http://www.filmdivider.com/9758/amcs-pr ... -original/
AMC’s Preacher is both a drastic reinvention and faithful to the soul of the original
By Seb Patrick | on April 13, 2015 | 0 Comment
Ever since Zack Snyder brought Watchmen to the screen in 2009, the notion that any particular comic could be considered “unfilmable” has lost a lot of weight. Maybe this has helped development move forward on the adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman, though just as with Watchmen, I suspect that most of what makes the original so noteworthy is unlikely to survive the translation.
By contrast, though, it’s never been any consideration of form that has made Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon‘s Preacher seem like a troubled proposition. Its structure, style and pacing all seem perfectly suited to a screen adaptation, and if the story is too long to be told convincingly within a movie, then surely a TV drama will be the perfect home for it.
Preacher‘s problems lie more with its distinct sensibilities. This series is filled with themes and scenes that can live happily in a Vertigo comic, away from the spotlight, but which seem likely to attract immeasurable controversy for anyone who dares bring them to a wider audience. The the problem facing anyone adapting Preacher for TV, as exec producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are in the process of doing for AMC, is in trying to retain the original’s unique spirit and style while shedding some of the more ‘difficult’ elements.
What surprises me about Rogen, Goldberg and writer Sam Catlin‘s plans for the Preacher pilot is how they’re pursuing fidelity to the original through some extreme pruning and large-scale reinvention.
The script has apparently gone through many rewrites, so it’s obvious that the finished show might change many times between now and any such time it airs on TV, but if it follows the plans as we understand them today, this will be one of the most impressive of comics-to-screen adaptations.
The early issues of the original comic set up the tropes of a “road movie” and introduced Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Hare and Cassidy when they were already on the move. Flashbacks revealed that that Jesse was recently a preacher in a small Texas town called Annville, but was now on the run after a mysterious power entered his body, simultaneously killing the town’s entire population.
In short order, Jesse learns that the entity inside his head is a new celestial creation called Genesis, that it’s potentially even more powerful than God, and that the Lord himself has abandoned heaven in fear of it.
preacher2Eventually, the comic pieced together much of Jesse’s past, and revealed why he had gone to Annville to become a preacher in the first place. Even after leaving Annville and beginning his pursuit of God, Jesse continued to wear the dog collar – and of course, the series was still called Preacher.
Even though it had originally been forced upon him, Jesse comes to see his role as something of an obligation, and this includes holding God accountable for his sins.
Within just the first issue of the comic, Jesse was already on the road and his time in the church of Annville was being framed as a brief, unpleasant footnote in his life.
This is just about the complete opposite of how the TV show begins.
The plans for the pilot episode have it starting with Jesse in place as a preacher in Annville. And then at the end, even though he’s now gained the power of Genesis, he’s still a preacher in Annville.
And this time around, Custer is not the only one of the story’s key characters to be resident in the town. Sheriff Root and Eugene are there; there’s a take on Quincannon, though they’re rather a different character than the one from the comics; it’s even implied that Tulip grew up locally too.
And there are also new characters, including Lucy Griffiths‘ as Emily. Rather than focusing on the lead trio’s roadtrip, following them around the country into new settings, the TV version seems to be set on building a community and setting it up as the epicentre of the shocking events which will follow.
That’s not to say there aren’t hints of a wider scope. Flashbacks will tease the Custer family history, including one huge departure from the comics, and the characters around Annville drop lots of hints about Jesse’s dark and dramatic time away.
Cassidy is still Irish, and so he isn’t, of course, from Annville. But he will arrive during the pilot episode, with a planned introduction that establishes him as both roguish party animal and a violent beast. As soon as he meets Jesse, the audience will immediately realise exactly why the two get on so well.
And it also takes no time at all to understand that Cassidy can’t be trusted.
He’s looking like the character who will make the transition most smoothly, and it seems very likely that the role will make a star out of Joe Gilgun, whose casting feels utterly perfect.
Rogen, Goldberg and Catlin are taking things noticeably slower than the comic, but this strikes me as a good thing. They’ve got a great “shit goes down” moment planned for the end of the pilot, and it will have all the more impact coming after the full episode’s worth of breathing space.
And this big climax, by the way, doesn’t come from the comic but really feels like it could have done.
Indeed, that sums up the plans for TV Preacher. It’s so superficially different from the comic that many of us know and love, with different people saying different things at different times in different places, but underneath, the heart beats in perfect tune with what Ennis was doing in the book.
I recognise precisely one, and only one, line of dialogue in Catlin’s pilot script as being lifted directly from the source material, but it’s such an important line that I’m convinced that these people really get it.
It’s notable that Preacher is being developed almost concurrently with Fox’s Lucifer, another adaptation of a Vertigo comic that changes almost everything about the source material, yet exists, right now, as a pilot script that’s almost unbearable to read.
Preacher is on track to be tense, politically-charged and unpleasant in all the right places. Purists may be irritated by the sheer volume of differences, but they should at least embrace the possibilities this open up for surprise.
This feels like it could turn out to be as good a TV show as the original was a comic. That’s why it does Ennis and Dillon proud.