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Zombie Mayhem Takes A Back Seat To Searing Human Drama In This Near Perfect Adaptation Of An Undead Classic,
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This review is from: The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (DVD)When I heard that AMC was going to produce a television series based on the zombie epic "The Walking Dead," I was both concerned and delighted. A bona fide classic in undead lore, Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead" graphic novels are brutal and surprising--not really what I would picture for a basic cable TV show (the first season is only 6 episodes, we'll see where it goes from there). But AMC has produced terrific and prestigious shows like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," so I was pretty stoked to see what they do with this. Add Frank Darabont of "Shawshank Redemption" fame as the creative force behind the show, and I'm pleased to report that we've got a winner!
For years, I've maintained that the principle themes of Kirkman's vision have little to do with actual monsters. This is a story of human survival, of morality, of loyalty, of sacrifice--of doing anything necessary to carry on without losing the basics of what makes life worth living. The fact that this is occurring within the midst of a zombie apocalypse is just a bonus! Darabont and team are fully on board with the notion that it is humanity, not the undead, driving this epic struggle. So while "The Walking Dead" expertly crafts its horrors, the real emotional weight is conveyed through its characters and the decisions they face on a daily basis.
The story in these six episodes, for the most part, adheres to the first few individual comics or the collected "Volume One: Days Gone By." This is the series' jumping off point--and, in truth, sets things up in a fairly typical way. After being involved in a shoot-out, cop Rick awakes from a coma isolated, but not alone, in a local hospital. Apparently, in the time he was out, something has shifted in the world and now the dead walk. The program introduces Rick and many other principles as he tries to figure out what is happening while he crosses the state to locate his family. On the outskirts of Atlanta, Rick is reunited with his wife Lori, son Carl, and police partner Shane with a group of other survivors. I was afraid, with so much story to draw from, Darabont might rush things. Instead, "The Walking Dead" takes its time setting up the premise, introducing the cast, and establishing a bleak new world. It is a tremendous accomplishment that really allows the viewer to identify with the action, to become emotionally connected with the horror.
There are a few diversions from Kirkman's text, but they actually enhance the drama. I particularly enjoyed the possible introduction of one of the series' greatest villains at a much earlier point--rounding off his back story for a reemeergence in the future. With such a large cast, the standouts in the beginning have got to be the leads--Andrew Lincoln as Rick and Jon Bernthal as Shane. Hopefully, should there be a second season, more of the supporting cast will get to shine--but their early contributions are uniformly fine. Lincoln displays an intriguing balance of strength and vulnerability, but it's Bernthal who is the break-out star for me! The gore and effects are absolutely top notch and should be appreciated by horror aficionados. Those that love zombie mayhem should have more than enough to whet their appetite. But, and this I stress, "The Walking Dead" is sophisticated, adult entertainment that should appeal to viewers who might not ordinarily target this genre as well. This is just great TV, plain and simple, and something unexpected fresh (if you can call rotting flesh fresh) on the TV landscape. KGHarris, 11/10.
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Showing 1-10 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 18, 2010 6:55:45 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 19, 2010 12:23:27 PM PST
Great to see you back, K. Great review. Totally agree. The show is sticking to the heavy human nature themes over the zombie madness that I also point at in my review of The Walking Dead: Compendium.
K, you say: "I particularly enjoyed the introduction of one of the series' greatest villains at a much earlier point--rounding off his back story for a reemeergence in the future"
I thought this was pretty cool too, but are we sure that is the villain we think it is???? I think so, but it would be intersting since that particular villain was fully "intact" when first encountered (physically I mean) in the book (right?) and didn't he have "a daughter"? No matter...we'll see and I'm sure the liberties that are taken will turn out just fine based on how well the series adaptation is going.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2010 3:26:15 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 22, 2010 3:30:40 AM PST
Assuming that's the character (not exactly confirmed yet, and I don't believe his name's the same), he did have a family and a daughter.. but I don't think it'll be him.
Posted on Jan 12, 2011 10:21:35 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Aug 19, 2011 4:17:05 PM PDT]
Posted on Jan 17, 2011 12:34:58 PM PST
Posted on Feb 19, 2011 7:08:18 PM PST
Wayne C. Rogers says:
Glad to see you back, too. Great review for a fantastic TV series. I'm looking forward to the DVD coming out in a couple of weeks. Needless to say, I'm also anxiously awaiting Season Two. Now that it looks like The Stand is going to be made into a major motion picture, I'm hoping Frank Darabont will direct that, if he's not tied up too much with the second season of The Walking Dead. I think the film version of The Stand could be Darabont's Oscar.
Posted on Feb 23, 2011 4:44:43 AM PST
H. Robertson says:
I don't think the bad guy was the "Governor." But I think he will be back next season. I hope the second season does follow the prison story of the comics.
Posted on Mar 6, 2011 12:52:34 AM PST
David Johnson says:
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2011 8:48:42 PM PST
Posted on Mar 21, 2011 1:34:10 PM PDT
Horacio Lopez Muoz says:
I love this review. It makes me want to see this tv show. Does anyone of you guys knows it this BD has spanish subtitles?
Posted on Apr 10, 2011 5:34:04 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 10, 2011 5:45:56 PM PDT
Taylor Rand says:
Well-written review although I get the impression that TWD is getting extra stars for its intentions (and for what it means to get a "serious" zombie show on TV) rather than for its actual execution.
I get The Walking Dead series wants to deal with serious issues rather than be just a non-stop zombie jamboree. I can respect that ambition as well as the need to attract non-zombie aficionados with the "Hey, our show's so good, you'll forget it's zombie fiction" scenes - but after the fantastic pilot episode, the attention to detail and creativity just goes "aaarrrrgh."
Good intentions aside, the rest of the series is barely competent. The zombie apocalypse is what drew most of us to watch and yet even the survivors (when not making foraging runs into the city) are not shown as particularly vigilant in their camp defenses, remaining unobtrusive, or fearful of any zombie attack. The outbreak is ongoing and yet they're fairly blase about their safety in the forest.
But that's not my main criticism. It's the characters. The characters are The Walking Dead's downfall: most of them are either dull, dim-witted, unlikeable or non-entities. Ferocious Michael Rooker's wasted as a stereotypical good ol boy, intelligent and sympathetic Sarah Wayne Callies is dull and unlikeable, Laurie Holden's little more than an angry stare. Andrew Lincoln and Jon Bernthal are given more than one note to work with - but I can hardly say that Rick's particularly interesting or that Shane's especially likeable. The most interesting and likeable character - Lennie James - isn't around much to count.
What a shame. The show's not a disaster; it's merely mostly dull. I think that a stronger attention to detail would help, more in-depth characterizations wouldn't hurt and, I hope it's not to much to ask, more zombies wouldn't be out of line.