WootFlix: Dare You Watch The Dresden Files?

by Randall Cleveland

I spend my day at work whiling away the hours and avoiding work by watching whatever I can find on Netflix Instant, which is why I feel qualified to give you my opinion on what's worth watching and what's just a waste of your valuable time. This week, I'm reviewing DaveInSoCal's suggestion: The Dresden Files.

This week's show: The Syfy (ugh, that hurt to spell) series "The Dresden Files"


What's the pitch?
Harry Dresden is a professional wizard, who uses the knowledge passed down from his wizardly mother and stage magician father to fight supernatural crime in modern day Chicago.

Who's in it?
Nicolas Cage! Just kidding, he only gets a producer credit. Paul Blackthorne, Valerie Cruz, and Terrance Mann lead a veritable "Wait, who?" of casting.

So how is it?
Rough. Before I knew anything about the show as I watched episode one's opening I thought to myself, "This looks like some low-budget SyFy show." I'm unfamiliar with the books, but apparently they have a pretty huge sci-fi/fantasy following. I'm not sure if you'll be more inclined to like the show if you're a fan or not, though.

Personally, I'm not really into the "urban fantasy" genre that tries to put things like wizards and vampires and werewolves into modern day settings; I fully admit that colors my opinion, and if you feel differently this might be right up your alley. What I think we can all agree on, though, is this has some straight up painful acting and writing.

Each week Harry and his beloved ghost friend whose name I never learned take a new case, be it a boy harried by some kind of evil demon, a string of werewolf serial killings, or a guy with an Egyptian tablet who hops from body to body for some reason, and use their magical know-how to save the day all while helping the Chicago PD without revealing the true nature of his knowledge and abilities. See, the normal people can't know about Harry because, uh, this council said so.

The show suffers from a lot of lazy writing like that. Every episode is littered with, "I know just what to do," and a character storming off without telling anyone else because fleshing out the story would eat up valuable time. The first new character Henry meets in an episode is going to be the client; the second one is going to be the secret murder-demon thing of the week in disguise. If you're lucky, they'll stay in human form and do some menacing via eyes that change colors or something. If you're unlucky, SyFy will set its lurching, steam-driven CGI engine to work and plop out a vector graphic vampire or some equally-horrible looking thing and try to shoot the scene in an oil drum or something so you won't notice how bad it looks.

Hint: you'll still notice.

And I just want to state for the record that I'll totally forgive a low budget; I'm not hating on "The Dresden Files" simply because of the kitschy monsters. A good story will absolve a show of stuff like that because you're pulled in enough to respect what they've built and you tend not to notice stuff like rubber monster masks. It gets a lot harder to suspend your disbelief, though, when every actor delivers lines like it's amateur hour at a 5-Hour Energy ad casting call.

My recommendation? IF you're a huge fan of the books, and/or IF you absolutely love the genre, give it a cautious try one night when you've got a backup show ready to go at a moment's notice. Otherwise, pass.