Wednesday, 19 August 2015

REVIEW: Lucifer - pilot episode

Lucifer is one of the greatest comic series of the modern period. It was perhaps inevitable, in the current comics-obsessed climate, that a screen adaptation would be optioned. As with its parent series The Sandman, it's often been argues that it would be impossible to adapt for the screen without losing what made it so remarkable in the first place. Warner Bros' new TV version is a powerful evidence for that argument. Judging by the "leaked" pilot episode, the series will be, if you will excuse the pun, diabolical.

A short introduction: while Lucifer is, of course, one of the most widely known beings in all mythology, the comicbook version is not as famous as his quality would suggest. In short, one of the first two entities created by God (the other being the Archangel Michael), Lucifer rebelled against his Father and when defeated was consigned to rule over Hell, a ten billion year sentence which he found insufferably boring. Shortly after his introduction in Neil Gaiman's seminal Sandman, he decided to abandon Hell and go make his own way in the world. This led to Mike Carey's spin-off series, in which Lucifer fought to take control of his own destiny, away from the omniscient controlling will of God. Lucifer, as a comic series, was beautifully, angrily written, utterly disrespectful, and quite brilliant. The news that DC intend to renew the series after almost ten years is worrisome in itself; apart from the fact that the series had perhaps the most perfect and final ending of any story I have read, the New 52 iteration of the title character lacks the intelligence and nuance of Gaiman and Carey's original.

And then we have this embarrassment. Even from the initial description, this sounded awful. Reimagining the series as a supernaturally-themed cop show is both the most depressingly unoriginal and painfully inevitable way it could have gone. I've nothing against the format - I enjoy a cliched set-up as much as the next telly watcher, and paraprocedurals are a popular and growing subgenre. But honestly, it really is the laziest possible way to adapt this material, and frankly displays a complete misunderstanding of everything that made the original so compelling. The wrongness of the approach is almost boundless. Rather than the aloof and complex character of the comics, the TV Lucifer is a sex-obsessed prick who is entirely bound up with humanity. His superpower is seemingly that everyone wants to have sex with him, which automatically makes him the sort of character I will dislike on principle. It also smacks of a desperate need to make this PG-rated fluff "edgy" and controversial. There's sex everywhere in this episode, never shown because of course they're not allowed to actually let anyone see a nipple or anything, but continually referred to because that's what passes for adult drama in the minds of the series' creators.

Beyond this, though, the character is completely misinterpreted. Maze, a feebly watered-down version of the comics' complex demoness Mazikeen, asks why Lucifer would care about a human life, and she's entirely right to ask. The comicbook Lucifer never displayed compassion. Humanity, for most part, were at best an amusement and mostly beneath his notice. He would never display compassion, although he may step in to save a life if it belonged to one of the very, very few beings he respected. He most certainly would not go to great lengths to investigate a murder of someone he was briefly involved with in his earthly holiday. It would be beneath him.

I can try to watch the show without the original in my mind, but even then, it's terrible. It's not without some charms, in fairness. Tom Ellis is charming in the lead and is genuinely fun to watch at times, while Lauren German is watchable as his unwitting partner, Chloe. The problem is , they've got such poor material to work with. The problems with Lucifer's character I've outlined, but then there's Chloe, whose sole point of interest is that she doesn't want to have sex with Lucifer. Other than that, she's a walking cliche. She's a female cop in a male-dominated force, she's a single mother with a difficult relationship with her ex, and I'm nodding off just writing this. In what is presumably an attempt to make her a little more interesting and "edgy" (there's that word again), she once took her top off in a movie. Well fuck-a-doodle-doo. I know primary school teachers who are edgier than these characters.

I'm struggling to find anything else to praise in this episode. The effects were pretty good, I guess. The angel Amenadial (D.B. Woodside) looked really quite impressive with his wings unfurled. That's about it. The dialogue is appalling, the performances largely forgettable, and there's not a shred of originality to be found. As an entirely new property, I would have forgotten about it almost immediately. As an adaptation of a truly great comic series, it's an insult. At least it's already pissing off some hardline Christian types, so I guess that's something.

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