Preacher: Pilot – Review

Once again, AMC dips its toes into lake Adaptation with their latest comic based series, Preacher. Keeping in line with the book’s dark humor and gruesome visuals, the cable network’s new show sets the stage for a wild ride in its opening chapter. Before we dig in, here’s how the official site describes things:

“Based on the popular cult comic book franchise of the same name, Preacher is a supernatural, twisted and darkly comedic drama that follows a West Texas preacher named Jesse Custer, who is inhabited by a mysterious entity that causes him to develop a highly unusual power. Jesse, his badass ex-girlfriend Tulip and an Irish vagabond named Cassidy come together, and when they do, they are thrust into a crazy world populated by a cast of characters from Heaven, Hell and everywhere in between.”

Preacher vs Preacher

If you’ve never read the books, hang tight while I get this part out of the way. If you have, let’s get started. First, keep in mind that Preacher the comic was published in the mid nineties and its protagonist is a Vietnam vet. Those and a number of other setting choices by writer Garth Ennis – like his idea of Texas sensibilities – would make any to-screen adaptation restrictive and challenging. When touring the networks for a home began and series producers/directors Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg were trying to get Preacher made, the setting issues worried me. Rogan and Goldberg being behind its production also worried me. Don’t get me wrong, I love their work, but thought they might be the wrong kind of fit for the material.

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Despite the typical differences that any book-to-show adaptation is going to have, Preacher would be tough to translate on any network. Even HBO and the other “premium” channels would struggle. Imagine if all the gory, horrible, pornographic stuff in Game of Thrones, True Blood, The Walking Dead and every other adult show had a baby, that baby ate itself, shit itself out then ate itself again: That’s what Preacher on TV would actually look like.

So if you’re a purist, or a traditionalist, or whatever title you give yourself so you can be an asshole on the internet every time you don’t like something, take a breath and remember it’s just entertainment. No adaptation is perfect and often times the changes are for the better. Do you really want there to be no surprises?

Custer’s first stand

The four pillars of visual storytelling I use to dissect a show or film are: Casting, Story, Production Value and Cinematography. All of which have varying degrees of importance and each entail their own measurable components. Get most of them right and you’ll probably have a success. Hit on all four and you might just transcend the genre, pulling in people who normally would never tune in.

p1

If casting is important then Seth and Evan hit a home run. The core trio – Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun and Ruth Negga – are absolutely perfect. Maybe not 100% torn from the page, but dead on for what’s needed in a TV series. Cooper – the Preacher himself, Jesse Custer – brings an immediate likability to the protagonist and a connectivity to the viewer. You’re very quickly invested in whatever journey he’s about to embark on. That’s not just important, but life or death to the show itself. In a world where the absurd and the supernatural exist and intertwine, you’re going to need an engaging, believable hook to stay involved. Cooper offers that in spades.

The other piece of bread on this talent sandwich is Ruth Negga. You might recognize her from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She literally and figuratively hits the screen with a bang. Her introduction/origin is the more silly of the three, but her ability to sell the ridiculous is just wonderful. Tulip, the sociopath she plays, is a no nonsense nutcase with a bad habit of being, well, bad. Really bad. Her chemistry with Cooper is real, selling a long history with his character that we’re just getting a taste of.

So I guess that makes Joseph Gilgun the meat. Which is appropriate since he’s a vampire. Gilgun’s over the top depiction combined with his awesome physicality make him so perfect to play Cassidy. He was my favorite character in the books and he’s shaping up to be my favorite in the show. Whatever he does, you just buy in. Like his counterparts, he’s reason enough to watch. So with all three setting the hook, there’s a good chance you’ll stick around assuming the material suits you. About that…

A preacher, a criminal and a vampire walk into a bar…literally

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So we covered that a true-to-the-books adaptation is gonna be really tough, if not impossible. So what then, we get a watered down mess full of nods to the comics instead of an actual attempt at bringing the pages to life? If they’re not going to shoot demonic orgies and Nazi assassin whores do I even want to watch? Well, yes, you do. The core of the comics is their unapologetically dark humor combined with outlandish and horror filled circumstances. You can still get that. Just without the foul language, it’s on AMC after all.

Rogan and Goldberg do a pretty fair job of holding true to those core factors while delivering on a modern, cable-friendly interpretation of the story. Are there some changes? Yes. Huge ones. Where the changes so drastic they shouldn’t have even called it Preacher? No. They maintained the core elements while smoothing out some rough edges.

Overall the opening stanza kept a strong pace while allowing each of the three primary characters to shine just enough to make them relevant, but not so much that they cast a shadow on everything else.

Seeing is believing

We covered casting and story, so now let’s tackle the production value and camera work. Does Preacher look the part? Without nitpicking: yes. This is where interpretations can be tough as so many hands are in the “how things look” cookie jar. And on the set of a tightly budgeted TV series, bad might be all they can afford. It might have nothing to do with effort or vision. Thankfully, Preacher looks really good. Many of the settings are in a sparse, budget friendly Texas town, but it never feels cheap or underwhelming even when the action takes you elsewhere.

Though I didn’t have many “Wow” moments when dissecting the lens work, I also didn’t cringe or wonder what they were thinking with any particular shot. The camera work was good and the set design was right for each scene. Not amazing, but always appropriate for the story.

Preacher: Pilot – Review Reviewed byMichael Pellegrini on . The Good:
  • Dominic, Joseph & Ruth
  • Funny and gross just like the books
  • Solid modernization of original story
The Bad:
  • Not rated "R" enough
Though I can't help but think the best version of this would be on Showtime or the like, the cast and crew make the most out of what AMC offers. And despite outdated, tough-to-adapt source material, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg bring a twenty year old story into the here and now without losing much of what made it great in the first place. Fan of the books or not, Preacher's first episode is worth a watch. After only one, I can't wait to see what comes next. Rating: 4.25

In Closing:

Though I can't help but think the best version of this would be on Showtime or the like, the cast and crew make the most out of what AMC offers. And despite outdated, tough-to-adapt source material, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg bring a twenty year old story into the here and now without losing much of what made it great in the first place. Fan of the books or not, Preacher's first episode is worth a watch. After only one, I can't wait to see what comes next.
Cast (The big 3) 10
Story 8
Look & Feel 8
Addictability 8
8.5 Really Good!
The Good:
  • Dominic, Joseph & Ruth
  • Funny and gross just like the books
  • Solid modernization of original story
The Bad:
  • Not rated "R" enough

User Rating:

8.4
(1 votes)
Though I can't help but think the best version of this would be on Showtime or the like, the cast and crew make the most out of what AMC offers. And despite outdated, tough-to-adapt source material, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg bring a twenty year old story into the here and now without losing much of what made it great in the first place. Fan of the books or not, Preacher's first episode is worth a watch. After only one, I can't wait to see what comes next.
Cast (The big 3)
Story
Look & Feel
Addictability
Really Good!
The Good:
  • Dominic, Joseph & Ruth
  • Funny and gross just like the books
  • Solid modernization of original story
The Bad:
  • Not rated "R" enough

User Rating:

4.2/5
(1 votes)

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About The Author

Michael Pellegrini

Michael is a classic example of a child trapped in an adult’s body – and I use the word “adult” very, very loosely. With interests ranging from comic books and movies to theater and fine art, Mike has followed humble journalistic beginnings that have led to interviews, reviews, news write-ups and opinion – though it’s ever changing – pieces covering those same interests. All of that brings us here, to a site where a community of like-minded geeks can inform the rest of the world on the topics we adore.

And on the personal side of things, Michael squeezes time for his lovely wife and house full of dogs between all the comic reading and video game playing.

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