Tuesday, June 20, 2017

'American Gods' Is a Solid TV Adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Brilliant Fantasy Novel

In American Gods, the gods of mythology and ancient civilizations had come to and settled in America via the immigrants that believed in them.  However, in the present, since they are no longer worshiped as much as in old times, or have been forgotten, these Old Gods have become weak.  Instead, embodiments of media, technology, and globalization are the New Gods that dominate modern-day America.  A con artist named Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), who used to be a very powerful Old God, aims to regain the glory of his kind by rallying them against the New Gods.  And caught between this looming war between Old and New Gods are ex-con Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), whom Wednesday hired as his bodyguard, and his recently deceased wife Laura (Emily Browning), who has been inadvertently reanimated by the lucky golden coin of the leprechaun Mad Sweeney (Pablo Shreiber).

The novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, which this TV series is adapted from, is one of my most favorite fantasy books ever.   And, in my opinion as a fan of the book as well as a fan of Gaiman as a writer, this is one of the most solid screen adaptations of a beloved piece of literature I’ve ever seen.  I won’t say that it’s better than the book, in the same way Game of Thrones is better than the A Song of Ice and Fire books.  But it does improve a couple of aspects from the book.  Moreover, it effectively balances faithfully adapting key elements of its source material and featuring its own new stuff.
In a way, the slow pacing somewhat makes it tedious at times, as the narrative has been stretched out and padded so that a multi-season TV series can be made out of the source material.  But I like to think that this allows the characters to have the room and time to be more fleshed out.  I generally like the characterizations – especially of the New God Media.  However, I have a bit of nitpick about the main character, Shadow Moon.  When I read the book, I imagined the character to be more composed and larger than actor Ricky Whittle’s take on the character.

After watching the eight-episode debut season, I didn’t necessarily thoroughly love it, as it depicts themes that don’t work for me and there are a few bumps in its storytelling.  Still, I enjoyed watching it in general.  As with the novel, it has one of the most creative, most brilliant fantasy premises ever (though, I think, the comic book series God Is Dead has upped Gaiman on this “all-star gods” concept), and the potential directions that could spout from it inspires constant excited attentiveness.  On top of this, it has eye-candy visuals, the characters are interesting, and the narrative is mostly absorbing and dynamic.

American Gods is a divine new show.

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