Eva Green in The Luminaries
The Luminaries Starz.jpg

Fortune telling and the hunt for luck make for a confused mix in Eleanor Catton's adaptation of her Man Booker Prize-winning novel.

The opening scene of Starz "The Luminaries" takes place in the middle of the night in 1866 in front of a hut – or something like that – on New Zealand's South Island. Maybe someone gets shot and there is some kind of glitter or sparkle stuff spurting out of a voluminous pink dress and it's probably gold because that story unfolds during the Otago gold rush. May be?

Like the entire storyline of "The Luminaries," everything in this opening scene is crowded and difficult to see. Take a moment and adjust the settings on your screen as recommended by my colleague Chris O’Falt, who solved this problem two years ago when we were all looking through the chiaroscuro of Game of Thrones.

Almost a year after debuting on TVNZ 1 and BBC One, The Luminaries airs on Starz and has a promising pedigree. Eleanor Catton adapted her 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning novel. Eve Hewson and Eva Green play the lead, two actors who can impressively combine beauty and menace as they piss off like a woman on the stormy beaches of New Zealand, each wearing Victorian mourning robes.



In both the graphics and the tone, "The Luminaries" is intentionally cloudy, jam-packed with intersecting and double intersecting motifs and motivations. The result is a mix of astrological archetypes and a Wild West tale, a combination that apparently worked with great success in Catton's original 850-page doorstop of a novel, but leads to such an incoherence in this adaptation that a main character has a Minute must deliver. long monologue of all events from the witness stand during the showcase process of the last episode. This might be acceptable in some cases: "You can't handle the truth!" kind of Sorkin-y size, but in this case the witness doesn't just have to explain it to the judge. The witness has to explain it to the audience.

At its base (and I mean this is a very basic base before the opium addiction and seances and the occasional racism and the shipwreck and secret half-siblings and intermittent illiteracy and political campaigns and the pregnant woman were evicted and the pregnant woman "The Luminaries" is a story of Anna Wetherell (Eve Hewson) and Emery Staines (Himesh Patel), who meet when they are about to leave the ship that brought them from London to New Zealand, it's a nice little costume drama – sweet: it has no button and she has one ready! Golly, it turns out they're both birthdays! the two star crossed lovers are then kept apart by an incredible number of malicious people and events, including astrologer / pub owner / cheater Lydia Wells (Eva Green) and her literally Gold digger Francis Carver (Marton Csokas).

The overly complex process is only made visible thanks to the work of Hewson and Green, who are both spirited and dexterous, though urged to make some absurd efforts. Six episodes could have been dedicated to them – Hewson looked like a muse of Alphone Mucha next to Green and her Klimt cheekbones – that smeared prospectors with booze and light witchcraft, and I would have them all by my side with glee, pointed hat and broom observed. Instead, at the behest of their inevitable male counterparts, they are pulled through the wringer in fleeting tangential scene after scene. Here the landlord is creepy and demands rent! Here is the aspiring local politician who is stunned by Lydia's beauty! Here is the Chinese immigrant protecting Anna on one of her opium flares! Oh, and whoops, this is Lydia's husband who is having an affair with Anna, who is fresh off the boat.

There are a few favorites here that Catton should have killed in their adaptation, and only a few episodes have been revealed where this would have fundamentally changed the structure of the work. As it turns out, the men Hewson encounters represent the traditional mythological traits of the 12 signs of the zodiac and the inner planets: Mars is war! Venus is love! Scorpio is a seedy opium dealer! This is – kind of cool? I wish it had been introduced in the first episode rather than by voice over almost at the end of the series?

The supernatural undercurrent in Catton's story is inconsistent. it either has too little impact on the story or far too much. I – an, ahem, Libra Sun, Gemini Moon, Gemini Rising – have a high tolerance for woo-woo, but when twin astral stigmata came into chat to prove the innocence of a suspected murderer, I groaned out loud.

What Starz & # 39; "The Luminaries" did intuitively is that I want to read the book. So turn off the TV and turn off your Kindle. Catton was the youngest female author to ever win a Booker Prize, and she did so with the longest novel of all time. It has been sold more than half a million times. All of this indicates a triumph. But in this Scattershot adaptation, you only see an eclipse of something that is probably pretty nice when it's full.

Grade: C-

The first of six episodes in “The Luminaries” premieres on Sunday, February 14th at 9:30 pm. ET on Starz. The episodes are published weekly.

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