Currently Watching: A Series of Unfortunate Events

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The other day, I finally decided to watch Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I first read the series when I received a complete boxed set for my thirteenth birthday (‘thirteen books for thirteen years,’ the dedication said). I read one book per day, to the detriment of my schoolwork, and absolutely fell in love. I even read two of the supplementary books, The Beatrice Letters and Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography (on that note, if anyone knows where I can get my hands on the rest of the books, leave me a comment!).

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When I first saw the Netflix series trailer, I was skeptical. It wasn’t a case of not wanting to see a favorite book put on the screen. After all, I adore the the 2004 movie. It’s more of a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The 2004 movie only covered The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window, but it was pretty great, and Jim Carrey was an awesome Count Olaf. Why on earth did Netflix feel the need to add to that?

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Still, I was intrigued. The visuals were pretty good, and of course, the Baudelaire fangirl that never died was screeching at me to get my hands on anything and everything in this universe. Also, I’ve been wanting books to be adopted into TV shows instead of movies for forever, so I decided to give it a whirl.

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The first season of A Series of Unfortunate Events is eight episodes long and covers four books: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill. Each book takes two episodes, all of which are already available on Netflix. For those who have never read the books, here’s a quick summary. In The Bad Beginning, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are orphaned by a fire that burns down their home, and are sent to live with a distant relative named Count Olaf. The self-obsessed, greedy count wants to get his hands on the fortune left to the Baudelaire orphans by their parents, and although his evil plans are foiled, he chases the Baudelaires as they move from guardian to guardian, assigned to them by Mr. Poe, the incompetent banker who is the executor of their parents’ estate.

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What I liked:

  • The visuals were amazing. It was something like out of a Tim Burton movie. There’s a sort of steampunk goth beauty to the scenery, the costumes, and the props. It was such a treat to look at, and very Pinterest-able or Tumblr-able, if that makes sense.
  • The song is so dang catchy! “Look away…loo-o-ok away-y-y-y…” And when I found out it was actually Neil Patrick Harris, who plays Count Olaf, singing, it made it ten times better.
  • Patrick Warburton! When I watched the first episode and saw who they cast as Lemony Snicket, at first I was like, “What the fuck, it’s Kronk.” But then as the show progressed, I realized Patrick Warburton was actually a good choice. His voice is low, deep, soothing, and – now that I think about it – is actually what I imagined Lemony Snicket’s voice would sound like. And now, when I reread the books, I can’t do it without hearing Kronk.
  • Speaking of casting, Joan Cusack was a great Justice Strauss, and Malina Weissman was perfect as Violet Baudelaire. I could gush forever and ever about these two. I honestly believe it was their performance that totally drew me into the pilot episode.
  • I liked the diversity of the cast. K. Todd Freeman and Cleo King in particular were a brilliant Mr. and Mrs. Poe, and Aasif Mandvi as Uncle Monty was really great – and thankfully not as incompetent as Billy Connolly’s Uncle Monty.

What I didn’t like:

  • Honestly? Neil Patrick Harris. I just couldn’t see him as Count Olaf. Jim Carrey set the bar way too high.
  • The plot twist regarding Cobie Smulders’ and Will Arnett’s characters was entirely unnecessary, and utterly heartbreaking.

Verdict:

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4/5. Despite the fact that this series’ Count Olaf totally dropped the ball, Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events – or at least, the first season – was a great tribute to the books. It was beautifully filmed, wonderfully cast, and left me wanting more. Personally, I cannot wait for the second season!

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