- The HBO show manages to be more like the comic book than the movie ever was, even though — or rather exactly because — it is nothing like the original while the movie was for the most part a literal shot-for-shot translation of the comic and therefore missed two things that made the comic great: 1. amplifying the anxiety of the day to intolerable levels, and 2. deconstructing its own medium.
- Re: no 1, the original was all over the place time-wise but mostly set in the 80s and the perceived threat was nuclear holocaust. The movie came out in the mid-2000s, during the time of war against terror and existential angst, but was still set in the 80s and the threat again was nuclear holocaust — two beats already missed. The HBO series is all over the place time-wise but is for the most part set in 2019, and the perceived threat is white supremacy. Note the “perceived” and note that it takes some time for the real villains to be revealed.
- Re: no 2, I’ll pick just one example although there are many. The original featured a comic book within the comic book. Of course, in a world in which super heroes are real, escapist media wouldn’t be doing its job just by featuring even more super heroes. So what kids get instead are pirates, and what you as a reader get are panels featuring ships at sea, pirate raids, and the like, interspersed with the “real” story, to great effect. The movie had… breaks in which it showed panels from that same pirate-themed comic book, with the same story line. Only because you’re not mixing two comic books but instead are interrupting a movie to show some drawings, it doesn’t work at all. The HBO series, brilliantly, has a TV show within a TV show, which is, again brilliantly, not pirate-themed. As to what it is, well, that’s one knock I’d have against the show because it’s trying to be cute and funny, and yes a parody docu-drama about super hero origins in the style of American Crime Story is cute and funny, but it’s not in the spirit of the original.
- Another knock against the HBO series is that it coddles the audience, almost as if HBO got complaints about a few of its other shows being too obtuse. A dialogue line was foreshadowed 10 minutes ago in a different dialogue? Cut to the foreshadowing. Characters recognize a clue in something that occurred two episodes ago? Cut to that scene to remind you what happened. A character breaks an egg? Cut to them holding a different egg in a scene from the same episode. Why?
- Yes, it’s petty criticism, but the show is so masterful in so many other ways that the tiny imperfections stick out. Also, it’s also easier for me to list the few things I didn’t like because everything else (Regina King! Jeremy Irons! Jean Smart! The kid actors! The two skinny white guys who I hope will team up for Season 2! The self-conscious wokeness. That soundtrack!) is pitch perfect.
- A half-sequitur: everything I liked about Lost was put in there by Damon Lindelof, and everything bad about it came from JJ Abrams. I didn’t realize that at the time, but their work post-Lost speaks for itself.
- It ties with Westworld Season 1 as the second-best season of the decade, but The Leftovers Season 2 is still my number 1.
Directed by Various, 2019