The urban fantasy genre, also known as shhhh, they’re among us!, has always been a top seller amassing a great fanbase when it comes to books. In the past decade however, movie adaptations attempts failed miserably because (for some unknown reason) they tried to fill in the patterns and stereotypes of the high fantasy (also known as elves rule!) genre. As a side-note however, I exclude superhero movies (although otherwise movies like Blade or The Crow would qualify as urban fantasy) from urban fantasy.
On this fairly empty stage, the birth of fantasy series like Supernatural, True Blood or Lost Girl came as a revelation that good things can happen and fantasy stereotypes can be overcome by something more interesting. The romantic idea of extraodinary characters in extraordinary situations is quite close to exhaustion. Its replacement by apparently ordinary characters forced into extraodinary circumstances is a widely accepted practice in the newer fantasy series. It works so well because it makes it much easier for viewers to relate and it gives much more freedom and space for character development, a luxury unavailable to superheroes.
HBO’s True Blood is one of these fresh fantasy series. In the realm of urban fantasy, there are no complaints but yet the series offers mixed feelings.
For one, it is great in its portrayal of a world where vampire existence was disclosed to the public. Vampires live mostly peacefully among humans, often secluded. Tensions run high as obvious extremism emerges in both human and vampire camps, racial issues arise and so on. The predictable issues blend in with character development in not so predictable ways and the entanglement of stories is exciting to watch. Later on, more and more supernatural creaturs are introduced, in a way that makes the supernatural natural. Throw in the mix an array of human issues (homosexuality, drugs, you name it) and you have an urban fantasy cocktail at its best.
Yet not all is perfect. As the fantasy series draws upon The Southern Vampire book series, the producers did their best to promote an annoying american southern accent which often feels unnatural on the lips of certain characters. The two main characters quickly develop contradictions that become unbearable in time. For example, Sookie shows an erratic behavior (she hates Eric, but later makes love to him, she distrusts him even after he proves his intentions, she loves and hates Bill, she doesn’t seem to learn anything) that doesn’t change even after it is high time she learned something new. Bill doesn’t come close to behaving like a 200-year old vampire. Come on, after 300 years of experience with both human and vampire nature he can’t tell that excusing cheating and endagering Sookie with “but I was trying to protect you” (after she came inches of dying) wouldn’t go well with human nature (sure, later we learn Sookie is fae, but still). If Sookie shows pre-teen cluelessness even in the face of the obvious, Bill is also worse than a teenager. Together they are more annoying than the Twilight performers (if that’s possible).
All other character however have amazing development. Eric Northam plays it cool, showing all the cunning and skill one expects of an old vampire. Sookie’s brother Jason starts off a clueless teen bent on self-destruction but steadily matures into responsibility. Lafayette the gay drug dealer has a particularly amazing performance … and so on.
The mixing stories however grow in number and complexity to a point where they were wearing me down while trying to follow all that was going on. All in all, True Blood is far from your average romantic vampire fantasy mix but if you manage to sidestep its pitfalls, it’s a whortwhile urban fantasy flick.