Far from the original series by Jeff Lemire, the Netflix adaptation of Sweet Tooth wanted to make the horror saga a family trip with a fairy tale feel … even if it means bringing us close to indigestion.
After Locke & Key, Umbrella Academy or more recently Jupiter’s Legacy, canceled after only one season, Netflix draws once again in the register of comics to offer us Sweet Tooth, the series adapted from the eponymous saga of Jeff Lemire. A particularly awaited arrival on the platform, which plunges us into the fantastic and yet very current universe of Gus, a hybrid, half-human, half-animal who tries to survive in a devastated world.
A rewrite that looks like a family tale
In the original comics, Sweet Tooth is not a fairy tale. The universe that Gus must face after the Great Collapse is macabre, dark and tortured, masterfully carried by the emaciated trait of Jeff Lemire. For its adaptation on the small screen, Netflix had never hidden wanting to make the saga a family fantasy tale rather than a horrific journey. Successful bet for the directors Jim Mickle and Beth Schwartz, who deliver us from the first minutes an adventure full of tenderness and optimism. If the violence of the world that surrounds the characters is regularly mentioned, it remains very watered down compared to the comics released in 2009 in the United States. The regulations are not mistaken, since Sweet Tooth is only not recommended at least 13 years old.
If the series assumes to be inspired very freely by the original work, the dystopia imagined by Jeff Lemire remains the guideline of the action: in a world ravaged by a mysterious deadly pandemic which would pass the covid-19 for a nice flu , some survivors try to adapt to the consequences of the Great Collapse. Along with this mysterious virus, hybrid children, half-human, half-animal, are born immune. Between fear and fascination, the rest of humanity inevitably sees a link with the pandemic, and undertakes to track them down to study them and find a cure.
It is in this apocalyptic context that Gus (Christian Convery) is raised by his father (Will Forte) for nine years in an isolated nature reserve. After a childhood far from the dangers of the world, reality obviously ends up catching up with Gus, who decides to leave his cabin to go in search of his roots with Jepperd (Nonso Anozie), a taciturn and unsympathetic marginal whom he knows nothing about.
The strength of love (and characters)
If they differ – sometimes radically, from the original characters of the comics, the protagonists of Sweet Tooth remain particularly endearing. Despite his young age, Christian Convery is just brilliant. The actor perfectly embodies the character of Gus in all his innocence and cuteness. It’s hard not to melt in front of his contagious optimism, especially in the face of the gruff (but still full of good feelings) figure of Jepperd. Small flat however, if the special effects are particularly successful on the main characters (Gus and Wendy in particular), it is another kettle of fish for the rest of the child-hybrids, who sometimes come close to failure.
But as they roam the American West, the duo are not alone in facing danger. Even if it means doing a little too much, the adaptation of Robert Downey Jr and Susan Downey multiplies the intrigues in this first season, and invites us to discover the birth of the refuge created by the former therapist Aimee (Dania Ramirez), or the daily of doctor Adi Singh (Adeel Akhtar), who is trying to develop a remedy to cure his wife affected by the Disease. The spectators will also be able to discover the great villain of the story, through General Abbott (Neil Sandilands), leader of a militia which tracks down the hybrids and makes reign of terror on the last survivors of the region.
Despite a few round trips that are sometimes difficult to follow – even with the narrator’s interventions, the different characters take the luxury of being all very successful. Everyone asks ethical questions about the pandemic in their own way, and brings to the discourse a more adult dimension that ends up missing in this watered-down adaptation.
In the comics, Jeff Lemire does not spare his readers. Gus’ relative candor is continually undermined by the cruelty of the world around him. Brutal, violent and pessimistic, the original work only finds a glimmer of hope in its final denouement, after forty dark and breathless chapters. In the series Sweet Tooth, the adventures of Gus take another path, and benefit from a much smoother proofreading. An asserted bias, which turns out to be a real success on the visual level, but which suffers from a number of inconsistencies, even if it means sometimes bordering on a liver attack. We thus regret the villains, not as bad as we could have hoped for in a devastated and apocalyptic universe, but also some obvious scriptwriting facilities, such as the fact that the survivors continue to enjoy electricity, video games in VR or running water for example. Inconsistencies which quickly tend to seal the story to make it lose realism.
The same goes for the group of eco-revolutionary teenagers led by Ours. Absent from the original series, the latter quickly turn out to be quite hollow, and their rather superficial environmentalist discourse compared to the depth of some of the topics covered in the series. The idea could have been interesting, but the addition of these “Children wild ”, undoubtedly intended to seduce an adolescent audience, does not convince. In the same vein, the character of Jepperd, although sympathetic, is sorely lacking in dimension, and ultimately turns out to be as watered down as the rest of the series, while he enjoys a real ambivalence in the comics. Add to this the sometimes very heavy references to our own pandemic (especially during a debate between a pro-mask and an anti-mask), and the result can quickly come close to the overdose of marshmallow as the series sometimes lacks nuances. .