Fans have been clamouring for live action adaptations of Neil Gaiman’s books and comics for years but with The Sandman and Good Omens trapped in development hell, can Starz’s TV adaptation of American Gods help fill the void?
When it comes to adapting Neil Gaiman’s work for the TV or cinema screens one of its greatest strengths can also be its greatest weakness. The comic (or novel) page can convey an image of say, Morpheus of The Endless, striding across all of eternity, relatively easily (no offence to any comic artists out there) but realising those visions on a TV budget can be altogether more difficult.
Unlike The Sandman, Starz/Amazon Prime’s adaptation of American Gods has a slightly easier time of it, set, for the most part, in modern day America. It still manages to find plenty of ways to dazzle however with its sumptuous visuals.
Coming to America
After a short, bloody vignette illustrating how some wayward Vikings enticed their gods to the New World, we are introduced to Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), prison convict. With only days to go before the end of his incarceration, he’s looking forward to a reunion with his wife. Unfortunately it’s not to be as he receives early release to attend her funeral. As misfortune piles upon misfortune, Shadow runs into the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), some sort of con-man who seems to know an annoying amount about Shadow. With his old life seemingly in tatters Wednesday offers Shadow a mysterious job and that’s when things really get odd.
It’s hard to know quote what to make of American Gods after just one episode. Gaiman fans (and I’d count myself as one) are predisposed to liking it while viewers new to the material may be lost trying to keep up the odd characters, strange visions, lack of explanations and bizarre sex scene. I’m in the enviable position of having read the book but having done so long enough ago that the details are hazy. I’ll bear with it even when a woman, who the audience hasn’t been properly introduced to, swallows a man whole… AND SHE DOESN’T USE HER MOUTH!!
I’m not so sure new viewers will be as forgiving.
Quite the look you got there
It looks like it will be worth sticking with though. As expected of a show co-created by Bryan Fuller, the show looks fantastic. It has the deep colours of Pushing Daisies and the strange tableau of Hannibal. A scene in a bar that looks like the the head of an crocodile stands out, it’s teeth forming the lights for the establishment, but everything has a defined look, most prominently the people Shadow encounters. Even the the credit sequence is beautifully designed and oddly manages to evoke the aesthetic of Ghost in the Shell more clearly than the recent movie did.
Be warned however, this is definitely NOT a show to watch with kids in the room. Broadcast on cable in the US American Gods is bloody and foul mouthed with plenty of nudity in that bizarre sex scene. It’s definitely a show to keep watching but maybe not with Grandma.
Oozing style, charisma and unspoken menace American Gods is off to a promising start. As Gaiman is working with the TV show creators to update elements (like the appearance of Technical Boy) and change the story so it diverges from the book there should be plenty to keep everyone interested.
Episodes of American Gods are now available to watch on Amazon Prime, the day after they air in the U.S. For more information for your areas see this handy tweet from Neil Gaiman himself!
How to watch American Gods around (almost all of) the world. pic.twitter.com/FaTPgBE10n
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) April 17, 2017
Starring: Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Pablo Schreiber, Yetide Badaki.
Directed by: David Slade (Episode 1)
Official Site here.