Pros: A fairly accurate transfer of the novel’s text into a serial format; duet of David Tennant and Michael Sheen; some additions to the original text by Neil Gaiman; British humor Cons: Computer graphics raise questions; some abbreviations; the images of the horsemen of the Apocalypse, angels and demons are not very convincing Good Omens / “Good Omens”
Genre fantasy, comedy
Creator Neil Gaiman
Cast: David Tennant (Crowley), Michael Sheen (Aziraphale), Sam Taylor Buck (Adam Young), Josie Lawrence (Agnes Psycho), Adria Arjona (Anathema Gadget), Michael McKean (Sergeant Shadwell), Jack Whitehall (Newton Pulsifer), Miranda Richardson (Madame Tracy), Frances McDormand (voice of God), Brian Cox (voice of Death), Benedict Cumberbatch (voice of Satan), etc.
BBC channels, Amazon Prime
Year of release 2019
Seriously, for the first time they started talking about the film adaptation of Good Omens back in 1999, and the film was to be directed by Terry Gilliam, one of the Monty Pythons, under whose leadership such films as Brazil (1985), The Fisher King (1991) were created ), 12 Monkeys (1995), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018). Alas, it didn’t work out, and maybe for the better, although the film was remembered until 2008. In 2012, Terry Pratchett’s daughter, game screenwriter Rhianna Pratchett (Mirror’s Edge, Tomb Raider, Thief (2014), Rise of the Tomb Raider). The film was supposed to be produced by the company Rihanna created, Narrativia, but since then there has been silence.
In 2011, Neil Gaiman talked about a television series based on Good Omens, which was supposed to be directed by another Monty Python, Terry Jones, but again something went wrong. In 2016, some time after the death of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman announced the resumption of work on the series. At the request of a deceased comrade, Gaiman began writing the script himself. Moreover, we learned that at one time the authors discussed a sequel, novel 668 – The Neighbor of the Beast, which did not happen due to Gaiman moving to the USA. Well, this time Gaiman kept his word, and the miniseries from the BBC and Amazon Prime was finally released. And it’s a really cool series.
If you haven’t read the original novel and aren’t familiar with the work of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, let me sum it up in a nutshell. Both authors are wonderful British writers, brought up on classic British humor. Oscar Wilde, P. G. Wodehouse, Douglas Adams, Monty Python, Black Adder, Jeeves and Wooster, The Fry and Laurie Show, that’s all. Both chose humorous science fiction and fantasy as their path. Both are excellent with words. Both are incredibly well read. It is clear that Good Omens, originally conceived as a parody novel of the horror film The Omen (1976), quickly turned into an informal competition of authors, verbal fencing, where every sentence is a cunning feint, a deceptive swing and a lightning strike. Watching the dance of words in a novel is a real pleasure. For those who are comfortable with English, we recommend reading in the original, for those who are not, in the Ukrainian translation. The Russian version is a real disaster.
It is clear that adapting a novel for a serial format, in which each paragraph requires a small footnote or even two, each sentence requires an explanation, and each word requires a separate encyclopedic article, is incredibly difficult. That’s why Gaiman was forced to introduce a narrator into Good Omens, a person behind the scenes, into whose mouth the text from the authors was put. This character in the film was God, voiced by Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). Yes, the series is also worth watching in the original, especially since Benedict Cumberbatch voiced Satan here, and Brian Cox voiced Death. These are small roles, but in the English version they sound much more significant.
Briefly about the plot. In general, this is the same story that was told in The Omen, only here the formation of the Antichrist and the beginning of Armageddon are hindered by an angel and a demon, accustomed to life on Earth, who have finally become humanized and become friends. Plus several more characters, including the Antichrist himself and his friends, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, a medieval witch and her descendant, a medieval witch hunter and his descendant and other funny guys plus one dog.
Good Omens is six episodes of absurd British humor, jokes on biblical themes, allusions and references to other films, books and games. This is Pratchett and Gaiman refined, and if you care about the work of these authors, then you have most likely already watched the series and probably realized that there are many later additions from Neil Gaiman. By and large, half of the sixth episode is new content, all the incredibly sweet meetings between Crowley and Aziraphale at important moments in human history – a late and very successful addition. As well as the expansion of the storylines of angels and demons (not so successful), which clearly hints at the second season of the series, based on the very same, never-fulfilled continuation of 668 – The Neighbor of the Beast.
Well, we have to admit that Gaiman did an excellent job, the additions fit well into the outline of the main story, although for this they had to sacrifice something. Personally, I was upset by the reduced role of the Riders and the disappearance of the episode with the bikers. Otherwise, Good Omens is an incredibly faithful adaptation of the original novel for such a complex work.
Good Omens is a real benefit performance for David Tennant and Michael Sheen; let’s be honest, we couldn’t have asked for better Crowley and Aziraphale. There really is some kind of mystical connection between the actors, and every time these two appear on camera, the series literally blossoms. Not that I underestimate the contributions of the other actors, say the incredibly sweet Adria Arjona (Anathema Gadget) and the vibrant Miranda Richardson (Madame Tracy), but the duo of Tennant and Sheen is something special.
The only criticism of Good Omens is the somewhat sloppy computer graphics, but here, as I understand it, they had to choose what to save on: on the actors’ fees or on the CG, personally, I’m glad that the creators of the series chose the second.
Good Omens is not a series for everyone. Those who enjoy abstract English humor and anti-clerical banter will certainly enjoy it. For those who are accustomed to more serious fantasy and cannot stand jokes on the topic of faith, it is definitely not worth watching.
PS Rhianna Pratchett and Narrativia are working on adapting Terry Pratchett’s novel Guardians! Guards! in the police procedural The Watch for BBC America. 8 episodes ordered.
An excellent adaptation of the novel “Good Omens” into television format, made under the guidance of the author of the original work