'The Tick' on Amazon way more fun than the dour 'Defenders'
Amazon's new streaming comedy sends up today's super-serious superheroes.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Superheroes are everywhere these days, on the big screen and small. Recent grim 'n' gritty adaptations have strayed a long way from their colourful comic book origins, but fortunately "The Tick" is a perfect antidote to those darker Marvel and DC adaptations -- although it's picked up one or two of their bad habits on the way.
Streaming starting Friday on
Video, "The Tick" is a new version of the spoof superhero created by Ben Edlund, previously seen in a madcap 1994 cartoon and short-lived 2001 live action series.
A hilariously cheerful Peter Serafinowicz stars as the big blue bulletproof buddy whose powers are super strength and boundless optimism. He joins forces with Arthur, a meek accountant with a tragic backstory played by Griffin Newman, to go mano a monomyth with a city gripped by crime. As the Tick himself puts it, it's "a struggle as old as time -- but with a beat you can dance to."
There are plenty of laughs packed into the six 25-minute episodes, but not as many as fans of the gleefully silly previous TV versions might expect. Where previous versions of "The Tick" were built around zany adventures and increasingly surreal bad guys, this version speaks to the modern, super-serious superhero series with a more realistic world and an ongoing story unfolding across the length of the series.
Whatever's lost in over-the-top comic shenanigans gets balanced by surprisingly compelling characters. The creators pour a huge amount of affection into even the comic book parodies, from the golden age-esque heroes Uncle Samson and CatManDude to the '90s-style grim 'n' gritty Overkill. And I found myself being drawn in by characters like Arthur's sister, played by Valorie Curry, who's a paramedic mixed up with the mob, and the icy but conflicted villain Ms Lint, played by Yara Martinez.
Various characters' subplots manage to be both funny and engaging, whether it's their domestic relationship with an acerbic supercomputer or the ex who won't move out of their secret lair.
Meanwhile, the show's big bad the Terror, played by Jackie Earle Haley -- who you may remember from menacing turns in comic book adaptations "Watchmen" and "Preacher" -- is genuinely scary.
With its ongoing story and focus on characters, "The Tick" speaks to modern super-shows like the dour and brooding
adaptations "Daredevil", Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. And along the way "The Tick" has picked up a few of the problems of those Netflix shows and their recent gloom-laden team-up "The Defenders".
A couple of hits of strong language stand out jarringly from the rest of the show's humour, similar to the moments the Netflix/Marvel shows push their adult content a touch too far. "The Tick" also repeats the bad habit of countless streaming shows by taking a while to cover not much ground.
On the plus side, the bite-size episodes mean you only have to invest roughly the length of a regular movie rather than sinking 10 hours of your life into a Netflix series. After spending 50 or 60 hours with the dark knights of Marvel's Defenders on Netflix, "The Tick" is a real ray of sunshine.
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