BOOKS TO TV (The Dresden Files)

If like me, you’re a fan of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files you'll be hanging out for Ghost Story in July. I buy from Pulp Fiction (Brisbane) who seem to get their stock a little earlier than most so here's hoping the shipping is up to par.

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While we wait I've re-read Changes and a few of the other novels and pulled out my DVD set of the TV series which brings me to point of this little missive.

Why did the Dresden Files TV series fail? It had a lot going for it not the least of which was the lead actor and decent writers but to crash and burn after 11 episodes was tragic.

Here's my take no 'why?'

In a nutshell it departed from canon too much. I know this is the typical fan whinge but the essence of the success of any genre work is in the canon and you mess with this at your peril. That doesn't negate artistic interpretation but if the car's got four wheels and you try and run it on three what do you think is going to happen?

In every other respect the series hit the high points. The actors (more on this in a minute), production values and writing were all good or better. But the mixture just didn't sing.

Let's do this by the numbers;

i)          THE ACTORS

All good but...

            a) Murphy- not blonde, no martial arts emphasis, no Special Investigations emphasis, father not a cop and still alive, a daughter? While the actress was good and had the attitude working well the blondness was integral to the character and its absence too much of a distraction. Imagine taking Harry Potter's glasses away?           

            b) Morgan - I could live with an African American in the part; ethnic switching has been done successfully before, but the character was radically different- not the psycho of the books and unconvincing with a sword.

            c) Bianca - so far off base it wasn't funny. Again, the actress nailed the part in nature but it wasn't THE part i.e Bianca 

ii)         THE MAGIC

One of the great strengths of the books is the systemisation (science of) the magic. Add to this the integral tools of the trade and their quirky mix of the arcane and the mundane and you had hooks by the dozen. None of this was used to advantage. There was the occasional nicely done moment but the resource wasn't capitalised on in any significant way. Butcher's talents are many and one in particular is his ability to make the artefacts and their use drive the story. The TV writers didn't seem to be able to do this.

iii)        THE STORIES

Again my beef is with the writers, fairly obviously. Despite their credits in genre work the main guys just couldn't make up their minds if they were writing a police procedural, a PI mystery or a soap. The dialogue was good, sometimes superb, especially where Harry, Murphy and Bob were concerned but the narrative floundered from Episode 1.

Butcher's skill at running a balanced, intertwined plot is magical (pun, there...) and a principal source of enjoyment in the books. The magic drives the mystery and vice versa with Harry's attitude throwing in frequent turbo boosts (another pun; I seem to have the hiccoughs). The TV series never tapped into this narrative stream.

So, a great opportunity lost; I hope someone has another try soon (rights issues notwithstanding).

iDM

Comments:

Posted by Robert Lee Beers on
I agree in all parts and add this, characterization across the board was a severe departure from the canon of the series. In additon to adding characters, the writers of the series deleted, it seems willy nilly characters that have brought the depth to the series that made it a success, Michael, for example.

Every book published up to the point of filmimg had ample artwork detailing the look of Dresden and his outfit. Why was the duster, the staff and the blasting rod eliminated? And the list goes on. As has been shown in the past where the producers of a series or movie based on a much-loved book decide that they know better than the audience that made the writen word a best seller, failure is indeed an option, and there are several examples that can be detailed. Where the books canon has been followed as in the case of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and now the Hunger Games, the film sells. This does not appear to be rocket science.
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