April 27th, 2014
|09:36 pm - The Dresden Files? More Like Wizard Detective, Dear Viewer!|
I love The Dresden Files, the book series, but I had not heard many good things about The Dresden Files, the TV series, even though it was the reason I first heard of the book series. But some people did like it, so I wanted to check it out.
My first reaction, of course, was EVERYTHING IS WRONG WHY DID THEY CHANGE ALL THIS AAAARGH. The basic premise of the series remains: Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, consults with the police department to solve cases involving the supernatural. But most of the details have been altered. Instead of wielding a rune-covered staff, Dresden wields a...hockey stick. Instead of being a crass, wisecracking talking skull, Bob is an occasionally crass, mostly proper British ghost who lives in a skull. And so on and so forth. Backstories, names, personalities: changed! They do make two notable changes to increase the racial diversity of the series, though: Lieutenant Murphy becomes Latina and Morgan becomes black. (Sadly, one of the few characters in the book series who is not white becomes white in the TV series, but since she's only in one episode, it kind of evens out? Over centuries of white supremacy? I don't know.)
But to judge the series as an adaptation would do it an injustice. You don't have to have read the books to enjoy the series (and, in fact, you're more likely to enjoy it if you haven't). How does the show work as an urban fantasy series?
Fairly well! The show does have its hands tied by making Murphy ignorant of magic, which makes her trust in Dresden slightly mystifying, but otherwise, it's as fun as expected to watch Dresden and Murphy solve cases together, with the help of a centuries-old ghost who has a treasure trove of knowledge. I appreciated that the show made up lots of cool magical detectiving ideas that are not in the books. Dresden does face some of the same foes from the books: vampires, werewolves, bodysnatchers, etc. But most of the stories are wholly original, and they acquit themselves well, frequently doing the Supernatural thing where you spend half the episode thinking the villain is one thing when in fact you've been looking at it all wrong.
(The special effects are crap, though.)
Even though the early episodes are a bit rough, the show's main strength is its excellent cast. Paul Blackthorne nails Harry Dresden, world-weary and sarcastic, delivering dry, noir-ish voiceovers. Terrence Mann, though not the Bob of the book, is a delight every time he's onscreen. Valerie Cruz, though not the Murphy of the book, balances warmth and tough-nosed cop. Conrad Coates leaves a lasting impression as Morgan, the Warden (wizard cop) who's always cleaning up after Harry and also blames him for everything because black magic.
For about half the series, we get worldbuilding and character development, and about halfway through, continuity begins to kick in, and the series upgrades from mediocre to good. And then its last few episodes, it upgrades to really good, as it finds its voice, how best to tell stories with the characters it has in the world it's created. You guys, obviously a ghost can't die and the show still made me fear for a ghost's life. It does such a great job grounding everything that the magical elements never seem absurd or out of place, and even though it keeps things light at times, it understands that it needs real emotional stakes, and it goes for them.
The Dresden Files only lasted 12 episodes, and although it never comes close to attaining the brilliance of the book series—which has a much larger scope—it had the potential to become something very special. Thankfully, it does not end on a painful cliffhanger. I'm glad Harry Dresden got to be on television, but it's too bad he didn't set SciFi on fire. Er, in a good way.
Current Mood: okay
Current Music: Frou Frou - Shh
I really liked the show. They did a great job of adapting the themes and characters to a different medium. I'm not sure I could pick a favorite Bob, they are each exactly the right Bob for their systems.
Ever since this show I tend to perk up when Paul Blackthorne is in anything, he was so good.
I hear he's in Arrow now! I did really like him in this show. And I agree that each Bob is exactly the right Bob for their medium.
I spent the first few episodes trying to place him, before realizing he was the evil English guy in the one Bollywood epic I've made it through multiple times -- the cricket movie Lagaan.
WAIT HE WAS IN THAT OH MY GOD.
Ha! I didn't realize they were accent-switching. I assumed Terrence Mann was British. How funny.
|Date:||April 29th, 2014 01:10 am (UTC)|| |
This show is...uh, not one of my favorites? But it had its moments - the dragon episode most of all - and sometimes I liked it most when it veered off and did its own thing: TV!Murphy and TV!Bob are very little like their book counterparts, but they fill the Murphy and Bob-shaped spaces in the story in their own lovely ways. (That said, the less said about TV!Susan, the better. Yikes.)
I agree about Murphy and Bob. Not the book, but still good for the show. And the dragon episode was great.
I heard the actress for Susan was reading for Murphy and vice-versa, in one of those Sarah Michelle Gellar/Charisma Carpenter switcheroos.
Definitely the right choice, in my opinion. I've seen the actress who played Susan in other things and... well, let's just say that I don't think "tough cop" is a role that's within her capabilities.
I saw the TV show before I read the books and yes, they're very different. But I enjoyed the series on its own merits. My mental images of Harry and Morgan while I was reading the books were pretty much the TV versions (actually, TV Morgan is pretty cool in general: his staff is a sword, he has the almost-literal power of Offscreen Teleportation, he can think Harry's a sack of shit without being a completely unreasonable fanatic, and he likes jazz) and I think I like TV Bob better than Book Bob (whose "funny pervert" schtick was already tiresome to me from years of anime). One can kind of think of it as early Harry, when he's still getting established, not that badass yet, not dealing with end-of-world level stuff yet, and when Murphy was still in denial about the supernatural (hence his disguising his evocation tools as a hockey stick and drumstick). And some of the thaumaturgy he does in the show was performed in ways I thought were neat.
But yes, a very different animal from the books.
Because I saw the show first, I'm still really fond of it and there are a few things I like better. Bob's backstory and personality is more interesting, and I actually like show Murph much better. And you know, I love his hockey stick and drum stick, the way you feel like he's using real objects as tools. It fits with Butcher's description of how Dresden makes potions, and also helps him blend in with the mundanes. I'd have been really curious to see where they went with it.
The hockey stick and drumstick do seem silly, but I think they do fit in that world. I would have liked to see it where it went as well.
And I agree that Bob has a much more poignant and interesting backstory, although I like the darkness of book Bob (which they didn't get to play with in the show).
I think I had a similar reaction to the TV series - the WTF-hockey stick threw me a little but it is an adaptation after all so things do have to get adapted.
Paul Blackthorne was what made it for me - spot on characterization, I thought.
It is a real shame it only got one season, though.
And on a completely different note, I finally got to see the the Veronica Mars movie (only a very limited special showing release here) and I spotted you on the DVD "Making of .....". You're a star! :-)