Since I heard that Robert Kirkman’s (“MARVEL ZOMBIES”, “TOP COW’S PILOT SEASON”) amazing “THE WALKING DEAD” comic book series would be adapted into a television series from AMC I have attempted (and at times failed) to keep my opinions on the subject to a minimum as to not ‘jump the shark’ and make any hasty judgments. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea seeing as Frank Darabont (“THE MIST”) is a fantastic director and I do believe that “MAD MEN” is one of the best television shows running on television. But when it comes to adapting such a heavy series such as “THE WALKING DEAD” into live action form I have to be a bit skeptical. Not because I don’t believe that the creative team can pull it off, but because I, like so many, love the source material so much. There have been a lot of great comic to film adaptations in the past (“SPIDERMAN 1 & 2”, “THE DARK KNIGHT”) that have raised the bar for what movie goers should come to expect from big Hollywood. But then by the same token there have been some epic failures as well. (“FANTASTIC 4”, “GHOSTRIDER”) Therefore I am going into this article with all the love and care of any fan that is hoping to see one of their favorite stories rendered in a respectful way, and that is why I am writing this. Who should play Rick? What should we hope to see from the series? And most importantly can it be done well? These are all things that are circling the thoughts of horror fans across the globe right now, and inside you can find my thoughts on the pilot (and subsequent series due in October) as well as what I personally hope to see from Darabont & Co. Read on for the full article.
Since its inception all the way back in 2003, Image Comics’ original monthly following the desperate attempts of Rick Grimes and his rag-tag group of survivors in the wake of the zombie apocalypse has been hailed as one of comics greatest stories. Not only does the series offer fans an amazing take on the tired subject of zombie survival, but it transcends all cliches and sets itself apart from the pack by simply being a remarkable piece of fiction. On its own “THE WALKING DEAD” is a true masterpiece of the genre, and arguably, literature. After all, how many other comics that have run for 7+ years say that they have consistently raised the bar for a genre as glutted as the one it stands atop of?
Ever since early last year we have heard the rumors of the series being adapted into an original television show. One could make the case that now is a better time than ever with shows such as Showtime’s adaptation of Jeff Lindsay’s popular series of chiller novels “DEXTER” setting new records for the horror genre in TV. Other series such as The CW’s “SUPERNATURAL” and ScyFy’s titular “GHOST HUNTERS” have ushered in an age of renewed interest in the macabre and the spooky that hasn’t been seen since the hay-day of The WB’s Joss Whedon craze. Even the usually snooty award shows such as the Golden Globes, The Emmy’s, and even The Oscars have started to accept our beloved genre into their ranks casting aside the social stigma that has plagued it for so long. (“DEXTER” alone has gathered an impressive 2 Emmy’s and 2 Golden Globes) If ever there were a time for a horror series like “THE WALKING DEAD” to be unleashed unto the world it is now.
Still, there are some who don’t believe the hype, or, just don’t understand what all the fuss is about. I’m not one to put down people’s opinions (no matter how I feel about them) and I can understand that some may not appreciate what many call the “soap opera” aspect of Kirkman’s story. They are entitled to their opinion, and in the open mouth of the internet they can feel free to wag their tongues in whatever direction they deem necessary. Myself, nor the countless flaming comments of their peers can change their minds on the subject so why waste the time? With that out of the way, I am going to make a very bold statement and hope that I am offered the same respect when I say that…
Horror is a mockery of itself right now. Never before have I seen such a point in the life of the genre that makes me so uneasy. I’m not going to turn this into a rant on the lament of “gore-porn” and/or remakes and how they have distilled horror into an unsavory version of what it once was back in the golden days. I will say this though: horror MUST evolve and stop the de-evolution downturn that it has been going through. Stop and think about all the movies that have garnered such doting praise and fans over the past decade. Films such as “LET THE RIGHT ONE IN”, “MARTYRS”, “FRONTIER(S), and others of their ilk have been so critically acclaimed because they go beyond the formula of blood, guts, and tits. Instead these films and those like them present viewers with a slow burn pacing and allow themselves to build an emotional connection between character and viewer so that when the blood does start spilling we CARE. You are sucked into these films because they DARE to be something more than a splatterfest. This isn’t to say that I don’t love me some good ol’ fashioned blood ‘n guts from time to time, but for this writer I prefer these more dramatic offerings into the genre. (Which is quite possibly why I think “DREAD” is the best horror film released so far this year, but this is beside the point) Long story short: if the genre continues to churn out nothing but awful remakes and “SAW” films it will dash any hopes of ever becoming recognized as a true medium.
I could whine about that subject all day, but I will spare everyone that. The moral here is that “THE WALKING DEAD” offers up exactly what the genre needs right now. There is blood, gore, body parts flying, and plenty of arterial spray, but these things are happening to people we can identify with. Your father can look at Rick and his family and identify, teens can the lovers Andrea and Dale and feel their pain and their care for each other, and so on and so forth. If people from all walks of life, of all ages, races, creeds, and genders can relate to a character within the story then not only will it be a more successful series but it will also drive more interest in the genre. You can call “THE WALKING DEAD” a soap opera with zombies, but myself and the thousands upon thousands of readers like me who read the story every month don’t see this as a bad thing.
So now that I have said all that I still think there are several things that need to happen to make this a success for AMC. The first thing being proper casting for the series’ main character, Rick Grimes. There have been several different names thrown around, and for the most part all of them have been tolerable, but the runaway fan favorite seems to be Mark Pellegrino. (“LOST”, “SUPERNATURAL”, “THE BIG LEBOWSKI”) There is no doubt about it-he has the chops. Over his career Pellegrino has been “that guy that was in –“ but never has he been THE guy. I’m not so sure why this is seeing as the actor has more talent and depth in his pinky than most of the people in roles much larger than his own. For those who have watched “LOST” or the current season of “SUPERNATURAL” the role of Rick Grimes seems to have been made for Pellegrino. That’s why I hope that AMC reads these types of things on boards such as ours and seriously considers Pellegrino. He has that every man look about him while carrying himself with the professionalism and swagger of a quiet badass. Poetic compliments aside, there are some actors that look the part, and then there are the ones that ARE the part. The hopes of Pellegrino clinching the role goes beyond his obvious resemblance to the character in question, and I wouldn’t be throwing my name into his corner if it didn’t. The fans have followed these characters and been lead by Rick just like the rest of the survivors within the realm of this story for years now, and in saying that they know what they want. The intuition of fans goes beyond that of any Hollywood exec in charge of casting (Here’s looking at you Halle Berry in ‘CATWOMAN’) and I would hope that their voices would at least be considered. Oh, and if Mark doesn’t work out I’d gladly settle for “SIX FEET UNDER” and “DIRTY, SEXY, MONEY” actor Peter Krause.
Ok, so I obviously you know who I want to play our main character at this point, but there is one more thing I would like to throw into the ring before I cut this off. Darabont struggled very adamantly in pre-production of “THE MIST” to shoot the film in black and white, and eventually settled on cornering his vision into a special feature on the DVD. I personally view this vision of the film to be a FAR superior version of the movie, and it makes those rusty FX scenes look completely believable. Therefore I propose that the series be shot in stark black and white just like the source material. Not just because it looks cool and it makes for a very unique visual but because it also allows the network and the creators to be more graphic without the censors jumping down their throats. Imagine if “THE WALKING DEAD” could depict these gruesome scenes in a far more realistic (and graphic) manner just by making itself look even more like the source material? I think that in doing this you also give a more ‘timeless’ look to the series, and a ‘classic’ feel that it rightly deserves.
That being said I feel like the show is moving in the right direction. AMC is a fantastic network that is quickly becoming more and more diverse and edgy without sacrificing the integrity within the content. All in all “THE WALKING DEAD” has the potential to be the most successful television series in horror history given the already ravenous fan base and the prime choice of timing for its release. Jon Bernthal will likely prove to be a great choice for the character of Shane and fans will like what he brings to the character. And even though I still monitor the updates on the series with the same eagerness and nervous hope as the rest of you out there, I have a lot of faith in Frank Darabont and the creative team.
Anyway, that’s my two cents, what say you?