This time vampire is one that I will never repeat (if I can help it). Truth be told, I knew it was a bad idea.
Once upon a time, a dude named Kevin Sullivan made two fabulous miniseries portraying much of the Anne of Green Gables series. It was not completely true to the books, but the creative license taken was forgiveable.
Then came a third series. We try not to talk about this one. It diverges so far from the actual books as to make it a travesty. Rather than use the plethora of material in the books and bring to life the characters we knew and loved, this third installment utterly screwed the timeline (moving Anne a full generation later) and had no characters or plot remotely resembling the real thing. I own the DVD only because I could not obtain the original two mini-series without it being stuck in the box–if I could have handed it back to the clerk, I would have done so.
So, when I found out that Mr. S was making a prequel to Anne, I knew this would be a train wreck. After all, the pre-Green Gables period in Anne’s life is summed up in a chapter in Anne of Green Gables and a tiny pilgrimage in Anne of the Island. In order to build a prequel, we would again be subject to completely non-canon material.
I avoided this one like the plague for several years. But, when I stumbled on it at the library today, it jumped out at me. After all, I’d gone through the other travesty and survived. I might as well complete the full cycle, right?
The scenery is gorgeous (as one would expect–it’s the same parts of Ontario-masquerading-as-PEI as featured in prior productions). And the cast is quite good (Shirley MacLaine is always awesome, of course, but there’s no weak link in the cast–even the kids do a good job). But no amount of scenery and acting makes up for the weakness in the material. The timeline is still screwed up, it’s full of anachronisms and multiple key moments in the show are clearly cribbed from either prior Anne series or Jane Eyre. Even the relationships themselves are clearly shadows of those in the real Anne series (Mrs. Thomas and Anne is a poorly drawn Marilla and Anne).
If I was able to completely set aside everything I know about Anne and treat this as a true stand alone story, it might not be too horrible (other than the anachronisms, but even those could partly be overlooked). A family-friendly kind of costume drama. The trouble is, they throw the Anne part in your face so much with those cribbed moments and copied snippets of dialog (and the care to cast the same Mrs. Hammond from the earlier miniseries). It’s like Anne is being used as a marketing tool to sell something that someone wasn’t sure would stand up on its own (when, really, without that, it may have done better).
More than two hours Hoover’d outta my life to see one of my favorite literary universes subjected to a Mary Sue prequel. This is to Anne fans what Star Wars I-III were to those of us who grew up in a world that started with Episode IV.