First of all, a belated Happy New Year to you all! (idk about ‘all’, do people still know this website exists?) Sorry I’ve been absent but I was overseas right before Christmas so my movie watching was limited. Though I did go to the cinemas in Tokyo and saw the recent Blair Witch film. Spoilers: it was pretty terrible. I have started up my obsessive relationship with the cinema again though and hopefully this year will be a great year for films.
This review was meant to be for A United Kingdom but after writing the first 200 words I didn’t really want to fully review it. Because it was pretty bad. The film, not my witty writing skills. Please go see La La Land at the cinema instead. Safe to say that film was an utter delight. So instead I will be reviewing something I had been so longing for ever since Netflix had announced it. I knew the exact time of day it came out so my fandom friend (hey Jess) and I got together to binge watch the whole thing. I had read and completed the ASOUE book series in 2015 and it is my favourite book series of all time. The way it was written impressed me so much and the story and characters were just the same. So I was hoping the Netflix series wouldn’t disappoint.
A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the Baudelaire children – Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes) and baby Sunny (Presley Smith) – receiving the news that their parents and home have perished in a terrible fire. Mr. Poe (K. Todd Freeman) is in charge of their affairs and sends them to their new guardian Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris). But he has an evil ploy to inherit their giant fortune and will never stop to do so until he succeeds. The Baudelaire orphans however are the most clever children and will always find their way out of his schemes. They also discover that something bigger is at play in their lives.
*small spoilers for the 1st series and the book series*
I have reviewed the 2004 film adaptation on my blog and you can read it here. But be warned. How I wrote back in 2014 was very very unfortunate. I gave it a 2/5 and I think today I would give it the same rating. Partly due to the fact that Jim Carey still shits me off. The thing that I was so grateful for in the series was that the stories of the Baudelaires had room to breathe. Each episode was dedicated to half of a book and the story felt very fluid. It was very nice to see the events unfold just like it was in the book. Daniel Handler (who was the author of the series) wrote the teleplay and was exec producer which is probably why the storytelling was so successful. I especially noticed the similarities between that of the writing in the book and the dialogue/narration in the scripts. Particularly the scene on Briny Beach in 1×01. The writing had the right amount of dread, dark humour and mystery that surrounded the world of these characters and settings. There was even the twist of the Quagmire parents (Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders) in 1×07 which I enjoyed. Jess on the other hand had to pause and was rocking me back and forth saying “WHY SAM, WHY DID THEY DO THIS TO US?!?!?!?” That’s when I knew it had the emotional impact on the audience that I thought it would. I loved the writing and I hope it will continue on until next season.
Bridging between writing and characters, I’ll talk (type, really) about Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton) and his role. I’m so glad they included Snicket’s constant narrations. It felt exciting to see him pop up to tell us definitions, stories and the foreshadowing of the episodes. I was really apprehensive when they announced Warburton would be cast at Snicket as I didn’t think the role suited him. I was very glad I was proven wrong. Warburton has known to have had really big and comical characters in the past, as his voice is very distinct-able. But in this he kept a certain mysterious and engaging presence in the story. Next up is Harris’ performance as the villainous Count Olaf. He definitely didn’t play the man of how I was expecting it, but I loved it all the same. It took a few episodes to make his character believable but once I was settled into the story, I really enjoyed his performance. He had just enough comical moments to make me enjoy watching him and just enough sinister moments to make me loathe the character. The one recurring character whom I did not enjoy was Justice Strauss, played by Joan Cusack. I didn’t find the character to be really warm and caring, like in the books. Instead she played the character as an odd woman with pretty iffy dialogue. Next up is Freeman, who played Mr. Poe. Like Harris, it took a couple of episodes to warm up to the actor but I really enjoyed his performance. Mr. Poe’s character was infuriating which was how it was meant to be played, so kudos to you Freeman.
Now onto the main cast, the kids. The first two episode I had the main film cast in mind so it was hard for my brain to part with those actors. But when the credits rolled on the last episode, it’s safe to say I thoroughly enjoyed the casting of the Baudelaires. Also another nice factor, they were all of appropriate age!! Little Smith who portrayed Sunny looked the part and was of course the adorable factor of the three. She didn’t act much and it’s hard to critique a baby but she was edited to be pretty believable. Then there’s Hynes as middle child Klaus. I loved this casting choice the most out of everyone. He looked the part, was given dialogue that was true to the character and acted the part very well. Weissman played Violet and I felt the same of her. I liked how her character wasn’t overdone, like in the film version. She was very stripped down in her performance, look and actions. Neither her or Hynes overdid their shining moments in the episodes and actually acted like (clever and very smart) children would in their circumstances.
Let’s talk about the look of the series! I am very pleased with some aspects but also very disappointed with others. The atmosphere, costumes and cinematography were the pros. The look felt realistic with a bucket of dread poured all over it which is what it needed. The costumes for all the cast (particularly Olaf) were pretty outstanding and true to the characters. The way the episodes were captured were great as well. Ones that spring to mind are Violet using her grappling hook to save Sunny in the suspended cage, the Baudelaires facing with the collapse of Aunt Josephine’s house and the parallel shot near the end of 1×01 with the Baudelaires and the Quagmires. What I did not enjoy very much was the CGI and VFX of the season. They green-screened so much – and what was worse (or should I say unfortunate, am I right) is that is was very very noticeable. For a show that was expected to look so crazy and great I wish they did a much better job at making the background settings looks at least believable. The scenes on Lachrymose Lake looked especially shocking. They say it was a big budget shoot but that did not reflect in the environment at all. In saying that, I did think that in 1×07 and 1×08 it was less noticeable. Also I did not enjoy the scene where Sunny suddenly jumps onto “Captain Sham’s” wooden leg and bites it off. It was a great reveal but Sunny’s jump looked SO unrealistic, it wasn’t even funny.
I had no real problem with the editing and music. Though I could have done without the random ensemble song at the end. That was bizarre. The opening theme wasn’t something I loved, but I enjoyed the visual imagery. The colour scheme looked very grim too when it was surrounding the Baudelaires which was a good touch. The second season has already been greenlit and will consist of 10 episodes this time which I’m looking forward to immensely. I trust that they will use the same style and tone as they did quite well in the first season.
I had a great time watching this series. It felt true to the series and even though there were some not great moments sprinkled here and there, it made me excited for the future of the series. The trailer’s below and I prefer this one 100% to the other one I watched. The one I watched didn’t really get me enthused. But I’m glad my expectations were exceeded. The team overall did a great job and I’ll be watching the series again in the near future.
Rating: A great adaptation of a great book series. 3.5/5