Worthy of (Some) Praise
The eight part (so far) adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel gets a welcome UK Blu-ray, Digital Download and DVD release (after premiering on Amazon Prime) from Studio Canal.
When Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is released from prison he learns that his wife Laura (Emily Browning) has been killed in a car accident. Travelling home to attend her funeral he ends up meeting the charismatic Mr Wednesday (the charismatic Ian McShane) who offers him a job. Shadow says no but Mr Wednesday is not so easily dissuaded.
By the time Shadow has agreed a contract, sealed over drinks in a bar, it’s just the start of a bizarre odyssey that will reveal that Mr Wednesday isn’t actually a man at all as the two of them journey through a world of old gods and new, where leprechauns still live (and are very sweary and violent) and where Shadow’s dead wife refuses to stay either still or buried.
The first two episodes of AMERICAN GODS are superb, from the Nicolas Winding-Refnesque NEON DEMON-style opening credits through some excellent psychedelic creative visuals to some great performances. Then it all slows down a lot, to the point where you wonder if heels are being dragged just so Neil Gaiman’s novel can be steamrollered out to two series rather than just the one (which is what seems to be the plan).
But there are some wonderful highlights in the later episodes. Top-billed Crispin Glover swans in for the first time in episode five and effortlessly owns the entire series in a tour de force sequence featuring him, McShane and Gillian Anderson (splendidly, quirkily sexy as Media).
But things don’t really get going in the final two episodes, either. In fact episode seven is even more meandering than the others. Episode eight brings many of the characters together but does little more with them than set things up for Season 2.
Studio Canal’s Blu-ray and DVD set comes with extras on each of its four discs. These include just under an hour of a panel from San Diego ComicCon with Neil Gaiman, producers / writers Bryan Fuller and Michael Greene along with stars Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle and others. There are separate 12 minute interviews with McShane,Ricky Whittle & Emily Browning, McShane and Whittle and Technical Boy Bruce Langley. American Gods Origins finds Neil Gaiman in Reykjavik talking about his Norse folkloric inspirations for the book.
You also get short featurettes on Anderson, Glover and Langley's characters, another on the ‘Old Gods’ seen in the show, ’Book Vs Show’, and ‘What is American Gods’. All these are tiny snippets that only last about five minutes each.
Visually sumptuous, well acted and with some terrific directorial flourishes, oddly enough the area AMERICAN GODS falls down in is the storytelling department. The publicity has likened it to GAME OF THRONES, but whereas in its first season that show was a display of how to adapt a complex novel to the screen in just the right number of episodes, AMERICAN GODS needs to tighten things up and get its act together for Season 2.
AMERICAN GODS is out on Digital Download, DVD and Blu-ray from Studio Canal on Monday 31st July 2017