When it comes to a TV series adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steven Dillon’s controversial, boundary pushing comic book series Preacher, I had about as much hope for a faithful adaptation as a steak gatsby has for its survival when Alwynne is around, i.e. none. Despite producers/showrunners Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin’s clear passion for the source material, I just didn’t see any network – not even AMC, home to the regularly WTF-y The Walking Dead – signing off on some of the depravities that goes on in this heavily religious slanted tale. And the first trailer certainly didn’t help to assuage my fears, as it gave us a glimpse of a show that looked like a solid Southern potboiler, but absolutely nothing like the epic cross-country supernatural road trip that enthralled and repulsed readers for years across its award-winning 75 issue run.
But it seems that my pessimistic ways may just have been a bit short-sighted, for while Preacher the TV Series is not quite Preacher the Comic Book, that doesn’t mean that it’s still not good. And apparently it really, really is! That’s according to the folks who were lucky enough to be in attendance at SXSW Festival where the pilot episode of the upcoming series was screened the other day. /Film has compiled a round-up of people’s online thoughts about the pilot, and thus far the general consensus, from hardcore fans to complete newcomers, seems to range from just good to “HOLY WALKING DEAD, BATMAN! AMC HAVE ANOTHER MONSTER HIT ON THEIR HANDS!”
You can check out some of the thoughts below, but for the uninitiated, Preacher followes Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a conflicted preacher in a small Texas town who gets possessed by a mysterious spiritual entity that gives him the voice of God i.e. able to command anybody to do anything. As a result of attaining this power, Jesse sets out on a quest to, literally, find God, joined by his hitwoman ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga) and a hard-drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun).
— Joanna Robinson (@jowrotethis) March 14, 2016
If there is a god, PREACHER should be huge. #SXSW
— Joanna Robinson (@jowrotethis) March 14, 2016
GodDAMN, PREACHER is perfect. Exactly what I wanted out of this adaptation. So, so good. #SXSW
— Meredith Borders (@xymarla) March 14, 2016
Everyone who saw PREACHER at #SXSW seems to have loved it hotly.
Allow me to temperature-control your expectations.
— Josh L. Dickey (@JLDlite) March 15, 2016
— Neil Miller (@rejects) March 14, 2016
Speaking of Preacher, Joseph Gilgun is going to be a massive star if this thing takes off like I think it will.
— Eric Vespe (@EricVespe) March 15, 2016
For fans of the book, I won’t spoil the pilot, but I will say rest easy. They make some changes, but once you see how good the pilot is you won’t mind. All they’ve really done is re-arrange some stuff on the timeline (so far). Arseface, for instance, is already Arseface when we meet him and he’s wonderfully played by Ian Colletti in a fantastically comic-accurate KNB prosthetic. They also mentioned on the panel that Season One will take place primarily in this small Texas town, but Goldberg and Rogen assured us that they dive into the comic’s story soon enough.
Anyone doubting that the seminal 1990s comic series Preacher could be successfully translated for television may now consider their concerns moot. The pilot episode of the upcoming AMC series based on Garth Ennis’ lengthy, insane look at American culture that premiered today during SXSW turns out to be a textbook example of understanding the difference between the letter and the spirit of the law. Expanding on the comic’s philosophical themes while (for budgetary reasons) minimizing its scope, the series from exec producers Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin embraces the archetype-heavy world in which it takes place fully without, descending into either camp or self-seriousness.
A perfectly grimy Dominic Cooper plays leading man Jesse Custer, who struggles to command his small, gossipy community while greater forces assemble just out of view. The surprisingly well-rendered introductory sequence sets the stage for the next hour of zany action and suspense: a mysterious comet careens through the solar system, crashing into an African church and inhabiting the body of its minister, who promptly explodes in a sea of blood. It’s not the last time. Over the course of 60 minutes, “Preacher” delivers a dizzying volume of first-rate action sequences, grotesque makeup, and macho showdowns, pointing the way to a promising new stage for genre series. While few would consider the first episode of “The Walking Dead” to be its strongest entry, “Preacher” shows off its massive appeal from the start.
It’s stuff like this, and exploding humans, and vampire brawls on an airplane some thousands of feet above the ground that affirm the show’s commitment to retaining the wilder elements of the source material, and for as crazy as some of it can be, the transition is made smoother by sharp writing, direction and acting — all showcasing an appropriate amount of sensitivity to that fine line between delightfully visceral and absurdly cartoonish.
Based on this pilot, it’s a show that fuses the slow, menacing dread of programmes such as True Detective alongside more high-octane supernatural science fiction. It was an auspicious outing and one that has set-up an intriguing world and bizarre narrative backdrop to explore further.
… the casting was incredibly well received by SXSW attendees (especially for Ruth Negga’s Tulip O’Hare and Joseph Gilgun’s Cassidy), and comic fans in the Paramount Theater were impressed with Rogen and Goldberg’s decision to alter the storylines to better suit television while completely honoring the spirit of the characters.
Before catching Preacher at SXSW, I set aside a little time to check out the comic. Though I didn’t have time to get through much, it turned out that even a limited knowledge of the source material definitely enhanced my experience with the pilot. Individual sequences are great, but without the background knowledge, I’m not sure I would have cared much for the big picture.
So in other words, WHY ISN’T 22 MAY YET?! It sounds like I’m about to find my new geek obsession. Though based on how the local South African TV viewing public recently responded to Lucifer, they’re going to have a field day with Preacher if Rogen, Goldberg and Catlin can deliver on even a fraction of the comics’ batshit craziness.
Last Updated: March 18, 2016