American Gods: A 'bizarre' television experiment

Amazon adaptation of Neil Gaiman novel criticised as 'too weird' by some, but loved by others

American Gods

Amazon Prime's highly anticipated adaptation of Neil Gaiman's bestselling book American Gods has divided critics, pleased fans of the hit novel and utterly baffled those unfamiliar with the story.

It features a world on the brink of a war between the old gods and the new, focussing on Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), an ex-convict recruited by the mysterious Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane) as a bodyguard.

Wednesday turns out to be the Norse god Odin, on a mission to rally the old gods to fight the new powers of media and technology.

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Such a high-concept story was a challenging choice for a TV series and has left many critics bewildered.

Dani Di Placido in Forbes calls American Gods an "unholy mess" and says that while Gaiman's book seemed to offer the perfect opportunity to explore topical themes such as immigration, culture clash, religion and technological change, the result was disappointing.

It lacks "basic humanity" or any regular, relatable life outside the "bizarre" world of the gods - to put it simply, says the critic, "it's too weird".

In contrast, the Boston Globe's Michel Andor Brodeur praises American Gods as "one of the most imaginative, adventurous, and deeply weird experiments on television".

This "entrancingly trippy metaphorical melee" elevates the investigation of American identity to "a supernatural plane", he argues.

Rebecca Nicholson in The Guardian agrees the show is an "enticing visual feast", but says the first episode was "confusing and opaque" with very little effort made to explain what is going on.

Readers of the novel may understand some of the show's more bizarre moments, such as the "giant woman pulling a man into her vagina", she adds, but "it’s bewildering" for viewers who have not.

Evan Narcisse on i09 urges patience and says American Gods requires a "sacrifice" of time and mental energy to "reveal its magic".

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