Reviews

Good Omens for Adaptations

Good Omens C&A.jpg

I’m picky.
I am doubly picky about things I love.

With E3 currently going on and inundating the world with hype for video games which may or may not be what they are saying they are (though I am most certainly excited about Cyberpunk 2077, doubly so than last year with Keanu Reeves now involved, and the VTM: Bloodlines 2 trailers are finally easing some of my concerns), I want to talk about something that turned out to be real, and good, already.

Good Omens

When I was a much younger person, still living in the UK and hoarding books like some kind of ink-addicted dragon, I read a book called ‘Good Omens’ for the first time.
It was a joint novel between a Mr. Terry Pratchett, who I already loved for the Bromeliad Trilogy, Carpet People and the Discworld, and some bloke named Neil Gaiman who I knew very little of at the time.

I loved it. It was an irreverent romp around the apocalypse, full of humor over the top of some very clever and thought-provoking ideas, and absolutely chock full of things I am glad I was exposed to at that age.

In a time where I was looking for female role models, coming across a book that made one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (War, of all people) a girl alongside everything else that book treated as normal was brilliant for me. And even without that important little influence on me, the sheer quality of the book, its characters, it madcap sequence of events… it was just a damn good book. Damn good. I re-read it regularly, and I was far from alone.

Fast-forward a decade or two, and not only had I become better read and more aware of the awesome Neil Gaiman, but we were also in the hard period of knowing Sir Terry would not be with us forever, or nearly so long as he and his family deserved.
Like many fans the world over, I was devastated with the unfair illness that ended Sir Terry’s life, and the loss of one of literature’s greatest treasures.
I was also very concerned to hear, at the time, that Good Omens was going to get a live action adaptation.
On Amazon, of all platforms.
Without Terry.

Good Omens Book
Pessimism

I love Good Omens, and I want to go ahead and state now that I love the adaptation. It’s brilliant.
But I really didn’t expect it to be.

What I love most in the world is stories, and I get many of them through other media than just books. In fact, growing up, many of the adaptations of stories I loved to live action were movies based on video games.
And that is where our story of pessimism starts, ladies and gents.

Street Fighter: The Movie.
Yeah. Yeah, if you’ve seen it, you know.
It’s a terrible movie. Its relation to the actual game is practically non-existent, and it was a parade of big-budget names spewed onto the screen to make a buck, with no love for the source material.
love this movie as one of those movies that is *so* bad it’s good but in terms of an adaptation of its source material? Awful.

And then there was also The Super Mario Brothers Movie.
And Mortal Kombat.
I love both of those too, but similar to Street Fighter, they weren’t really proper adaptations.

Things started to get better as time went on. The first Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie was a decent enough Lara Croft story, even if it wasn’t one of the stories we had already been told (probably a good thing).
But… at the same time… the first comic movies were trying their hand in theatres with the dismal original X-Men movies and Spiderman adaptations. Movies which not only did not tell the stories I wanted to hear but also decided everything that made the characters unique was bad and stuck them all in black leather outfits for no good reason.

It wasn’t really until the Silent Hill movie that I felt I had something that was a good adaptation of a source story I loved.
Then we got The Lord of The Rings, and all was good. Marvel came along with its cinematic universe, and while I don’t care for superhero movies, I do not ignore that Marvel has done its job well there.

But for all these steps forward, I never forgot the problems of the past. After all, they had been far more prevalent, and not just in adaptations of game stories.
One need only look at the Dracula movies to see a major issue in bringing literature to the screen. Or Sleepy Hollow.
Even critically acclaimed adaptations to TV or big screen have problems in not sticking entirely to the source, taking liberties or shifting focus, cutting things out. See: The Wizard of Oz, Pride and Prejudice, The Hobbit.

In short, when I knew an adaptation of a book I held close to my heart was coming, I had every reason to be concerned, and every past experience to draw from to know that being cynical about it would hurt less if it turned out to be bad.

But among all this worry on my part, there was one ray of hope. A good omen, as it were.

Good Omens Sketch

Neil Gaiman

Nothing is more reassuring than knowing someone close to the project, to the other person involved in it and the topics at hand is leading the charge.

Hearing that Neil Gaiman would be a producer on the show, with the some of the last requests Sir Terry ever made part of his commitment, really did allay a lot of my fears, and Mr Gaiman has done an incredible job steering that ship.

Obviously, no project of this size is ever the work of just one man, but I truly believe the joy and pleasure I found in Good Omens came in large part from Neil’s hand on the helm when needed, guiding the team to make the best series possible.

Good Omens, the TV series, is a project of passion, and it shows.
The story is paced very, very well, lingering where it needs to, snapping along when it doesn’t.
The characters are vibrant, genuine to the book, and acted so convincingly, I barely even gave a single moment to my original concern that David Tennant would not become  Crowley, but simply be The Doctor, playing Crowley. (Not the case. Tennant and Sheen filled their roles incredibly well, and every other actor chosen in every slot felt right, none of it forced or done just for diversity.)
The locations are exactly what they needed to be to evoke that child-like wonder of rural England, filmed with a flair true to the original text.
The creatures and animations used are so fluidly introduced, the fact they are not quite as good at top level Hollywood doesn’t matter or enter into one’s head in the moment.
The moments that have been modernized or changed for the differences in the world of today to the world of 1990 are all appropriate, in line with the story, and kept very strongly to the correct characterization of whoever is subject of the change.

In short, it is perfect.
Every worry I ever had for what could go wrong, was likely to go wrong, with adapting this book was unfounded, unjustified and unnecessary.
Everyone who worked on the series should be proud of what they created, and bringing to life something so dear to the hearts of so many.

This is what I dream of story adaptations. This is what I want to see more of, and give my money to. This is the baseline, default example that should be held up when talking about adapting written work to the screen because Good Omens is three things.

Fun.
Genuine.
Passionate.

It was made out of love, for the source material, the people who wrote it, the topics it handled and the fans who love it.
And I take my hat off to Amazon for not only embracing this project but keeping executive hands out of it and not turning it into a cynical, cliff-hanger riddled, money-making sinkhole.

It gives me hope for whatever adaptations may come next.

 

Good Omens is available now on Amazon Prime TV, as a book in both softcover and hardcover, and is well worth your time.
The Apocalypse has never been so comedically stylish.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s