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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Preacher: Adaptation Blues

When I was 18 years old, I shared a flat with a couple. Odd pair, a slightly plump bisexual girl and her effeminate, slightly hippy, slightly techno boyfriend. One of the defining moments of this period of my life was discovering Garth Ennis's Preacher comic series. I remember clearly one night finishing one of the volumes and racing over to Books-A-Million (forgive my plebian tendencies, we didn't have a Barnes & Nobles in the roughly-six-horse town I lived in at the time) and begging them to open the doors a minute before their closing time to pick up the next volume.

When I initially heard Preacher was being adapted for television I had very mixed feelings. I felt that television was the best medium for the series, as the story was far too broad to tell within the limitations of a roughly two hour film, but I was wary at the involvement of Seth Rogen. Rogen has made his name in awkward/pothead humour films, which are some of my least favourite genres in existence, with Pineapple Express, Neighbors, Superbad, Knocked Up, and the unfortunate This Is The End, which had to stand up against Edgar Wright's finale of the Cornetto Trilogy, The World's End and really didn't fare well in my eyes. Seth Rogen is not somebody who I trusted to understand Preacher properly.
Picture courtesy Business Insider
As a young Atheist, banished from a church a year prior (for reasons maybe I'll go into later), Preacher was a story that struck a chord with me. A man of God, given a great gift with a terrible knowledge, sets out to hold God accountable. The anger against organized religion that was boiling inside the 18-year-old me resonated with that message at the time. Now, an undisclosed-but-significant amount of time later, I've calmed somewhat, and despite how juvenile and (ironically) preachy Ennis could be at times, now I just want to see the story done justice.

Preacher premiered on AMC last spring. When it first came out, I missed the premiere, so about a month later I watched the first four episodes... and it was rough going. I have to admit, over the years, I've read the series multiple times, and own a trade paperback release of every volume, including the cover collection and the side stories with Cassidy and the Saint. The series had a very high bar for me, and in those first four episode, it did not meet that bar. Annville was there, but it seemed like every single story element in 7 volumes of the comic series had been packed into a single town, and somehow the series still moved at a snail's pace. Aside from a decent joke about Tom Cruise being vaporized by Genesis, nothing really appealed to me. The Reverend Jesse Custer seemed to be a good translation from comic to screen, only losing his wilder hair and white jeans in the process, I was confused by Tulip being black (until I realized that I'd lived 10 years in the armpit of Texas and the demographics actually justified that entirely) and I absolutely hated Cassidy. I was confused why Arseface lived in Annville and why his dad actually spoke to him. I was confused why DeBlanc and Fiore dressed like business-casual cowboys and were in Annville. I was confused why Odin Quincannon's meat-packing plant was located in Annville. And I was confused why it felt like, in the first four episodes, absolutely nothing happened.

This week, I've sat down and watched the remaining six episodes of the first season as well as the first four (that have aired so far) of season 2. I've softened a little, as starting near the end of season 1 the pace has picked up considerably and the "road trip" tone of the comic series is starting to manifest, and I've even gone so far as to purchase the Jesse Custer figure that NECA released (but not the Cassidy figure). Some of the more drastic changes they've made to the series (why is the Saint immune to Genesis? Why did they nerf his guns? Every shot kills and no shot misses. That's the Saint's Colt Walkers. Why was he just in Hell and not a replacement for... well that's getting a little too much into the lore. Read it for yourself, trust me) are bothering me.
Taking his place on the DC Screen Shelf. Anyone tired of my toys yet? 
I have to wonder if Seth Rogen and friends read the books or just a summary of them. Irish vampire? Check. Girlfriend named Tulip that's good with guns? Check. Texas preacher with the Voice of God? Check. But the details, almost every single one, have been changed, and I can't say for the better. I always give a series the first season as a trial ground and assume it's going to suck, and I grant it that the second season, so far, is better than the first, but I have yet to have any confidence in this adaptation. We'll see how it goes from here on out, and I'll check out the episodes as they come, but I'm still wary.

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