Monday, December 6, 2010

Suck, suckier, suckiest (AKA: The Walking Dead finale)...

So... AMC's The Walking Dead. Awesome comic series, that should have been a totally awesome TV series, right? I mean... you have the director of The Shawshank Redemption... the producer of Aliens... and, basically, a 100% storyboarded work of top-notch zombie fiction, featuring awesome characters facing mind-bending circumstance and life-altering events. All the film-makers really had to do was shoot what they had scripted for them, and follow Robert Kirkman's incredible manuscript. Hell, they even had the shots laid out for them in advance, thanks to illustrators Tony Moore's and Charlie Adlard's amazing pencils and moody, minimalist inks.

Instead... what we got was a murky, cliche-riddled piece of junk.

I mean... seriously. I watched every one of Season 1's six episodes on the night they aired, filled with a growing sense of dread. Not because of the impending zombie apocalypse (convincingly and chillingly captured in episode 1 - easily the series best episode), but rather because of the "additional stuff" that the series authors decided to add to Kirkland's solid story. Instead of a tightly-focused, character-driven story of a tightly-knit band of survivors, director Frank Darabont decided to give us drunken neo-nazi hillbillies shootin' at stuff (maybe to attract the "Sarah Palin's Alaska" demographic?), stereotyped LA-style "homie" gangbangers (hey... isn't this supposed to be Atlanta, 'ese?), weak-ass plot devices that seem inserted at random and are abandoned just as easily ("I told you this Winebago wouldn't make it very far... no, wait, now it's working!"), and a host of other confusing, unnecessary crap.

Episode 6 was the the series nadir in every way. Totally absent was the zombie horde, replaced with long, boring scenes shot in... someone's basement. Oh yeah, and lots of eating, drinking and showering. And some arguments, mainly about whether or not someone will open a door. They even did the unthinkable in the zombie genre: tried to explain the source of the impossibility of the walking dead. No, no NO, guys... that never works. really. Seriously. It's always a bad idea. You really can't do any better than "but the dead... they WALK!" Mystery only adds to the power.

'Nuff said.

To add insult to a pretty grievous injury, episode 6's "explosive climax" is exactly that: an explosion, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that when Hollywood is stuck for a story idea, the answer is always "well... we could try blowin' some shit up!"

And blow shit up they did, specifically a really fake CGI model of the Center For Disease Control, using a weak-ass computer-generated flame effect that looks like it came from a 1992 MTV music video.

Nauseating. No... worse than that. Lazy.

I've seen reviews online all day talking about how amazing the series was, and I suppose that, if you've never read the comic, or had to work even a little bit at imagining just how terrible such an event would be, then sure, The Walking Dead was at least better than the usual dreck... But do yourself a favor: if you liked the series, go pick up a few of the comic's collected editions. Read them, and see just how much better they are. How much tighter and better-written they are. How much more dramatic and tense and gut-wrenching and overall BAD-ASS they are. then ask yourself... "If they'd just made THIS, and left out all the other confusing, 'been there, seen that a million times already' crap, how much better would the series have been?"

Guess we'll never know.

Sorry, but for me, The Walking Dead, Season 1 is a huge missed opportunity and a disappointment. I wanted to love it, I really did, but in the end, all it did was leave a bad taste in my mouth. In the wake of the recent announcement that Darabont has fired the entire Season 1 writing staff in favor of freelancer-written scripts, all I can say is... better luck next time, guys. I hope you can get me interested enough to tune in next year. Because as of now, I'm thinking I won't tune in.



gmkieran said...

As someone who hasn't read the comics (and has no real interest, honestly) and only watched 3 of the 6 episodes, I have to agree the series didn't catch my attention. The first episode was ok, though it seemed more full of holes than swiss cheese to me. The second and third were equally lacking in impact (though the scene at the riverside where the women take on an abuser does stand out in my mind). In discussions with Matt and other friends who have read the books, I realized that all the things I *really* didn't like about the series were the additions the screen-writers stuck in. Oh, well. Glad I didn't waste my time! :D

Matt Cook said...

Do yourself a favor and read at least the first two collected comics - if they don't hook you by then, they never will. The strength (IMHO) of the original source material is that they focus in very tightly on just a few people, and seldom, if ever, veer away from that small, immediate story. You really get to know a small number of people - what makes them tick; what they like and dislike; how they respond to pressure - which makes it all the more heart-rending when they die (as they very often do, usually without warning). It's precisely this lack of sentiment that makes the comic series so intense and gripping.