I’ve read Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens more than once (review here) and Pratchett is one of my very favorite authors–so I was excited to see what Amazon did with their Good Omens miniseries. And not only because David Tennant had a starring role! I finished the final episode yesterday and I liked it a lot–with reservations. Which frequently makes for the most interesting (I think!) review.
Good Omens, book and TV series, is a comedy about Armageddon. It centers on Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and Crowley (David Tennant), an angel and a demon, respectively. Both have been living on Earth for the past 6,000 years, forming an unlikely and unadmitted friendship, and when Armageddon approaches, they realize they don’t want the Earth to be destroyed. But the Antichrist has been born–and, unbeknownst to anyone in Heaven or Hell, misplaced. He’s now a perfectly charming eleven year old boy in rural England, with no idea he’s about to come into a lot of power. The only one who knows where he is (more or less) is Anathema Device, descendant of Agnes Nutter who wrote the only completely accurate book of prophecy. So Anathema, Aziraphale and Crowley are all searching for the Antichrist while Heaven and Hell prepare for war and the Four Horsemen begin to ride–on motorcycles, of course.
There is so much that is done so, so well in this series. (In fact, right up to most of the way through Episode 5 I would have given this top marks. More on that later.) Neil Gaiman was heavily involved (as writer and executive producer) and it shows. It’s been some time since I read the book, but it feels like an accurate representation, particularly in style. I’ll usually forgive changed details if the feel is right, and this definitely was.
David Tennant was completely marvelous. His Crowley is awesome and cool and dark without being really bad, you know. He probably has a little more arc than most of the characters, as he gradually admits (well, acknowledges perhaps without admitting?) his better side, and his friendship with Aziraphale. If there was one thing I didn’t like about Crowley, it was his CGI snake eyes which were super, super creepy, and somehow made Tennant’s entire face look wrong. Fortunately, he wears sunglasses 90+% of the movie, so it’s not a big issue.
Michael Sheen as Aziraphale was excellent as well. I don’t think he had quite as much to work with, but Aziraphale was still delightfully prim and proper and constrained, but oh so fond of gourmet food and old books. In a nice touch, Aziraphale wears white throughout, while Crowley is always in black.
The other biggest strength of the movie was honestly the narrator. The female voice of God, a lot of the best, wittiest lines were given to the voiceover narrator, picking up some of the cleverest bits of the book. I think it helped keep the feel of the story right, and overcame some of the book vs. movie limitations of changing format.
Should we talk about issues? I’m 500 words into this review, so I guess so. As I said, I got halfway through Episode 5 with no major complaints. I wasn’t thrilled by the voice (or cloak, actually) of Death. It was just…a voice. Not one that seemed to be talking in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, as Death obviously should do. Granted, I’m not sure how to achieve that out loud–but I feel like James Earl Jones basically talks in all capital letters, so maybe go that direction? Anyway, voice of Death aside, we were still all good. And then the Four Horsemen arrived at the army base, and I realized–they had left out the Horsemen meeting the Hell’s Angels. Which happens to be my favorite part!
So, that was disappointing. I’ll grant that’s a personal complaint, though. In a less personal issue, the pacing of Episode 6 felt very odd. Armageddon felt just a little rushed and anticlimactic, and then the last half-hour or so was given to wrap-up. I checked my copy of the book, and that section was 20 pages out of 400, so making it 30 minutes out of 5.5 hours feels like rather a lot. It was entertaining throughout, it just felt like a long denouement that undercut the already anticlimactic climax.
But don’t get me wrong here–it was a great miniseries. If you’re at all interested, you should definitely watch it. And this was definitely worlds better than it might have been, as we’ve seen with other adaptations. But be warned the ending is a little off, and it left me feeling I really, really liked it–though I did want to love it.