SXSW Review: AMC’s Preacher

SXSWAMC is bringing an adaptation of the beloved comic book Preacher to television screens later this year and a showing of the pilot at SXSW was a good indicator that the show has a lot of the right elements to be a success. Executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldburg (the team behind Superbad, This is the End, and more) have been wanting to make an adaptation for nearly 10 years, and while the numerous different production starts and stops through which this project has gone might normally spell doom, it was satisfying to see that all that patience and hard work turned into an entertaining, funny, and intriguing pilot episode.

This Preacher pilot is about Texas preacher Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper, Captain America: The First Avenger), who is wavering in his belief in god before he is given a sign that completely reinvigorates him. Converging on Annville, TX around the same time as Jesse’s struggle are his take-no-guff, unpredictable, and deadly ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga), and drunken, crude, scene-stealing, Irish vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun, “Misfits”). Eventually, should the series follow the story of the comic book, these three will go on an insane roadtrip surrounded by some of the oddest and brilliantly designed characters in comic book history. For now, the series intends to keep Jesse in Annville for a while to help build up the connection of the characters and give them all proper motivations. With a comic property this sacred, making significant changes to the story might seem very risky, but infusing the show with comedy and action in the first episode teases the crazy that is about to arrive very effectively and isn’t as jarring as the 1000 mile per hour start of the book.

In the first episode alone, the audience is made aware that Jesse is kind, but not unwilling to dish out some violence when he feels there is an injustice, Tulip is wild and persuasive, and Cassidy is immortal, and apathetic. These traits will hopefully continue to develop effectively as the series progresses and more stones are unturned about all the characters’ pasts and current drives. Also introduced to the audience is the character who will come to be known as Arseface, who looks just as it sounds he might, aided by some impressive prosthetic work. Though we only get a little bit of him in this first episode, fans of the comic know that he should end up being pervasive throughout the series and it looks like he will be handled with the kind of attention Garth Ennis brought when writing the comics 20 years ago.

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The performances for all these varied roles are handled perfectly, with each actor feeling both unique and reminiscent of the characters upon which they are based. The camerawork is tight, focused, and emotive. The computer-generated special effects are used sparingly, with the show tending to favor practical effects and that is a welcomed trait. Preacher is just a very good television series and while it may gain some detractors if it touches on all of the themes of the comic book, it will hopefully remain steadfast in its dedication to accurately portraying the weird, grimy, theological elements of the books.

Preacher is based on one of my very favorite comic properties and it would be so easy to mishandle the oddness, genius, and roughness brought to the books. Luckily, at least for now, it is nice to know that even if some changes are taking place with the pacing and parts of the story, AMC seems to be letting Rogen and Goldburg go all-out with the themes present in the source material. I was so ready to hate all over this, but instead I found myself cracking up, cringing at the violence, and feeling compelled to see where the series goes next. Please bring on more Preacher!

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I like to be challenged to think about things, so I studied Philosophy in college. Now I am paying for it.

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