After the Baudelaire parents die in a terrible fire, the Baudelaire orphans search for their families secrets and get them and their fortune away from the terrible grasp of the sinister Count Olaf as he moves with them between different guardians in disguise.Written by
Cobie Smulders and Will Arnett previously played Robin on "How I Met Your Mother", and Batman in "The Lego Batman Movie" respectively. This means that, in a way, the show cast Batman and Robin See more »
In the theme song it is mentioned that the show is based on the series by Lemony Snicket. The book series was actually written by Daniel Handler. However, Lemony Snicket is his pen name, therefore the series is, actually, created by Lemony Snicket. See more »
This series is a masterful adaptation of a very fine display of absurdist literature. The writing was sharp and quick, and masterfully delivered by a wide cast of superb guest stars and recurring characters alike - the Baudelaires are a wonder to watch, and portray their characters perfectly. Neil Patrick Harris, in spite of my initial doubts, conveyed Olaf as a genuinely menacing failed (?) actor, mastering that grounded instability that Carrey failed to during his tenure, but also the characters Olaf finds himself portraying within the show - credit to the makeup department for making the handsome Neil Patrick Harris fit into a whole range of largely unflattering roles. Warburton as Snicket is also charming, well spoken and carries clearly a deep weight of sadness; the way he is molded into scenes and delivers the self aware warnings of horror and inconvenience feels melodramatic but works in the absurd retro-futuristic world he finds himself in.
The use of CGI is also great, as while it's hardly Hollywood level, its almost cartoon surrealism always gives you this sense you're watching a sick fairy tale, especially with the lighting. I found the set design to be absolutely marvelous, not just showing the money Netflix have thrown around, but also a great understanding of the vision of the original author - something that this newer adaptation holds over its predecessor; largely because it has the original author as part of its writing team. The show also weaves in so many plot threads from later on and references for book readers that even the greatest of fans feel they are witnessing something that incorporates all parts of the world that Handler has developed, with subtle references that can make this show a joy to dig deep into.
There are a few flaws, I shall admit. I found Sunny's actions late into episode 2 to be a little beyond my suspension of disbelief, and I felt that the prospect of escape could have been used to greater extent to lull the children into a tragic, dramatically ironic, sense of security in episode 3 (it would feel more thematically guided). The soundtrack also felt like many Hollywood soundtracks in the modern day, used for set-dressing rather than as a feature in of itself, though still adds weight to every scene.
I quite liked the opening theme song and enjoyed the quick synopses at the start of each episode which never feel as though they give too much away. I also really like the unexpected musical piece which while caught me off guard, when I finally said "Is that so?" and just went with the flow, I really appreciated the way it acted as a bookend.
I fully understand complaints about how the show may seem jarring to new viewers, especially if you don't quite understand what the source material is actually like. I can empathize with people who think the characters are ridiculous and unbelievable, that the sets seem preposterous and the dialogue frankly unrealistic. However watching it as a book reader, who understands that the books are almost a satire of themselves - a work of meta fiction that I imagine can be as divisive marmite - I found myself loving every moment of it; going all in on this world is a must if you want it to sweep you so wonderfully away.
I also found the pacing to be far better suited to the two hour long format per book. It shows a level of devotion to the source material that essentially four movies would be created for four books, and it pays off by providing ample time for characters to develop, mysteries to unfold and the adaptation to be more faithful.
All in all, for all of its flaws, Netflix's adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events is a loyal adaptation with quirks of its own, that understands its absurdity and embraces it wholeheartedly, and creates the wondrous level of genuine charm the films could never truly emulate. It's a fun, tragic, witty, self-aware, emotional, alluring and xylophone series as a standalone and I cannot recommend it enough. I hope there will be a next season (it's in the works, I'm told) and I hope it is a strong as this series was.
(P.S. I love Rhys Darby's delivery, as Charles, of the word partner)
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