‘Series of Unfortunate Events’ proves much better than 2004 film

By Morgan Knox, Contributing Writer

In January, Netflix released the eight-episode series based on the first four books of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” series. The television adaptation begins by following the lives of the Baudelaire children after the loss of their parents in a fire. Like the books, the show is dark, mysterious, witty and imaginative as Violet, Clause and Sunny Baudelaire try to flee the nefarious Count Olaf played by Neil Patrick Harris in a world where adults do not heed the warnings of the children.

The show’s demographic includes teens, young adults and especially those who read the novels growing up. The show deals with many topics: death, depression, abandonment, murder and mysteries.

This series is enjoyable for people both familiar with and unfamiliar with the miserable and dark tale of the orphans; the tale is rife with twists, comedy that masks the tragedy, multiple story layers and mysteries that may confuse fans of the books.

In 2004 the first three novels were adapted into a movie starring Jim Carrey as Count Olaf. For those who had never read any of the books before watching, many enjoyed it for its uniqueness, humor, technicality, filming, costumes and casting.

Yet those who had read the books before seeing the 2004 film were greatly let down.

The books are much darker than what the film depicts, but the main issue with the televised version is the story line. It is as if whoever wrote the screenplay took a blender and threw in parts of the plot line from books one through three and then sprinkled in information from books four through nine. Fans of the books may have expected the film to begin with the plot in book one “The Bad Beginning,” transition to an almost happy ending in “The Reptile Room” and then end how the book “The Wide Window” should have ended. For some reason the writers decided to skip the ending from the first book, and move to conclusions from book two and three. The film has a rating of 6.8 stars out of 10 on IMBD.com, and a Metascore of 62 out of 100 based upon 37 critic reviews.

The Netflix original opens with credits telling the audience to “look away” but if you do you will miss a brilliantly written story, great acting and an intriguing plotline. The series has eight episodes that are divided into four different stories which match with the first four books of the series. Splitting the stories between two episodes allows time for much more plot and character development that the 2004 movie did not have. There is a formula that is repeated: Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are placed in the custody of a guardian, and Count Olaf attempts a new scheme to trap the children from the current guardian. The guardians seem to fall for Olaf’s trap, but the children see right through his plans. The formula works quite well, and it adds to the melodrama, humor, as well as the continuous unfortunate events that come one right after another on which the show is centered.

Count Olaf is played by Neil Patrick Harris who accurately depicts the despicable character who claims to be a world renowned actor. Harris navigates the complex character that is overdramatic, careless, but also devious and cunning at the same time.

Just like in the books, Harris as Olaf transforms himself into a herpetologist assistant, a peg-legged sailor and even a female receptionist.

Olaf’s acting fools the adults around the Baudelaire’s, but the children never fail to see through his disguises.

The actors picked to play the Baudelaire orphans did a good job bringing the uniquely talented characters to life. Violet is played by Malina Weissman, Klaus by Louis Hynes and Sunny Baudelaire by Presley Smith.

Similar to that of the books, the children are the most intelligent characters in the show. Violet is a handy and skilled inventor, Klaus is an avid reader and learner when there are libraries nearby and Sunny is a three-year-old with sharp teeth that can cut through almost anything.

The adults in the series are very condescending to the children, and it adds to the hopelessness because people who could actually help the children do not listen to them.

Adults not listening also allows for the children to work together, use their knowledge and get out of their miserable situations involving Count Olaf. 

One of the most unique parts of the series is that of the role of Lemony Snicket. Lemony Snicket is played by Patrick Warburtion is the narrarator of the tale, and his character dedicates his life’s work to shedding light on the Baudelaire orphans’ story that happened “years ago.”

Similar to the Snicket of the books, he breaks the fourth wall by directly talking to the audience. At the very beginning of the first episode Snicket even warns the viewers that there is nothing happy about the story he is going to tell at all.

He often cuts into the dialogue of the characters to add emphasis to certain points, or to give a definition of a word like the Snicket of the novels.

WARNING: If you have not seen the new Netflix series yet, the section below contain spoilers from the first eight episodes.

Not all of the adults in the show are complete idiots; Mr. Poe’s secretary is one of the most pleasant surprises you’ll see through the entire season. She is a member of the secret society that the Baudelaire’s parents were a part of when they were younger.

She is tasked with helping to try and protect the children, give them information and she tried to catch Count Olaf. She pops up at least once or twice in the first six episodes. Another twist that was put in the series was short clips of two parents who were desperately trying to make it back to their children.

The writers made it seem like the Baudelaire’s parents were still alive, but they were actually the Quagmire triplet’s parents who also die in a fire soon after returning home to their children.

At the end of episode eight, it shows that the Baudelaire children and two of the Quagmire triplets will meet during season two at the boarding school they were sent to after their time at Lucky Smells Lumber mill.

Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” Netflix series currently has a five star rating on Netflix, over 1,100 reviews by viewers  and an 8.1 out of 10 from IMDb. I give the series five out of five stars.

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