It’s the Count, it’s the Count, it’s the Count!

With the release of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix, the question that all fans who read the books all those years ago want to know is; will this be like the 2004 film or different?

Daniel Handler’s marvelously morbid children’s series about the unlucky Baudelaire orphans who are pursued by the villainous Count Olaf who is after their fortune was a very different kind of beast to Harry Potters of the world. The series is dark, depressing and at times frustrating but with an array of such fantastic characters that feel realistic and amusingly exaggerated at the same time, Handler had created something else that children needed, the realisation that not all stories can have an happy ending.

The unusual characters and story obviously attracted Hollywood who came knocking before all the books were released. Adapting the first three booked into what was hoped to be the first film in a franchise, the film was served as an intro to the Baudelaire’s story as well as establishing certain characters. Jim Carrey was cast as Count Olaf, taking centre stage, domineering the screen in various on purpose terrible disguises while trying to steal the orphan’s fortune. He was praised at the time for his performance and he did seem like the perfect choice to embody the ridiculous villain, showing of his comedic talents as well as being very sinister. But the film wasn’t as successful as hoped and no further films went into development.

After years of silence, Netflix announced in 2014 that they planned to adapt the books into a series with creator Daniel Handler as executive producer and working with the writing team. This seemed promising and continued you to be as casting was announced. Neil Patrick Harris was to step into Count Olaf’s shoes as well as being a producer on the show. With teasers leaked a while later, the hype and excitement grew until the series was released last week to glowing reviews all round, including from Vulturehound. With second season already commissioned and the glimpse of a third, the show is well underway to being complete.

As expected there are and were going to be comparisons between the 2004 film and the current TV show on Netflix, with reviewers and bloggers looking back at the story and at Jim Carey’s performance or should it be performances? The film was not a failure when it came to design, costume, or casting, in fact these areas were delightfully well thought out. A pseudo Victorian look was given to the film, similar to how the books themselves. Everything looked as if Brett Helquist’s illustrations had come to life. But the story was told askew, with the first book in the series book ending the film. Additions such as the happy little elf that begins the films as an error is referenced later on the film seemed out of place but even these added elements didn’t change the fact that overall, the film was loyal to the fans and brought something dark and marvelous to the big screen. Count Olaf, taking centre stage of the story as the villain, who not only terrorizes the children, continuously after their fortune is also part of the mystery of the Baudelaire parents’ death and connected to a secret organization. He is a self absorbed, arrogant, evil person and a terrible actor, who better to portray him than comedic chameleon Jim Carrey. Carrey himself has said how much fun he had with all of Olaf’s disguises and mannerisms and had hoped to continue to play the Count but never got the call. Creating each character Olaf plays he isn’t over the top, maintaining the subtle note that he is playing a bad actor trying to disguise himself. He also brings out the sinister side of the character even in the darkest of humour moments but throughout the film, we know its Carrey. His zany expressions break through the Olaf mold. His turn as Olaf was praised and rightly so but with the TV shows able to go into more detail, including possibly about Olaf’s character, means that Carrey’s interpretation will be seen as second best.

The TV adaptation of the series of books, there were going to be some changes but thankfully, minor, which have a big impact but doesn’t change the story. The frequent and obvious input from Lemony Snicket himself, played to perfection by Patrick Warburton, breaking the fourth wall through the show feels exactly like the books and serves as more than view from the future. A constant in the story is the villain Olaf, played by Neil Patrick Harris is literally looses himself in the role. His theatrical flare and oblivious manner to the fact other people exist in the world apart from him is darkly amusing and has some of the best throw away lines. He plays Olaf as mischievous and cruel, its believable that this sometimes silly, idiotic man could be flouncing around his house singing one minute and murdering someone without a care the next. Unlike Jim Carrey, Neil Patrick Harris is given room and freedom to take the character of Count Olaf to new ridiculous height, not to mention dress up in weird disguise a few more times.

Although there are similarities shared between the 2004 film and the current TV series, when it comes to Count Olaf, Neil Patrick Harris has the advantage thanks to long format television you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

 

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