Tim Burton brings the Addams Family back to center stage. Did the Netflix series convince us in the blink of an eye? Critical.
Good news for all lovers of the strange and macabre, the master of the genre returns to our screens. While he seemed to have – by his own admission – lost his soul at Disney, the director returns to his first love with the free adaptation of the comics The Addams Family. At Netflix, he stages the new adventures of the young Wednesday.
Expelled from her school after an incident involving piranhas and a gang of low-ceilinged jocks, Wednesday is admitted to the prestigious Nevermore Academy. As she tries to make a place for herself in this school for extraordinary people, a series of murders terrorizes the small town. Wednesday will investigate this case while uncovering terrible family secrets.
I’m a creep
Tim Burton loves curious beasts, that’s undeniable. The director of Beetlejuice et Sleepy Hollow directs them like no one else, he seemed well suited to take an interest in the adventures of young Wednesday Addams. The announcement of his involvement therefore largely contributed to putting the spotlight on the project. But Netflix is expected at the turn, we do not attack a moment of pop-culture without paying the price in case of failure.
Let’s say it right away, the bet has largely been won for the platform. Everything in this series reminds us of the finest hours of the filmmaker. We find all the themes that are dear to him, starting with the non-conformism that infuses almost all of his filmography. With his legendary cynicism, Burton has fun supporting the comic breaks in the story to bring out the satire of modern America. If it is less sharp than at its beginnings, the scenario writer tints the first four episodes of a macabre humor of most effective. Mercredi then imposes itself as a timid plea, an ode to difference that will resonate with all adolescents in search of identity but also young adults who will lay their eyes on the series.
He also builds his atmosphere with great ingenuity, finding in certain details an opportunity to praise the strangeness of certain characters. Swarming, the production is a sumptuous gloomy picture that Burton hatches. Flourishing in shades of gray and sordid decors, the filmmaker has fun with this visual universe. A scene at a ball finally convinced us that the father ofEdward Scissorhands et Big Fish has regained some of its panache.
The staging pays homage to this dimension in many ways. In its light, its framing, we find some of the details that make the mark of the director. If the whole thing is not pushed to its climax, we have fun discovering this anachronistic and Gothic atmosphere. The beast that will give Wednesday a hard time could not have been drawn from any other mind than his. Note that he is not in the production of all the episodes and that he leaves his place to other directors from the fifth chapter. A change that happens gently, the soul of Wednesday is not sacrificed. Tim Burton remains in production and keeps an eye on the grain.
At the helm, Netflix has recruited two screenwriters more accustomed to series of the genre. It is Alfred Gough and Miles Millar who sign these first adventures on the small screen. It’s not their first time together for the co-creators, as they previously explored Superman’s early years with Smallville in the early 2000s. Here, they paint a more touching picture of adolescence. Through the character of Wednesday, they approach the transition to adulthood and the difficulty of freeing oneself from one’s family heritage. The rejection of family patterns is also what serves as a guideline for this production.
Around the character played by Jenna Ortega, a whole gallery of young protagonists also evolves, with their share of questions. However, the subplots are not all of the same content and some tend to weigh down the series. They serve above all to sharpen the criticism of an excessively standardized society, without always succeeding in freeing themselves from the clichés of the genre. By wanting too much to denounce the lack of singularity of our world, the series begins to lose a little of its own. This is particularly the case with regard to the part of the investigation.
Yet central in this first season, this monstrous Cluedo accumulates predictable reversals. We had the opportunity to discover seven of the eight episodes of this first season and we must admit that the series largely embraces its teen dimension and does not really nourish the desire to hatch an unbearable suspense. It is nevertheless at the top of the basket, especially for Netflix which often tends to miss its forays into the genre.
In the imagination of viewers, Wednesday Addams is often associated with Christina Ricci. The actress made an impression with her performance in Barry Sonnenfeld’s feature film. The actress having grown well since the release in 1991, it was necessary to find a replacement for her. Jenna Ortega was chosen by Burton and the designers. And great good has taken them since it is simply perfect.
Deadpan, cruel and inept in its social relations, this new Wednesday shows itself in its best light, or at least the most faithful to the mythology of the character. At only 20 years old, Jenna Ortega proves that no score can resist her. She shines with her phlegm, her piquant tone and her way of saying so much with her eyes. She gives substance to a fascinating and endearing heroine, who strings together scathing replies but who finds an unprecedented density as the conclusion approaches.
Unfortunately, she is sometimes surrounded by young actors and actresses who lack nuance. This is particularly the case on the side of the “thick brutes”, who delight in the rehashed diagrams of high school productions. The bubbly Emmy Myers, who plays Wednesday’s eccentric roommate, plays the perfect counterpoint to the gloomy teenager who shares her room. On the adult side, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzman who respectively play Morticia and Gomez Addams are a little behind. They nevertheless come out with honors.
Gwendoline Christie and Christina Ricci also give the change in the role of the teaching staff. These are also the only teachers that we will see in this first season. One embodies coldness, while the one who played Wednesday Addams in the past stands out as an attentive ear for our heroine. Behind and in front of the camera, Wednesday offers us a beautiful handover between the two actresses.
Dance of Death
We will end with the music, imagined by none other than Danny Elfman. The composer has repeatedly put all his talent at the service of Tim Burton. It is to him that we owe the iconic original music of Beetlejuice et Edward Scissorhands. With Wednesday, he punctuates the series with mischief. Omnipresent, the score contributes to the atmosphere of the project. Elfman delights in this gloomy universe and explores it with great ease. We particularly appreciate the main theme as well as the cello cover of “Paint it Black”.
Tackling a monument of pop culture was a hell of a bet for Netflix. The platform seems to have recruited the right craftsmen to bring out this teenage series with gothic and murderous accents. If the cursor is probably not placed as high as we could have hoped, the first season of Wednesday turns out to be effective entertainment carried by a new teenage icon. Too bad she didn’t come out in time for our Halloween marathon.
Source: Journal du Geek by www.journaldugeek.com.
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