tue 19/09/2017

DVD/Blu-ray: American Gods | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: American Gods

DVD/Blu-ray: American Gods

Divine immigration epic from Neil Gaiman

Ian McShane as Mr Wednesday/Odin

Neil Gaiman understood the country where he’d landed as an immigrant in the Nineties by writing American Gods. His first substantial novel after his crowning comics achievement, The Sandman, mined an idea of infinite plenitude: if every immigrant since the Vikings took their gods with them to America, what happened when the worshippers assimilated, and forgot?

This first season of Bryan Fuller and Michael Green’s Gaiman-overseen adaptation answers with an increasingly discursive road-trip taken by Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane as a genial but ruthless con-man, the twinkle in his eyes sometimes turning to ice, not really bothering to hide his nature in his name). He’s chauffeured across America’s forgotten backroads by ex-con Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle, pictured below with an American Jesus), gathering up fellow lingering old gods for an apocalyptic confrontation with a new, technological pantheon. 

It’s a surprisingly sober, leisurely epic, just unique and intriguing enough

Moon, released from jail after his wife’s spectacularly sordid death, is a wounded protagonist, a non-believer adrift in the capricious divine. His dead wife Laura (Emily Browning, hilarious and movingly heroic as a deadpan-shameless, stinking, stitched-up corpse) complicates his feelings further.

In its first, jarringly garish and ultraviolent episode especially, this is much more American than Gaiman’s American Gods. It settles into a slower rhythm of byways, not highways, with Gaiman’s interludes and vignettes now prologues and full-blown strands. Anubis has become a funeral director, kindly leading an Arabic woman from her apartment up a fire escape to heaven; Bilquis, a Middle Easten god of sex, survives as an app-assisted Vegas prostitute, swallowing lovers into her vagina during their climactic devotion. You can smell the cabbage in the cold-water apartment where a Slavic death-god, Czernobog, ekes out his days in a rarely washed vest with his sisters. Surviving on scraps of belief, they face brash, gauche god of technology and the internet Technical Boy (Bruce Langley), the older, tougher Media (Gillian Anderson, shape-shifting between Marilyn, Bowie and Lucille Ball), and ultimate terror Mr World (Crispin Glover), who absorbs identities and attentions, leaving us surveilled, docile customers of one divine corporation.

Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) meets an American JesusThe book’s investigation of belief and believers, race and stories in America provides an uncensored philosophical thread. Faith is “what we give our time to”. Our apparently secular, modern attachment to our phones and screens is a leeching devotion, compared to the more viscerally understood divine contracts of old, which Wednesday intends to reinstate with famine and sword.

American Gods’ own screen offering is an absorbing, faithful and occasionally moving exploration of Gaiman’s great premise and picaresque narrative. It doesn’t yet touch TV divinity. Instead it’s a surprisingly sober, leisurely epic, just unique and intriguing enough.

Extras include a San Diego Comic Con appearance by Gaiman and co., short, thoughtful cast interviews, and Gaiman’s return to Reykjavik’s Viking museum, where he thought of American Gods.

Bilquis, a Middle Easten god of sex, survives as an app-assisted Vegas prostitute, swallowing lovers into her vagina

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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