It’s a common trend in film to adapt novels and other stories to the silver screen and create a visual interpretation of our favorite books and stories. We’ve seen it with the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games and many Disney films, but with the rise of streaming sites like Netflix, adaptations have come to the small screen.
On Friday the 13th, Netflix premiered it’s long anticipated exclusive show, “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” The series, being teased for nearly a year, is an adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s series of the same name, and is the second adaptation of the books. While the first was a standalone film that covered the first three books in the series, Netflix’s rendition presents the series in long-form television, allowing for all thirteen books to be adapted for the visual medium.
Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” stars a diverse cast that incorporates actors from A-list to C-list. The villain of the series, Count Olaf, is played by Albuquerque-born Neil Patrick Harris, who is arguably the main selling point of the series. Harris, as with many of his roles, steals the show from his first appearance in Count Olaf’s dilapidated house. Branching away from Jim Carrey’s more comedic interpretation of the character, Harris brings out the more sociopathic traits of Olaf, emphasizing that he’s not just a greedy and crafty stage actor, but a Machiavellian thief, manipulator and murderer.
As with most complex villains, one’s tendency is to develop a relationship with the villain as a person you “love to hate.” Harris’ past portrayals of lovable characters turned this dynamic on its head. Harris, a lovable actor, portrays one of modern literature’s most hated villains, creating a dynamic almost opposite of “love to hate,” where one finds themselves “hating to love” Count Olaf.
The series’ protagonists, the orphans Violet, Klaus and Sunny are portrayed by Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes and Presley Smith respectively. The trio captures the bleak and cynical personalities of the Baudelaire children. The chemistry between Weissman, Hynes and Smith is surprisingly deep as Weissman is the only experienced actor out of the three. Hynes has had only one television role before “Unfortunate Events” and shows that he has a natural talent for acting.
The narrative of the series comes in a very unique and original form. Instead of having a narrator who’s outside of the scene, “Unfortunate Events” places the narrator directly in the scene, where he narrates the story in real time and provides commentary and insight during the unfolding events. The narrator is none other than a characterization of the series’ author Lemony Snicket, portrayed by renowned voice actor Patrick Warburton, famous for being the voice of Kronk in Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove” and for portraying “The Tick” in the short-lived series of the same name. Warburton’s unique voice captures the sarcastic and cynical narrative style of Snicket.
As for the style and adherence to the original books, few deviations are made and the design of the sets and props captures the bleak and neo-gothic style of the books. The use of color in the series is like a cross between the styles of Tim Burton and Wes Anderson, both known for their unique use of colors and their quirky set designs. The design of “Unfortunate Events” has colorful props, costuming and occasional colorful sets, but all these colorful elements are set in a perpetually overcast and gray world, reflecting the cruel and uncaring world the Baudelaires live in.
In its eight episode season, with more surely on the way, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is a loyal and artful adaptation of Snicket’s series. Cleverly written, superbly acted and utterly depressing in the best possible way, this series sets the standard for young adult literature adaptations.
Fin Martinez is culture editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FinMartinez.
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