American Gods

Neil Gaiman is one of the authors I love most. Some of you might have seen Coraline. Well, he was the mind behind that. His works are of the sort I adore most: they have that urban fantasy feeling I loved also in Michael Moore‘s A Dirty Job (are you reading the sequel yet?). Among […]

Neil Gaiman is one of the authors I love most. Some of you might have seen Coraline. Well, he was the mind behind that.
His works are of the sort I adore most: they have that urban fantasy feeling I loved also in Michael Moore‘s A Dirty Job (are you reading the sequel yet?).
Among his works, my absolute favourite is Neverwhere and unfortunately that never received a proper tv treatment. I refuse to consider decent this one with Peter Capaldi playing Islington. There was a quite marvelous radio adaptation, though, the kind you wished was on tv: if featured Natalie Dormer as Lady Door, James McAvoy as the reluctant hero Richard Mayhew, David Harewood as the Marquis of Carabas, Sophie Okonedo as Hunter (if you’re nerd as I am, you remember her in that Aeon Flux with black-haired Charlize Theron), Christopher Lee as the Earl of Earl’s Court (no, I’m not kidding) and Benedict Cumberbatch as the Angel Islington. If you missed it, repent and buy it here.

Neverwhere BBC 001

Anyway, aside from this wonderful show, we haven’t had any decent Neil Gaiman adaptations since Mirrormask, one of the most profound tales I have ever watched about mother-daughters relationships and growing up. It is directed by Dave McKean and I am never tired of watching it: it features book-eating sphynx, sketches of darkness and light, stories from the circus, petrifying fogs. An alternate reality hasn’t been so compelling powerful since the age of Neverending Story. And this one also has a really beautiful double Gina McKee. If you missed it, repent and buy it here. It will blow your mind away.

MIrrormask

If you’re up to date with everything, on the other hand… well, congratulations, you might already be watching the new tv series we have to feed upon: American Gods. I already playfully suggested you to watch the trailer while I was writing about a completely different thing, and it’s the adaptation of what is often described as Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece, the homonymous novel. In Neil’s own words, «American Gods is a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth and across an American landscape at once eerily familiar and utterly alien». It won a shitload of prices, including the Hugo, the Nebula and the Bram Stoker, and everything is well deserved. Part of Neil’s research has recently been published into a novelized study on Norse Mythology and you can look it up here. It also has a sort of sequel, or spin-off, called Anansi Boys, which I liked a little less but still is magically fascinating. The concept behind the book is simple: ancient gods (just as much as modern ones) are real and walk amongst us: they are made real by people’s belief and nowadays there’s a war going on, between ancient gods and modern ones, arisen from things people worship nowadays: technology, television, knowledge, sex, power, money, violence. America is the place where all Gods meet, whether they were born there or taken there by their previous worshipers while they came over from the old world. People cling to their belief while they are in a foreign Country.
If you are really into this stuff you might also want to check out Adventures in the Dream Trade.

American Gods 001

Enter Starz, the producers of piratesque Black Sails and that adaptation of Pillars of the Earth I rather liked, though I couldn’t get around to watching World Without End. They also are producers of Da Vinci’s Demons, and Spartacus (like all of them and you might have missed that there’s a lot of them). So yeah, you might understand while I was an hectic mix of excited and worried when they announced they were going to take Gaiman’s masterpiece into their hands and make a tv series.

Then the casting started to roll out.
Super-sexy Ricky Whittle stars as the main character, Shadow Moon, and you can already picture him always half-naked for no reason. Worried.
Emily Browning is his dead wife Laura, with her staring eyes and you might remember the last time she was in an oniric piece (I’m thinking Sucker-Punch). Excited.
Unknown blondie Bruce Langley is the Technical Boy and in the book he was a fat nerdish sociopath. Worried.
The incredible Ian McShane is mr Wednesday and who else you might cast as an ancient God with one eye for knowledge? Super-excited.
Yetide Badaki is Bilquis, aka the Queen of Sheba, pictured as a goddess of sex, and one might have only wondered how prominent she was going to be in a Starz production. Worried.
Peter Stormare is Czernobog and holy hell isn’t that a wonderful choice! So excited I’m practically on fire.
Super-crazy Pablo Schreiber is Mad Sweeney and… wait, guys, couldn’t you find someone Irish? Worried again.

They completely won me over the moment I realized Frau Blücher was going to play Zorya Vechernyaya, the oldest of the three sisters watching the sky so that the bear wouldn’t escape, and George McFly was going to be mr World. If you need anything else, you’ve got a pink rabbit-loving Kristin Chenoweth as Easter, Gillian Anderson as Media and Orlando Jones as Anansi himself. You have a taste of them in the trailer.

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So, how’s the series faring so far?

Well, we’ve had our share of blood and sex and half-naked Ricky Whittle, as one was expecting. I think we’ve had at least a penis and a tit in each of the three episodes that were aired so far, not to discontent anybody. People got dismembered, mutilated, hung and eaten by… no, you don’t want to know that.
Still.
The imaginary behind this story is so powerful that you overlook all of these excesses. Ian McShane is absolutely perfect and Pablo Schreiber is probably the best leprechaun I have ever seen. The new cyberpunk version of the Technical Boy also makes a lot of sense, getting out of the idea we might had of the internet in the 80s and bravely stepping in what cyberland is today. An amazing work has been done in creating everything, from characters to their environment. Everything is so rich in details your head starts to spin, at a certain point. You get a pretty vivid taste of it since the opening credits. American Gods is all there, powerful and mighty, in its neon lights and technological plugs, twirling bodies and crucified astronauts. The modern world, the modern America, is looking at you from the eyes of a camera and Gaiman is telling you that you might lie to yourself all you want, telling yourself you live in a modern world and you don’t worship anything but you do, everybody worships something, and the sooner you realize who your God is, the better you can… well, run away from it, I guess?

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So yes, I’m excited and really happy something good is coming this way. We deserved something good, something with powerful imaginary and meaning, something with astonishing actors, something to wait for. Something to surprise you, like Erika Kaar as Zorya Polunochnaya, stargazing with a teddy bear on her telescope (there for reference, I suppose).

American Gods - Erika Kaar

Something to make you shout “yes, hell yes!” like Anansi’s quote below.

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Something to make you smile, like the detail of Czernobogh’s feet.

American Gods - Czernobogh

 

Something to watch over and over again in search for details, like the Crocodile bar.

American Gods - Crocodile Bar 002

There’s a little bit of everything for you, whether you are a sucker for costumes or architectures, whether you like checker games or endless fire-escape staircases into heaven (or is it?), cyberpunk bullies, ClockworkOrange-like settings, ancient myths, people with eyes on fire (and not only their eyes, apparently). Watch it. Get off your ass and fucking watch it. Yes, I am talking to you.

.American Gods - Anubis 001 American Gods - Dinner American Gods - Anansi001 American Gods - Technical Boy American Gods - Spoiler American Gods - Technical Boy 002 American Gods - Bilquis 001 American Gods - Crocodile Bar.

Pictures like these gets shared on a regular basis by American Gods’ director Bryan Fuller on twitter. If only he didn’t shout so much…

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