The Walking Dead (2010)

UK poster - The Walking Dead

For a few years I’ve been reading Robert Kirkman’s comic book The Walking Dead. I’ll admit here to not being the greatest fan of the medium, I’m never too sure of the intended pacing of stories compared with novels or movies, and find that expository dialogue, particularly in Kirkman’s case, tends to sound unnatural. So even as a long-time zombie enthusiast, I approached the pilot episode with a few reservations.

The good news is that the positive reception in the US means that it’s likely to run past the initial season,so it’s worth investing some time in. More good news comes with the significant involvement of Frank Darabont, who showed in The Mist and The Blob that he has an affinity for this sort of thing. Ditto Greg Nicotero, who’s been the master of zombie make-up since the ’80s. The casting is a bit weirder – two English actors are the focus of the pilot episode: Andrew Lincoln, previously unremarkable in a variety of unappealing Tv shows and the occasional movie (Love Actually), plays the hero. Opposite him is Lennie James, veteran of this sort of thing (the TV series Jericho should have prepared him for one).

Both actors manage a credible generic American accent, if not a Georgian one, and James in particular makes the most of the melodrama. The biggest relief, however, is that the show plays the zombie menace absolutely straight, sticking to the Romero rules – George is the genre equivalent of the Marquis of Queensberry as far as I’m concerned. Even better, the apocalypse is used to generate an atmosphere of tragedy and lost lives, which is the only sensible way to play it even if the box-office usually says otherwise.

The first show looks good, rewrites just enough of the comic to keep long-time readers guessing, and moves at a fair pace despite only covering 20-odd pages of the source, so there’s plenty to look forward to. Of course there is the odd bit of clunky dialogue, and the time-line of events seems questionable, but this is as good as anyone could have anticipated.

Further review to follow once the story hits its stride.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★★★☆

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