Comic book adaptations have been the theme of this decade and the last one. As one series concludes, filmmakers are jumping at the chance to tell us stories from another set of comic books or graphic novels that promise to provide something different. In this age of exhaustion caused by back-to-back superhero movies and television shows being adapted for the screen, only a few stood out for the right reasons. The Amazon original The Boys is probably one of the only television shows in the superhero genre that is a quality adaptation of its source material. Netflix brings you something similar to our screens. The Chosen One is a Mexican fantasy fiction drama that has been adapted from American Jesus. The comic book series, created by Mark Millar and Peter Gross, is originally set in America, but the makers of the Netflix series set the story in a rural town in Mexico.
Set in the late 1990s, The Chosen One is about a pre-teen boy named Jodie who lives in Baja California Sur, a coastal town in Mexico, with his mother, Sarah. She seems to have moved to this town with Jodie from the USA for a purpose. He is surrounded by a set of loyal friends at school, and all of them are willing to do anything for each other. Jodie has been subjected to weird dreams and visions about a vast sea and the monsters in it, among many others that disturb him. He chooses not to open up about it to his mother until he is compelled to. Jodie, during an elaborate prank, discovers he can heal people using his touch. Slowly and steadily, it becomes news in this conservative Catholic town that there is a Messiah among them. While his mother is worried about his unsettling popularity, there are people from a certain group looking for him. Will the young Jodie get carried away by his newfound fame, or is there a story behind why he has the powers? This forms the main narrative of the show. Is The Chosen One compelling enough?
The introduction to Jodie, his friends, and the friendship they have been sharing for a while is presented in a very realistic manner. It reminds us of our own childhood friendships, filled with a sense of adventure. Nothing could stop these kids from exploring, and they are always ready to learn something new. This aspect of children being honest and gullible is showcased in The Chosen One in an interesting manner. The screenplay of this six-episode-long series takes time to establish that Jodie has powers. The narrative starts to feel repetitive when the writers keep going back to showcasing Jodie’s powers, which essentially stagnates the pacing of the show. The screenplay also didn’t convincingly talk about why Jodie has these powers.
The audience is also not made aware of why Sarah wants him not to draw any attention to himself. The dialogue from scenes that reveal his lineage is very ambiguous. If only writers had taken the time to make it easy for the audience to understand Jodie’s history instead of wasting a chunk of the narrative on his healing powers. The show did seem like a slow burn in the beginning, but the viewing experience soon became monotonous. The ending of the show was confusing, as the narrative was unable to explain plenty of the details, like the significance of a certain character that appears in the town supposedly to help Jodie and his mother. The story bears a similarity to the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day, if anybody noticed.
What the writers got right was the mood they set for the show from the start until the end. There is a sense of eeriness surrounding the overall storytelling. It shows how religion can make people believe in everything. Jodie’s miracles led to the formation of a commune in the town. Religious fanaticism, mob justice, and blind faith are some of the subjects that have been discussed in detail. There is a psychedelic vibe to the entire narrative, which will oddly remind you of the religious and ideological cults from the 1970s and 1980s. Some images stand out and make us ponder the impact of this growing popularity on Jodie and his friends.
We haven’t read the source material, so it is hard to decipher how similar the television show is to the comic book and if it is a decent adaptation or not. From the perspective of someone who has not read the comic book, this show keeps you engaged for some time, and the story compels us to think about how the mindset of many has not changed over the years. The history of Christian persecution of the local tribes and forcing them to become a part of the faith is put forward through the lens of Jodie’s best friend, Tuka. They have long been assimilated into society but are always kept at bay because of their ancestry. It is interesting to watch writers finally talk about how rampant religious persecution, especially in the North, South, and Central American belts, has led to centuries of angst toward the Christian faith. It is high time such stories were out there for people to see and understand how devastating they were for the indigenous cultures.
The direction by Everardo Gout stands out because each scene is staged well. Since the director is also the writer on the show, he knows how to make sure to present a balanced narrative. Though the screenplay was too long, the direction was straightforward. The climactic sequence was executed with such intensity that viewers did not notice that it covered more than half of the final episode. Luis Sansan’s cinematography is hauntingly beautiful. It makes the audience feel the presence of a divine spirit. The camera work makes us feel uncomfortable at the sight of a child gaining an unhealthy amount of popularity. It is deep, chaotic, and fierce. The casting department did a fabulous job of bringing together a bunch of kids who can put across their vulnerability in such a nuanced manner. The soundtrack and the background score are brilliant because they allow the audience to understand the state of mind the entire town is in.
The performances of all the child actors in the show leave a lasting impression. The characters they portray are fascinated by Jodie’s growth. They are also the first ones to let him know if he is being selfish and abandoning his real group for a bunch of wannabes. Bobby Luhnow, as Jodie, delivers an impeccable performance as a boy who is always on the run with his mother. Ever since he discovered his powers, Jodie has been reluctant to move to another town. His journey from a regular boy to being a so-called messiah is compelling. The other standout performer among the kids is the character Tuka, played by Juanito Anguamea. He is genuinely a great find. This child actor brings up emotions that would stir your heart.
The Chosen One turned out to be better than what was expected of it. Netflix surely has presented a show that touches upon many sensitive subjects convincingly. Give it a watch!