Solar Opposites review: Rick and Morty without Dan Harmon is still great
Hulu's new show won't blow your mind, but it's a lot of fun.
In a sense, Justin Roiland owes his career to Dan Harmon. The Rick and Morty co-creator was discovered at Harmon's LA film festival, Channel 101, where a vulgar Back to the Future parody sparked what would eventually become Adult Swim's biggest show ever. Since then, Roiland has launched his own video game studio and taken on various smaller roles, but he hasn't done anything as major as Rick and Morty — until now. Enter Solar Opposites.
From Roiland and Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty executive producer and the show's unofficial third showrunner), Solar Opposites is an animated sci-fi comedy that manages to take itself even less seriously than Rick and Morty. Instead of parodying popular movies and TV shows with clever twists, Solar Opposites succeeds by smashing sci-fi concepts together into something entertaining but ultimately a little unfulfilling.
Nothing in Solar Opposites will blow your mind like the best Rick and Morty episodes often do, but this new show still manages to be consistently funny — and sometimes even clever.
Solar Opposites follows a quasi-family of aliens sent to Earth from their dying planet. The cast includes Roiland as two adult aliens with an Odd Couple dynamic. (Korvo is a Debbie Downer obsessed with fixing their busted spaceship, while Terry wheres ironic T-shirts and just wants to party.) They're joined by child-sized clones of themselves: Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone, The Goldbergs) and Jesse (Mary Mack). And then there's the Pupa, something between a baby and a pet that's also a ticking time bomb ready to terraform the planet and destroy all life on it in the process.
None of this really matters, though, because Solar Opposites is only using that elevator pitch to tell wacky sci-fi stories. That includes one episode where Korvo and Terry create a real-life version of a popular TV show character to be their friend (things go terribly wrong) and another where they deploy nano-bots to spy on their suburban neighbors so they can become more popular. (Things go terribly wrong here, too.)
Each episode follows a pretty familiar structure with a setup, a B-plot involving Yumyulack and Jesse, and a half-assed resolution that's just entertaining enough to work. There's not much of Dan Harmon's famous story circle technique here, though there is one major season-spanning exception that helps balance out some of the earlier and less-exciting episodes. (Hulu asked me not to reveal it, but trust me when I say that it's pretty great.)
When it comes to the animation, Solar Opposites falls somewhere between the janky look of early Rick and Morty and the more impressive work of its latest season. The character design is fine but a little basic (making your protagonists androgynous aliens definitely makes things easy for the animators), and there aren't many exciting set pieces. The animation won't distract you, but it's not the reason you're going to keep watching, either.
Finally, if you're wondering whether Roiland's voice acting skills are deep enough to handle two more main characters, the answer is ... kinda? While Rick and Morty are both clearly identifiable by their voice, many of the smaller voices Roiland does on that show can feel like small deviations from its two protagonists.
In Solar Opposites, we get Terry, who doesn't necessarily sound like any Roiland character we've heard before but also isn't that funny of a voice. There's also Korvo, who sounds a bit like Rick with a slightly deeper voice and no drinking problem. Korvo sounds funny, but he's not very original.
The other two main characters on Solar Opposites are both kids, so their voices sound childlike but not particularly funny. On the plus side, Season 1 is also packed full of guest stars, including the voices of Alan Tudyk, Andy Daly, Christina Hendricks, Jason Mantzoukas, Rainn Wilson, and Tiffany Haddish.
Ultimately, Solar Opposites is fine, entertaining, and maybe even great. If you're a Rick and Morty fan you've pretty much hit the jackpot right now as that show returns and this spiritual spinoff lands on Hulu. But I'd be pretty shocked if Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan's new show proved to be a cultural juggernaut in the same way as Rick and Morty.
All eight episodes of Solar Opposites Season 1 will be streaming on Hulu starting May 8.