Review of Dresden Files, The
Harry Dresden (Paul Blackthorne) is a wizard on a mission. A mission to help people who are effected by the supernatural in whatever form they take. Harry is from the Morningway bloodline, his mother was a wizard who was killed when Harry was very young. Harry`s uncle, Justin Morningway (Daniel Kash), wanted to take Harry back into the Morningway fold and bring him up in the ways of magic. Harry`s father, the Amazing Dresden (a magician a la Paul Daniels played by Jonathon Higgins), refuses to let this happen and takes him from city to city in an attempt to keep others from taking advantage of Harry`s special powers.
Sometime in the future, we catch up with Harry in Chicago. Harry`s father is dead and Harry is a downbeat and scruffy PI type figure but with the only entry in the Yellow Pages under Wizard. Helping Harry out is Bob (Terence Mann), a spirit stuck in a skull, although he comes out to play every once in a while. Employing Harry on a consultant basis is Lt. Connie Murphy (Valerie Cruz), but only on cases that seem a little weird, much to the chagrin of her colleague Detective Sid Kirmani (Raoul Bhaneja).
If that wasn`t enough to worry about, Harry is in constant trouble with the High Council, a mysterious organisation manned by even more mysterious people. Head of the High Council is the Ancient Mai (Jane McLean) and her enforcer is Morgan (Conrad Coates), neither of whom like Harry that much. This is not surprising as they believe that Harry killed his Uncle using Black Magic, a big no-no.
This short-lived series (what? another one?) from the Sci-Fi channel ran for 12 episodes before biting the bullet. The official word appears to be that the show didn`t gather enough fans that would enable the channel to break out beyond its usual audience.
C`est la vie.
Picture looks as good as you would expect from a recent TV series. The CGI is a bit hit and miss though. The little stuff (lighting and morph effects) looks fine but some of the bigger effects where you need real texture and believability just doesn`t look right - I`m thinking dragon and werewolves specifically here…
There`s some nice surround effects here and the episodes themselves are well subtitled. It`s odd, but since I started reviewing here a couple of years ago, I can`t bear to watch DVDs without the subtitling on. Thing is though, the last three releases I`ve reviewed have had some quite blatant errors on them. One was Cantonese so that was understandable, but the other two? It`s becoming a bugbear of mine…
Episode Commentary - there`s two of them and they`re ok. A little friendly chat between writer, star and producer that gets a little too chummy at times. OK for what they are.
Deleted scenes - only on the first disc and then only for two episodes. Cut for time more than anything else I`m presuming as they would have added to the overall story quite nicely.
Inside The Dresden Files - 17 minute featurette that is one step up from EPK.
The Dresden Files can quite simply be summed up as Harry Potter with a dash of Mike Hammer (but a rather more PC version…). I would use Philip Marlowe like most other reviewers, but I grew up with Hammer instead, so there. To be honest, the series feels like Angel but not quite as dark. It`s not a bad series by any means and takes its time to find its feet but as with all things, its not quite as simple as you might think.
The Dresden Files is based on a successful series of books by Jim Butcher, and a two hour pilot was produced based on the book Storm Front. Could be OK, only the network lopped off over half the running time and then made it episode 8 (where the rest of the footage resides is anyone`s guess…). Add into that the typical Network idea that they understand the running order of a series better than those directly involved and so the start of the series runs in a different order to that intended. This makes things a little strange as the viewer sees and hears references that they are confused by until much later. By around episode 6 things are looking up and making a lot of sense, but that`s nearly half the series gone already and therefore it`s not that surprising that the series didn`t attract and keep the numbers of viewers the Network wanted. As with American Gothic, the distributors decided to stick to the original broadcast running order rather than the way intended. Way to go…
What makes this series a little different to the aforementioned Angel (or Buffy, for that matter) is the fact that it`s set in a world that doesn`t accept the supernatural or demons. This makes Dresden`s relationship with Murphy a little awkward, and in truth it`s a relationship that is wasted to a large degree. It`s kind of like Mulder and Scully but without Scully having any inkling of something strange going on around her despite being mixed up in it all the same. Saying that, Murphy as a character really shines in the penultimate episode Things That Go Bump although it`s a bit of a false dawn.
Paul Blackthorne is perfectly suited as the rather scruffy and downbeat reluctant wizard and Terence Mann is superb as posh apparition Bob. There are other minor characters that also show a lot of potential such as Ancient Mai, Morgan and vampire Bianca (Joanne Kelly). Although the series definitely gets better from Storm Front onwards, the episodes featuring these characters are generally the stronger for it.
I quite liked it but it just seemed to be lacking something. It took me a while to suss it and it becomes obvious the more you watch it. The series is based on the books and each episode is based around a book, so lots of material is thrown away for a 45 minute episode. This means no proper arc and stories that are in the main unfulfilling because they aren`t long enough and therefore missing a lot of plot that readers of the books would be more than aware of. This would have been much better as a series with a longer story arc and spread the books over two or three episodes rather than rashly believing you can do the source material justice in a script that is the length of a normal TV show.
OK, but a massively wasted opportunity.