Monday, June 05, 2017

American Gods

I read Neil Gaiman's American Gods so long ago that I barely remember it.  I know I liked it, but honestly I remember it more in concept than anything else.  Perhaps that's why I'm enjoying the hell out of Starz' television adaptation of it so much, I'm not sweating the details of the source material that much. 

Rather than painstakingly recreating the book, as well as elements of its pseudo-sequel Ananzi Boys, showrunners Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies," "Hannibal") and Michael Green (Logan, Alien: Covenant, and Green Lantern) have wisely chosen to concentrate on dazzling visuals and mining the incredible talent of their cast.  First and foremost among the latter is Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday.  He is perfect as the conman and old god Odin who plots against the new gods. He ruled every scene he appeared in on HBO's much-missed "Deadwood" so I couldn't ask for a better lead. 

Ricky Whittle from the the UK's "Hollyoaks" is more than adequate as Shadow, who's learning of the gods just as we viewers do.  The rest of the cast so far is a wonder of stuntcasting, and that's a good thing.  One can never take one's eyes off Crispin Glover in anything he's in, and then there's Cloris Leachman, Kristen Chenoweth, and Corbin Bernsen. 

Gillian Anderson shines as Media, a small role in the book, but here stunning as manifestations of Lucille Ball, David Bowie, and Marilyn Monroe.  Also impressive are Pablo Schreiber as the leprechaun and the usually annoying comedian Dane Cook in a surprising and serious turn.

So far it seems more of a road trip than a war of the gods, but I'm having fun watching week after week.  Fun television is not something we get very often any more, and this is one of the bright spots.  It may inspire me to pick up the book(s) again, but I'm afraid I might be disappointed.  I think the show might be superior. 

1 comment:

  1. I've only seen the first four episodes so far. While I really enjoyed it overall, I feel that it is at its best when sticking to the books (which I loved, so maybe I'm being too critical of the show due to high expectations); the show falls apart for me when it deviates too much from Gaiman's story (all of episode 4, for instance). I understand that no adaptation is going to be one hundred percent faithful to the source material, and I'm okay with that. However, I don't much like the parts of the story that are being added, whole-cloth, in what seems to be an effort to pad the show's overall run time. I agree with you about pretty much everything else though; the casting decisions were excellent and the actors generally put on above-average to excellent performances. I'm also happy with the music choices, for the most part.

    I'm a little put out at the cartoonish nature of the violence in the show, however. I don't mind overt or even graphic violence in my entertainment, but the way that it is handled in the show can be jarringly absurd, at times, in ways that clash with and undermine the rest of the show's mood (like the opening scene of the first episode, in which a severed arm is seen lazily careening through the air high above the battle, sword still clutched in its hand).

    Maybe I'm overthinking all of this. Anyway, thank you for your review, Glenn.