Friday, November 26, 2010

The Walking Dead Episodes 2-4

So I've fallen way behind and finally had a chance to catch up on the current AMC series The Walking Dead which I am watching through Amazon Unbox Video, since we don't have cable here. After staying very close to the plot of the graphic novels, the TV show has changed things quite a bit, adding new characters (who I assumed would be red shirts but are still around) and new situations for Rick and the other survivors.

I suppose purists would complain about changing the story line. In my opinion, it's okay to change how the story goes if the story telling is true to the central ideas, themes and tone of the original. Consider some examples: The first two Harry Potter films hewed as closely as possible to the books, resulting in a kind of "paint by numbers" film that's more or less unsatisfactory to film critics and film lovers. A film tells a story differently than a book. Later Potter films do a better job of being films when they less slavishly adhere to the book.

Another example is the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which took many liberties with the plot, introducing new characters and story lines. That didn't bother me so much, especially since the story changed from the original radio play to the books. What did bother me was the overall inability to hit the themes and tone of the previous stories. The clever and wacky tone is occasionally found in the film, for example in the opening musical number by the dolphins who are about to leave the earth. But the sharpness of Douglas Adams' wit is more absent than present, leaving the Hitchhiker's fan unsatisfied.

A third example is Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Quite a bit of reorganizing, adding and cutting were required to make the book into a good movie experience. Occasionally the movies misstep here and there, but most are understandable (dwarfs are for comic relief; Aragorn "dying and coming back to life" in The Two Towers). The tone and themes of the novel are well translated into the films without turning the films into an extended "book on film." Hopefully The Hobbit will fare as well.

So how does The Walking Dead series shape up? The tone is exactly like the books--the viewer definitely feels the oppression of living in a zombie apocalypse and how the biggest problem is the normal people turning on each other. It's nice to have a different story line, especially for a horror story. The scares are fresh because you don't anticipate them. New and different issues of how to treat others comes up. In a moment of panic, Rick and a group of scavengers handcuff a man to the roof of a building and later are forced to flee before freeing him. How will they handle leaving him there? Of course they go back but what happens is unexpected because the story is in "new" territory. So I would say this story has been well adapted and is engrossing.

I'm enjoying the show, except that the gore level is very high. Moving from black and white comics to full color live action makes the gore, at least to me, much harder to watch. I know I said in my last review that the kills looked a little too CGI but they are already getting better at that. Also, the zombies eating innards in broad daylight isn't fun to watch since those scenes look pretty realistic. Definitely not for kids or the faint of heart. Only two more episodes to go for this season. I will definitely watch the rest and let you know what I think.

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