Raise your hand if you felt personally victimised by the 2004 film rendition of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I know I did. As a child, these books were my obsession. Although dark, there is something so whimsical and addicting to Daniel Handler’s writing style. Things that are obvious to an adult, like why Handler wrote under the pseudonym Snicket, were mysteries I needed to unravel. I needed to know who Snicket’s lost love Beatrice was and I begged my mom for all accompanying and supplemental books and guides to the thirteen novels that comprised the series. At eleven years old, I vividly remember my excitement upon learning that there was an upcoming movie based on the books. This. Was. Going. To. Be. Epic.
And then I saw the movie. Unlike the Harry Potter Series, which gave an entire film to each book, respecting the details of the fantastic story, the first movie of A Series of Unfortunate Events spanned the first three books. Okay, I thought, there are thirteen books in this series. So, there can still be a good number of movies if they combine some of the books. But even if the series had continued after this first movie, which (spoiler alert) it didn’t, so many details were missing as they rushed to cram three books into one I’m not sure how they could have moved forward. I, a fifth grader who had no idea how to critique a film, knew that this was not good. I had only just begun developing my inexplicable dislike for Jim Carrey, which began the first time I viewed The Mask and has unfortunately ruined some movies that I would have otherwise loved (aka The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but it could not have been the actor’s fault alone. The movie was a rushed and failed attempt to tap into the Harry Potter phenomenon. By disrespecting the story and the details that my undeveloped brain was so obsessed with, the film lost its core audience.
So, when I learned in 2017 that Netflix would be adapting the series into a show, I was anxious and fearful that a filmic rendition of my favorite books would crush my dreams again. I also wondered who this show would be for – is it for the millenials who obsessively read the books over a decade ago, or is it for a new generation of kids to discover Handler’s brilliance? I was going to watch with bated breath to find out.
At first glance the Netflix adaptation already gave more weight to the series than the 2004 film. Each book would have two dedicated episodes! With two full episodes to explore each story, details could not be passed over. When I started the series, I was thrilled to find how faithful it was to the books. It was whimsical, stylized, dark yet heartwarming. The books had truly come to life. But, it felt child-like. It did not seem to be for me. Would kids find it on Netflix? Are kids reading the books today?
As the three seasons have rolled out, however, I have become more and more enthralled by the series. It is simple and fun for kids to follow, but also has a sense of humor that appeals to adults. Netflix hit the jackpot: this is a show for the whole family. By the time the series ended after its third season this year, devoting two episodes to each book, I was devastated there was no more. This series fulfilled everything I fantasized about as a child that the original film failed for me.
Why was it so different this time? In hindsight, and with a developed brain, it makes sense that the original films combined the books. Have you ever heard of a series of thirteen movies? The time and money to make the series faithfully as films just doesn’t make sense. It always had to be a show. But, in 2004, only a few prestige dramas were serialized. A serialized drama for children would have been a huge risk. As much as I wanted this show as a kid, it could not have existed. I am so glad I waited 15 years for it to fulfill its destiny as a Netflix show.