So I finally got around to seeing the first episode of American Gods, and I have to say, it was well done. The cast is pretty amazing, and the visual storytelling is at times, honestly, hauntingly beautiful.
That being said, I fear that this show is trying to hard to be Vikings, and not hard enough to be a genre defining tv moment. And it all comes down to the blood and gore.
Don't get me wrong, I know that the book was quite visceral in its relating of the story, as is Neil Gaiman's want, but the effect a description of an evisceration has, versus the visual spectacle of one, couldn't be more different.
And that's really the core of the issue for me. There is faithfulness in an adaptation, and then there is catering to spectacle over substance. I liken it to the effect that most of Quentin Tarantino's films have one me.
There is a visual and cognitive dissonance that exists in most of his movies the ruins them for me, and for many others.
In most of his recent work, it feels like Mr. Tarantino had partial ideas for two movies, that shared a setting, and he just mashed them together.
The Hateful Eight is a strikingly beautiful, tightly written character drama, until they reach the house. Then it 180's and becomes a very, very over exaggerated spaghetti western.
It was maddening, and destroyed the movie for me. The same thing happened with From Dusk til Dawn. I would love to see both of the movies they previewed in that double feature sneak peek thingy.
Alas, we won't ever get to see the rest of those films, a gritty crime drama and a wonderfully whacked out vampire flick, and the world is less interesting for it.
All of this to say, that I fear the same thing is happening with American Gods. There is a beautiful, timely story to be told within the script pages. A story that explores faith, devotion, addiction, temptation and truth.
And I am sure they will be doing their best to tell that story, but the incongruity between the beats, one moment we are in the middle of a noir movie, with Shadow driving Mr. Wednesday around in an old black caddy, then we are in the midst of bodies exploding with buckets of blood and spinal columns flying through the air with the greatest of ease.
It's tiring as a viewer to switch from a contemplative, story driven moment to a spectacle, grotesque one that quickly. It feels very one note, and intentional, in a bad way. Contrast this with something like Vikings or Taboo, and you immediately see the difference.
The very fabric of those stories are brutal, bloody and grotesque. The visual spectacle of gore, blood and entrails serves to support the narrative and sharpen the world to a razors edge, which in turn allows the viewer to feel the danger, suspense and surprise in a much more visceral way.
In American Gods, it simply jars you out of the world that is being crafted.
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