Thursday, January 25, 2007

Musings on "The Dresden Files"

Don’t know if any of you made time to watch the premiere of “The Dresden Files” on the Sci-Fi channel this past Sunday night, but I did and I thought I’d share my impressions.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly (if there are any of you – I could be writing into the void for all I know) enough to come across my book reviews knows that I am a huge fan of Jim Butcher’s “Dresden” series. Seriously, even if you’re not that into fantasy or sci-fi, I would still recommend checking these books out. Just like the “Harry Potter” series, they have an appeal that transcends the genre. They offer mystery, humor, thrilling action, great characters and a good mixture of both light and dark moments.

So, given my love of the books, I viewed the news of an impending TV series with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Would it be fabulous? Would it be a terrible clunker? Or would it be something a la what Skiffy (aka the Sci-Fi channel) has done to “Battlestar Galactica” (i.e. loved by the critics, but loathed by me)?

Sunday night’s episode proved to be somewhere sort of in the middle. Neither as fantastic as I’d hoped nor as awful as I’d feared. After some lurky-loo research on the Jim Butcher website , I have a better idea as to why some of the changes from the books were made and why I had the so-so reaction to the first episode that I did. However, the research also leads me to hope that future episodes will improve

Here’s my boiled-down version as to “what’s up with this show”:

So, first up - the cosmetic changes. Yes, the staff is now a hockey stick. The pentacle amulet is a triangle. The Beetle is a Jeep. Murphy and Susan have switched physical characteristics. The black duster coat is now a jacket. Some of the characters’ names have changed - Karen Murphy is now Connie Murphy, etc.

Y’know what? Don’t really care. Despite the tomes of arguments (pro and con) that have been written on the internet by fans of the series on all this stuff, when it comes right down to it, none of these things are going to make or break the show. Therefore, don’t care. Yeah, I had a pang or two about the Beetle because it works so well in the book, but I can fully accept that it was changed due to certain technical requirements of shooting a TV show (not to mention that the tall actor playing Dresden would’ve looked ridiculous in a VW Bug).

The major character changes are where I have more of an issue. So, okay, apparently there’s some “rule” in Hollywood that “thou shalt not have talking skulls on shelves” and I can accept that they gave Bob an actual body. It probably works better for TV to have more of a visual (and they can spend the tech dollars on other CGI stuff for the show).

HOWEVER, it’s the change in Bob’s CHARACTER that I think is going to be a major make-or-break point. Bob’s a major part of the comic relief in the books – an element that last Sunday’s show was sorely lacking in. Yet, despite his sort of drunken-perverted-frat-boy-exterior-hiding-murky-bad-juju-past he’s very likeable and the exchanges between Bob and Dresden are some of the most enjoyable dialogue in the books. By turning him into the ghost of an old wizard in the show, I feel like the audience is being given a big ol’ cliché. A cliché that, if this first episode was any indication, is whiny and pathetic. I don’t need more whiny and pathetic in my life – I have real people who provide me a full dose of that, thanks so much. Sarcastic, snarky Bob from the books is so much more interesting.

Then, there’s what they’ve done to Harry himself. I can accept that (as per the executive producer’s posts on the website) he’s been written to be a little more grounded in reality than in the books, but so far, they seem to have lost the dichotomies and internal conflicts that make Harry so interesting. Here’s this incredibly powerful wizard who’s always in trouble, barely lives above the poverty level, can’t interact with most modern technology, has wounds from a rough childhood, and is pretty inept with women and other personal relationships.

I found it incredibly jarring that the opening scene of the show was Harry waking up in bed with some random waitress from the local diner. Hello? Harry is not a one-night-stand kind of guy. His old-fashioned “knightly” views are a MAJOR component of who he is. In my opinion, that’s also one of his more likeable characteristics. It often leads to him getting into interesting dilemmas when it clashes with say, his personal safety (i.e. save the damsel but possibly get eaten by the big nasty who’s threatening her or do the smart thing and bail).

Now, the abruptness of this “relationship” could possibly be explained by the fact that it turns out this episode was NOT the pilot. Skiffy, in its infinite un-wisdom, decided to run the episodes out of order. This probably is the reason for my major gripe about the whole show which was that it felt like I was just dropped into the middle of something that made no sense. And, if I felt that way (and I’ve read the books), I can only imagine how someone coming upon the series for the first time would feel.

So, all in all, I can accept the majority of what has been changed. I think it remains to be seen whether the writers can come up with enjoyable, interesting replacements for the personality changes they’ve made in the characters because that is what will ultimately determine whether people get hooked on the show or not.

We’re not going to get the Harry, Bob, etc. of the books. That could be okay if what we get instead proves to be as compelling as the original. It will certainly be something that can only be determined after viewing more than one episode. I just hope Skiffy allows the show that time before making any “plug-pulling” decisions.

While I was underwhelmed by the first episode, I will be tuning in a few more times to see if the writers can convince me to stick around. They’ll certainly have to do better than Sunday’s episode, though.

And now for something completely different.

Jewelry pictures:

I call this one "Fern Grotto" on account of all the green and stuff. I'm on a serious roll with these bracelets. Never let it be said that I exercise moderation when excess is possible.

The colors in this one reminded me of a frosty, starlit sky in winter. Probably all the cold weather we've had lately.



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