It's all fun and games until the teenagers start talking...

After being pleasantly surprised by Audible's original audio drama, IMPACT WINTER, I was thrilled when I saw that they had even more of these to listen to freely (for some reason, I only just saw an advertisement for them even though some have been out for a while). Needless to say, I dove right into DANIEL X GENESIS, hoping I would have as much fun with a super hero teen drama penned by James Patterson as I did with the vampiric apocalypse.

3/5 This bizarre super hero romp is good fun, though egregiously cheesy dialogue and some campy performances hold it back from being as good as it could have been. 

Ultimately, I don't think that this is the type of production that tries to take itself too seriously. The story follows Daniel, who's a sarcastic and quippy teenage boy that also happens to have some rather interesting super powers. Discovering what his powers are exactly and why he has them is half the fun of this, so I won't get into details, but I actually thought that the narrative direction was quite strong when it came to Daniel's abilities as well as those of a couple other super powered characters that he meets. Where the story falters a bit is in the quirky high school slice of life side of things. Daniel's story has it all: the bully, the sultry love interest, the snarky best friend, and even multiple mentor characters. While none of the characters are bad in any way (in fact some are quite good), the dialogue between them is just absurd. I also couldn't shake the feeling that Patterson wasn't really sure if he wanted to write this for Millennials or Gen Z'ers so he just decided to chuck in jokes and references from both generations (with perhaps a much heavier leaning into the Millennial side). It definitely reeks of someone who has no idea of what teenagers are actually like trying to make their teenage characters as relatable as possible and failing hilariously in the process. Fortunately, because this is such a ridiculous story, the cheesier elements of the characterization actually fit in okay here. There's also enough cool super hero things going on between the cringeworthy high school moments to offer some good variety and pacing. There are also some great twists and turns throughout the adventure that I genuinely enjoyed.

Michael Cimino gives us probably the best possible performance that anyone could have as Daniel. As the main protagonist, he has to vacillate between annoyingly sarcastic, endearingly earnest, stereotypically awkward, and even sometimes profoundly sad. The range that Cimino manages to deliver while staying true to the character is quite impressive. The moments where I felt less fond of Daniel were definitely due to the writing and not the performance. Abigail Breslin's character is not only performed to perfection, but also gets some of the best dialogue and acts as an amazing foil to Daniel. There are other recognizable names in the voice cast as well, though I felt that some of them (particularly the voice actor for Jake) really overdid it on their vocal performances which cheapened the experience somewhat. The rest of the sound design from the special effects, to the ambient noises, and even a rather impressive pop rock song performed by some of the characters were all of an exceptionally high quality. I am sure that a great deal of effort went into this sound design and I was very impressed by it all.

Running in at just about two and a half hours, DANIEL X: GENESIS is well worth a listen for whenever you are in the mood for something a bit more silly and action packed. It's cringeworthy depiction of teenagers and the mixed quality of the voice acting will likely hold this back for many, but if you go in with the right expectations, I think this can pretty entertaining. 

(+) Full cast of voice actors
(+) High production value with the sound effects and background music as well
(+) An epic story that's brimming with all sorts of fun super powered drama
(-) Some of the voice performances are overdone
(-) A truly laughable depiction of teenagers that did not appear to be intentionally funny


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