The fringe benefit of re-upgrading to three free months of HBO means that the rest of the premium channels are usually pegged along with the free ‘trial’. Although you can’t really call it a ‘trial’, because you get as many trials as you want as long as you keep cancelling. However this ends up being a profitable model is way beyond me, but then again I might be some sort of cheap s-o-b. Scratch that, I am definitely some sort of cheap s-o-b.
I almost completely forgot about DA VINCI’S DEMONS premiering last night if it wasn’t for some random web banner ad I saw in my virtual travels. In all honesty, this is the first time I’ve ever watched a show on STARZ. It might be more of a bias issue as I’m not particularly fond of their trendy use of the letter Z, but even attempting to watch SPARTACUS a time or two never really got me interested in it. STARZ always struck me as the bastard ginger kid of HBO and CINEMAX. While I might not be necessarily incorrect, I’m probably not giving it enough credit.
The premise of the show is very interesting. Taking Leonardo Da Vinci’s mysterious past and unaccounted years, weave a story involving him and some of the other major characters of the same period. For instance, he is close friends with Zoroaster and ends up meeting Dracula while working for the Medicis and secret societies to supposedly undermine the Vatican. It is a short run only ordered for eight episodes, but I have a feeling it will be ordered for more and possibly be a suitable replacement for the recently ended SPARTACUS.
So how was it? Much more inside!
DA VINCI’S DEMONS is written, produced and the first four episodes directed by DAVID GOYER who wrote the most recent BATMAN trilogy. Granted he also wrote and executive produced GHOST RIDER: SPIRITS OF VENGEANCE which was an unwelcome molestation of my eyes and ears, but let’s forgive him for that one.
Visually speaking, everything is fantastic. From the more simplistic nature of the artists guild to the organized clutter of Leonardo’s living quarters to the elaborate interior shots of the Vatican it is a real treat for the eyes. One of the coolest effects is the “Da Vinci Vision” where you get to see how he sees the world in sketches as if straight from his famous notebooks. The CG effects got pretty distracting in the exterior shots of the cities, but I was able to get over it after a while.
The actors too are quite good with TOM RILEY playing the titular character, GREGG CHILLIN playing his buddy ZOROASTER, ALEXANDER SIDDIG as a wonderfully creepy guy referred to as just “The Turk”, JAMES FAULKNER as the pope and LAURA HADDOCK playing Lucrezia, the object of Da Vinci’s affection.
An intriguing little touch being the episode names all being associated with individual tarot cards. This one was “The Hanged Man”
Now for something I didn’t know: everybody in 15th century Florence was extremely bi-curious. And there were tons of naked man-ass running around. If the tone of a television show is set in the first five minutes, the first five minute sequence of DA VINCI’S DEMONS was all about man-ass and dude love. Followed up shortly by the Pope Sixtus IV (almost as bad a name as Fifth Third Bank) molesting a choir boy in a hot tub and flashing the camera his package.
Let’s pause here for a moment to ask what I would consider to be an obvious question. Everything on film, whether in the movies or on television is immaculately planned, scripted and shot with a very specific intent and purpose. That being said, please explain the purpose of the pope’s penis. Not sure I follow where that one was going.
Anyway, as much as that stuff might be historically accurate, it stuck out as very odd in the show. Almost like it was the cheap way out to say “Look at the evil church headed up by the evil pope who happens to be GAY”. There are probably other ways to make the church look bad without going there.
At least Leonardo got to bang the hot chick at the end to provide a bit of needed contrast. But I’m pretty sure that him and the Medici fellow were still making eyes at each other…
Now for something I did know but could have been handled differently: everybody in 15th century Florence was hooked on recreational drugs. A couple of the scenes had Leonardo making handy use of his opium pipe. Again, while it might have been historically factual it felt like it was more irrelevant than the aforementioned man parts. Play the exact same episode but cut the drug references completely and it would have been no better or worse because of it. Now maybe I’m prematurely judging this and maybe the show will explore drug use/drug abuse more thoroughly as one of his ‘demons’, but for now it just seemed out of place.
Complaints aside, I did like the first episode well enough to stick with it for the season. ‘B’ overall.