I have a self-imposed rule which I try very hard to follow: read before watching. Since there are a lot of novels being made into movies or TV series, I try as much to read before watching. It’s hard. Very hard. And I have broken this rule a lot of times and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is no exception.
Actually, I’m still in the process of finishing the book when the mini-series aired last May but I cannot help but start watching it right away, haha. I tried to watch 1 episode a week and then try to gauge how much I have read before watching the next but I ended up watching all 7 episodes in 3 days! I’m 75% through the book now and am aiming to get it done before the week ends but since I have spoiled myself already and am now just comparing the series with the book, I’ll just post what I thought about the TV mini-series.
Set in England during the 19th century, the series shows how magic is being revived and studied but not practiced by theoretical magicians. The Society of York Magicians then learns about Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan), a practical magician, and his vast collection of books of magic which they wanted to read furthermore but Mr. Norrell denied lending to them. The Society then asked of Mr. Norrell to prove his skill which he eventually does at the expense of every York magician’s approval to resign from studying and practicing all forms of magic (with the exception of Mr. Segundus (Edward Hogg), who did not sign prior). After the incident, Mr. Norrell has put upon his hands to revive respect for English Magic and moves to London to further his cause by helping the government win the war against France. Meanwhile in Shropshire, Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) encounters Vinculus (Paul Kaye) and his prophecy that Strange is destined to be a great magician which prompts Strange to take up magic. Mr. Norrell and Mr. Strange cross paths and Mr. Strange is then accepted to be a student under Mr. Norrell who had a very strict and conservative approach in studying English magic. The two magicians with very different approaches to magic clash every now and then. They discover the secrets of magic and realize the prophecies of Vinculus along the way.
Plot: I haven’t finished the book but as far as I’m concerned, they got all the details correct. I’m surprised how they compressed the book in only 7 episodes without taking the essence of the novel away (which mostly happens when a book gets adapted into a show/movie). There are a lot of details written in the book (footnotes!!) but I didn’t mind not seeing the back story or history of magic being seen because it would only make the series boring.
Special Effects: The special effects were not as grand as one would see in movies but it was exceptional for a TV series.
Cast: I loved the cast! I felt as if they were made for the role. I especially loved Eddie Marsan as Mr. Norrell. Bertie Carvel as Jonathan Strange was okay. I don’t know if this is just an effect of watching Ant-Man 2 weeks ago but he reminds me of Paul Rudd. On the other hand, Alice Englert’s portrayal of Lady Pole reminded me of River Tam (played by Summer Glau) in Firefly.