If you haven’t already heard, Netflix is making A Series of Unfortunate Events into a TV series that’s going to be released on January 13, 2017. As a HUGE fan of the books, I was really excited when it was rumored, then confirmed, that Netflix was going to be making a TV show based on the series. Netflix has such a fantastic track record for the shows and movies they produce (Orange is the New Black, The Crown, Sense 8, and Arrested Development, to name a few), but they have yet to turn a major book series into a TV show. Orange is the New Black was adapted into a long-running TV show from a memoir of the same name, but after season one, the memoir is no longer the guide.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is about three children whose parents die in the first chapter of the first book. The series follows the orphans as they are shuttled from one relative to another, who either die tragically or send the orphans away. The orphans are clever and lovable, they find ways to better their situations, yet unfortunate things keep happening. Tragedy befalls the children, especially in the homes that are actually loving and nurturing (Uncle Monty, Aunt Josephine, etc.).
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was released in 2004 and received mixed reviews from fans. For me, and many others, it was a major disappointment. It crunched the first three books into one hour and 48 minutes, which didn’t do the books justice. The movie felt rushed, making it clear that the directors and screenwriters were trying to make too much happen in a short period of time. I got whiplash rewatching the movie.
The orphans never had time to form the serious bonds with Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine that they do in the books. About 30 minutes is spent with each guardian, except for Count Olaf who gets the majority. The movie leaves many things a mystery. Who are these guardians? How did their parents know each other? What’s the conclusion to the overarching mystery?
Viewed as a separate entity from the books, the movie was fine. Jim Carrey was a humorous Count Olaf, especially in regards to the likeness. But the movie was missing something throughout. It glossed over the books, never fully conveying any of the plotlines, jumping from one book to the next with extraordinary quickness. There are 13 books in this series, and only one movie was made. Talk about a cliffhanger.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events has a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes and 6.8/10 stars on IMDb. A high amount of critics reviewed the movie favorably, though a smattering of critics did give bad reviews. My favorite might be Liam Lacey, “A more apt title might have been: Jim Carrey’s Series of Outlandish Impersonations.” The positive reviews acknowledge the sick humor and excellent filmography of the movie. The casting is great, but the script isn’t. The actors playing the orphans are the highlight of the movie, showing misery and depth. However, serious scenes in the movie are punctured by funny bits, like a lit stove falling on a boat with a duck.
Throughout the orphan’s movements between guardians, the movie leaves out events and excludes plot points to consolidate the series. The ending of the movie strays far from the books, forcing Count Olaf to suffer everything he made the orphans go through. My biggest complaint is that the movie was never intended to be part of the series. Imagine combining the first few Harry Potter books for one movie and never finishing the series.
Overall I was disappointed because I felt as though the movie made the books into more of a comedy, instead of focusing on the sick irony throughout the books. The movie completely missed the point of it being a “series of unfortunate events” and underestimated the viewer’s ability to appreciate and comprehend the underlying darkness of the series. There’s nothing slapstick about the books and yet most of the movie comes off as slapstick comedy. It continuously bordered on ridiculous, and Count Olaf was arguably too humorous, which undermined the blatant misery of the children. The best part of the movie was Jim Carrey’s dinosaur impression.
The TV show is a second chance for fans. I have confidence in Netflix’s ability to convey the dark humor of the series and that they won’t underestimate children’s ability to acknowledge that the series is fateful. Not to mention, the cast is phenomenal; Neil Patrick Harris is Count Olaf, Joan Cusack is Justice Strauss, Alfre Woodard (Desperate Housewives, Captain America: Civil War) is Aunt Josephine, Aasif Mandvi (The Proposal) is Uncle Monty. The actors who play the orphans are relatively unknown, Malina Weissman (Supergirl, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) plays Violet Baudelaire and Louis Hynes (Barbarians Rising) plays Klaus Baudelaire. Sunny Baudelaire, the youngest, is not listed on the IMDb cast list yet.
Netflix’s history of highly rated TV shows gives A Series of Unfortunate Events fans a new hope. My wishes include: seeing all 13 books come to life, less crunching and consolidation of the books, and more loyalty to the story and the author’s tone. The trailers give me chills in the best way. I love the dark look, the casting, and the dialogue. Netflix has clearly given the series the time and attention it deserves and I can’t wait to see my favorite books in the series adapted into a TV show (especially The Estraz Elevator, The Austere Academy, The Penultimate Peril, and The End).
Featured Image: Harper Collins