who are fans of Arnold and his previous works will have a blast finding all the references. The story is nothing new, so don’t expect many surprises. However, the simplicity and sincerity make the show feel worth watching.