Adaptations: Comparing “A Series of Unfortunate Events”


Aubrianna Martinez, Senior Digital Editor

When Netflix announced a new adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s book series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” fans of the original series were reasonably wary. This was due to it being the second time the series has been adapted to screen, the first being in 2004 with the film adaptation, “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.” 

The 2004 movie is infamous among book fans for being close but so far from the series. While the film hit the nail on the head in its—rare—depiction of the distinct stylism that Snicket filled the pages with, it ultimately missed the important themes that left lasting impressions. The Netflix series included the author in a much more hands-on capacity that led to these issues being assuaged and for the story to develop past the original version, as the author helped build new connections within the story and elevate subtext to the text.

A significant critique in comparing adaptations is that the film was greatly limited by its nature as it sought to encapsulate the events of fourteen books. The film holds a runtime of 1 hour and 48 minutes, which certainly is enough time to tell a story, but not this one. The Netflix adaptation holds the advantage of being a well-paced show: it was able to efficiently and accurately execute the intricate story over the course of three seasons.

The film’s tone should be addressed, as it is severely confused. The books are known for being incredibly and even outlandishly tragic, and while the film attempts to portray this, it ultimately shies away from committing to this choice in favor of asking the audience to laugh with a silly villain. Despite the antagonist’s incompetence, he is truly meant to be an obstacle for the characters. The show accurately reflects this, as the majority of laughs are derived from the ridiculousness of situations and commentary made by the interrupting narrator played by Patrick Warburton instead of Jim Carrey uncomprehendingly pretending to be a dinosaur.

Ultimately, the film promises in its first few minutes to tell a story that it ultimately fails to faithfully finish, while the show occasionally strays from the well-turned pages of the books in order to flesh out the original tale to surprise and devastate fans one more time.