Book-to-screen adaptations are always going to be tricky, because the mediums of books and films have very different needs, abilities, and limitations. You can’t tell a story the exact same way in both forms; and if you try, it’s going to be a hot mess.
However, I have found that the most successful adaptations are usually when the same writer works on both (and is proficient in both forms). I’m pleased to say that such was the case with Good Omens. The book was originally co-authored by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and has now been made into an Amazon Prime mini-series, written by Gaiman. Pratchett passed away in 2015, but apparently his last request to his long-time friend was that Gaiman be the one to write the adaptation. People had been trying to adapt Good Omens for years, but without much good luck or success. But now it has finally come to fruition and is a glorious realization of Gaiman and Pratchett’s original story.
If you are any kind of devout Christian, Good Omens is the type of story that will probably make you hesitate to give it a chance. The two main characters are an angel and a demon (who are best friends), the entire plot revolves around Armageddon, and there is even an order of satanic nuns that kicks off the beginning of the story. And I am not aware of either of the original authors being religious in any way themselves. All that being said, I find both the book and the show to be refreshingly respectful towards Christianity and its beliefs. Don’t go looking for accurate theology by any means, but I think that a faithful Christian can still enjoy this story, as long as you can have a bit of a sense of humor and recognize that it’s not a theological commentary.
The original book was dedicated to G.K. Chesterton, who was a major inspiration to both Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in their formations as writers. I think that Chesterton, especially in his younger years, would have greatly enjoyed the humor and cleverness of the book, and his influence on the writing styles of both Gaiman and Pratchett is very apparent, at least to me. There is a clear seeking for Goodness and Truth, a value placed on childhood and innocence, and a love of wordplay and wit. Chesterton’s novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill has a very similar tone to that of Good Omens, and is equally enjoyable while also prompting you to think deeper about some surprising topics. There is something supremely satisfying about a book that, on the surface, is very lighthearted and humorous and yet at the same time has hidden depths that take you unaware.
The Good Omens mini-series is in six parts, hour-long episodes, and was really excellently done. It exactly captures the spirit of the book, without taking away from it at all, and the show was beautifully cast and acted. Watch it for David Tennant, if for no other reason. If you need another reason, watch it for the brilliant writing of Neil Gaiman. If you need a final reason, watch it for Frances McDormand as the voice of God.
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