They don’t get much nerdier than Michael Shanks and his D&D inspired, pop-culture explosion of a Web Series, The Wizards Of Aus!
By Susan E. Clarke
This ain’t no ‘vlogging-one-location-Web show’, although the concept could have easily taken it down that route for someone with lesser VFX skills than creator Michael Shanks, his craft honed to perfection since he was 12.
The Wizards of Aus is a sitcom about a wizard called Jack (played by Shanks himself) who renounces his powers to try to live a normal (that is, magic-free) life in suburban Melbourne. But that’s easier said than done. He still has to fend off his own personal, and self-proclaimed, antagonist Skulldrich (fiendishly played by Mark Bonanno), as well as fight for wizard rights, which is quite poignant given today’s political standpoint. He is accompanied by love interest Kylie (Menik Gooneratne) who tries to school him in the ways of the ‘human realm’ – but if you think you know the ending with this particularly well-known set up, I wouldn’t place any bets!
This series would appeal to any classic nerd with comedy taste buds that follow the likes of Rick and Morty, Futurama and Adventure Time. The show hits so many popular niches and it is not surprising to see it cleaning the boards with its attendance and success in the Web Festival world right now. It has also done very well as a three-part mini-series on television, and there is certainly a lot to like. The first five minutes leave you breathless with a battle between orcs and half the playable cast of Skyrim at which even Peter Jackson would double-take. And that is even before the dragon. Yes, dragon!
However, as the series played out I found myself getting character-blocked by the extensive use of VFX, and while the set up was very strong in the first few episodes Jack’s motivation and direction appeared to get a little sub-plotted by jokes which went so far that whole episodes were put aside for them, bringing us out of the main story completely. It just appeared that Shanks’s universe was perhaps a little too big to tell in just six episodes. Which was a shame, because there are certainly hundreds of awesome ideas floating around: talking sharks and inter-species love affairs between humans and unicorn to say the very least!
Overall The Wizards of Aus is undoubtedly a triumph and deserves all the recognition it gets. There’s no doubt that financial backing (provided by Screen Australia through its multiplatform investment fund) and a good writer can make web series go a long way. If you’re looking for a high quality production with plenty of nerdy, silly fun, then this is the show for you.
Watch The Wizards of Aus on YouTube