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‘Zero’ Review: A Look at a Real Life Superhero Through the Eyes of an Average Teen

Netflix's "Zero."
Netflix's "Zero." By Courtesy of Netflix
By Mikel J. Davies, Crimson Staff Writer

“Zero,” Netflix’s new superhero series, follows the life of Omar (Giuseppe Dave Seke), also known as “Zero,” as he navigates his power and bonds with his new group of friends in the Barrio, a neighborhood that Zero comes to love and cherish. When vandals and thieves threaten to ruin the neighborhood that Zero calls home, he and his ragtag gang of friends are prepared to fight tooth and nail to save it.

Continuing the theme of realistic superhero fiction established by classics like “Daredevil” and "Jessica Jones," “Zero” approaches the genre through the lens of banal, everyday life. What would happen if that neighbor down the street could suddenly fly? What if the little grandma in her garden had laser vision? What if a working-class teenager could miraculously turn invisible? By not instantly becoming another Marvel hero with incredible power and inexplicably well-established connections, Zero stays accessible, with none of the typical Hollywood glam. For the first time, this isn’t unique. With the recent release of Season Three of “The Boys” and “Invincible” — both Amazon Prime originals — it seems audiences are getting a realistic look at what happens when real people, rather than Tony Stark or Steve Rogers, get superpowers.

Filmed completely in Milan with a group of mostly unknown actors, “Zero” was a new venture into foreign-produced superhero franchises for Netflix. In many ways, their lack of marketing abroad for the series seems like their single greatest mistake. “Zero” might be unconventional for the American market because it’s filmed in Italian, but with the rise in popularity of anime, more Netflix users are willing to watch subtitled content (which, compared to the dubbed English edit, comes across more naturally).

One of the greatest assets of the show is its score, which comes across subtly at first and always rises to meet and emphasize the emotions on screen. By utilizing the variety of sounds and emotions that a synthesizer can produce when paired with on-screen action, music supervisor Marco de Angelis managed to manufacture powerful emotions, creating a sense of harmony between the actors and the music. For example, when Shariff (Haroun Fall) sees his brother taken away in handcuffs, he and his mother come together in a tearful embrace, and the swelling orchestration builds a moving moment.

With a new cast and a lead actor with little prior experience, it seemed that Netflix's gamble has paid off. While there were moments where elements weren’t executed perfectly, “Zero” capitalized on what each actor could bring to the table and ran with it. With its focus on life in Milan’s Barrio, “Zero” is also notably a great show to watch to gain a greater understanding of migrant struggles anywhere in the world. By highlighting an Italian-language project starring newer actors, hopefully “Zero” can set the stage to allow new talent and perspectives onto Netflix’s mainstream.

— Staff writer Mikel J. Davies can be reached at mikel.davies@thecrimson.com.

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