Reviewing Outlander reviews

imageThe other day I posted two articles on Facebook dealing with Outlander reviews. The response was great so I thought I might take a deeper look inside some of these reviews (thank you Sandra Gootee for the quote inspiration) and give them a little taste of their own medicine. The Scotsman article (Outlander – What the critics are saying) collected a few review highlights in their article, arranged according to plot, the female lead, the location, historical accuracy and the romance. At Rotten Tomatoes ( Rotten Tomatoes) you can read 54 reviews five of which are primarily negative and the rest with a varying positive range. I have looked a bit closer at four of the reviews.

The first one I checked out was by Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair (Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair) It is actually a very positive review by a man who obviously really likes the show, which is not necessarily the impression you get if you just see the short recap in The Scotsman. Lawson calls it “weird, in a good way” and he likes all the different genres that are employed during the show. “There’s a genuine—and I can’t believe I’m about to say a word I really dislike—sensuality to the show, one that makes the sex more about passion, not just some mechanical turn-on.” A male reviewer who actually gets what it’s all about. I’m almost clapping my hands here. According to Lawson, the show is “continually entertaining and thoughtfully put together” and the producers “somehow pull off the whole romance novel/historical epic/fantasy drama/etc. combination, winsomely and seductively.” From an Outlander fan’s perspective an amazing review.

David Wiegand from The San Fransico Chronicle came up with a rather sloppy and half-baked review ( Double lives just 200 years apart). He says Claire touches the stone while hiking with Frank and that she is rescued from Jack Randal’s abuse by Jamie. Well, I wonder if he saw the first episode at all. If he did then he sure as hell didn’t pay attention. He calls Diana Gabaldon’s books a “series of fantasy bodice-rippers” and in his opinion what Ronald Moore’s script does is to “mimic the sometimes stilted dialogue from the book.” Well, that dialogue is some of what I for one like most about these books. Wiegand likes the characters and the cast, though, and the obvious chemistry between Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, and according to him the “supporting cast is every bit as terrific as the main cast.” All in all, one of those reviews you can’t really take seriously, though since it  is obviously based on a fairly distracted viewing from someone with a short attention span.

Molly Lambert, Grantland submitted a review (The time-traveling genre mashing pulp historical fiction of outlander ) that is a critic-turned-fan testimony. She felt sure she would hate the show but has to admit that “What makes Outlander work is how it plays its ridiculous setup completely straight” and “It was so refreshing to watch a show that caters to women’s sexual fantasies, it made me realize how much I take it for granted that most shows will automatically cater to men’s.” Spot on there, and I assume we are many who are grateful to Ronald Moore for making that happen, finally.

Tim Goodman from Hollywood Reporter (Outlander TV Review ) admits to not having read the books and then goes on to label them “romance-laden” (and how would he possibly know when he has not read them?) and like David Wiegand is somewhat confused as to who saves Claire from Black Jack when she first encounters him. He does find Outlander  “an interesting concept and [it] is well-executed, too”, though and likes the fact that “Moore doesn’t really fuss over the time-travel element. There’s no magic to it other than Claire falling through time — no tricks or special effects”. It is still too slow for him and “layers of voiceover bits don’t help, even — and therefore Outlander can hardly be described as compelling. In many ways, this is a story well and thoroughly told but with almost none of the smart pacing of similarly dense fictions like Game of Thrones.” How one can seriously compare Outlander to GoT is beyond me.

Funny how several other male reviewers are also obviously fans of the more fast-moving action-filled series like Game of Thrones and as such completely miss what Outlander is all about, but I am happy to leave GoT to them as long as I get to watch more seasons of Outlander.


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