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Series 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)- Review

Director: Brendan Maher

Main cast:
Molly Daniels - Ellie
Narek Arman - Homer
Madeleine Madden - Corrie
Andrew Creer - Kevin
Fantine Banulski - Robyn
Madeleine Clunies-Ross - Fi
Jon Prasida - Lee

I have been doing other things for quite a while and had not heard of the new production being organised. It had been so long since the movie came out and all the actors had gotten to old and gone off to do other things. In particular Caitlin Stasey who decided to take Ellie to heart and it influenced her entire life.

I always thought the books would be better served by a TV adaptation since there is more room to develop the characters and you don't have to squash as much into a short period of time. Not sure if they could do the full 22 half hours as that would be a massive undertaking. For the events of the first book six hours seems to be enough especially given the themes involved and the need to stage stunts.

There have been some rewrites to the story and elements being bought forward from the other books and characters swapped around, but John Marsden was involved in the rewrites to the script. These were done to accelerate some elements of the story as the characters mostly ride bikes or walk to get where they are going and it would not be as good television. The enemy soldiers are mostly viewed as a shadowy threat in the first book except for certain situations so they got up close a lot earlier and there was more involvement with the parents who have a greater role in this adaptation.

I have had a couple of goes trying to adapt the story for the first book myself and starting it in the Landover as the group was going off to their camping trip was the best place I could think to start it. Having the characters introduced along the way helps bring you into the story and also the flashbacks that Ellie has in some sections. Having the camping trip take up most of the first episode was also a bold decision, but a necessary one as it invests you in the characters and gives the story time to develop. Some of the characters were tweaked a little for this version but they do quote some of the more famous lines from the books and all the actors seem to inhabit their roles in a way that I believed them.

In particular Ellie reminds me of a good friend and she also thought as much and is going to be watching the series with much interest.

All the camping scenes were excellent and they seemed to include all the things kids would get up to like having the very last night they only had marshmallows left to eat. I liked the small scenes of the characters who do not know each other as well at the start of the camping trip and how they get a gentle nudge from Ellie to get to know each other better (Robyn with Lee and Homer with Fi).

They do go back to Wirrawee towards the end of the episode and find out about the invasion. This was changed around significantly since they seemed to spend a lot more time in the country in the book and the destruction of Corrie's house happened before they got into town. In the interests of speeding up the story they were not riding pushbikes.

The group seemed to get a lot closer to the Showgrounds in this version of the story and even revealed some plot elements that were not known until four books in during the original story so again there is going to be more importance on the parents in this TV adaptation.

The action was handled excellently and the lawn mower scene was almost exactly the same as the book although differently staged than the movie. Some excellent foreshadowing as to how Kevin is starting to react under stress.

At the end of the episode the group has separated so it invests you in wanting to know what has happened to each of them and I will be watching next time. An excellent start to the series and hopefully lots more people will be watching as it progresses.

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