'Da Vinci's Demons' DVD Review: Compelling Lead Bogged Down by Catholic Bashing
The Starz original series Da Vinci's Demons is not a bad show. In fact, in many ways, it is a unique production from the cable network and David Goyer (Man of Steel).
However, these are the days many are referring to as the new golden years of television. Whether you agree with that sentiment or not, you must admit that television has more to offer than ever before. For a show to truly stand out, it must be better, more dramatic and offer greater artistic worth than the other offerings out there. Da Vinci's Demons: The Complete First Season, now available on Blu-ray and DVD, falls just a bit short to recommend.
Tom Riley stars as Leonardo Da Vinci. He's an artist, a free thinker and a genius (the show tells us this time and time again). He seeks to discover new things and absorb as much knowledge as he can. He's also on a search for his mother whom he can't remember. There's also a lot of politics to do with Rome and the Catholic Church here, but that all gets just a bit complicated and messy.
What's good about Da Vinci's Demons is its depiction of the main character. Clearly, this is a fantasy version of the man, and the producers are having their fun, but we are in on it. Riley keeps the show pleasurable because he is incredibly charismatic and convincing as this unconvincing character. Goyer and company play with history and make Da Vinci just ridiculous enough to be fun. The show shines when it focuses on Da Vinci and his invention or new escapade to conquer a thrilling task.
Beyond that, however, Da Vinci's Demons is rather disappointing. As I said before, the politics get far too complicated and rather cliched pretty fast. It reaches a point where every episode we get to watch bad guys standing around toting their diabolical plans together. All that is missing is the evil cartoon laughs.
Demons is also embarrassingly obvious in its writing and presentation of its central themes. The whole idea of the show is freedom of knowledge. Da Vinci wants to plow his way to new ideas, but forces in power see it as unconventional and strange and seek to stop him.
To play out this theme for audiences, Goyer actually creates a secret society of dudes that is trying to release all the knowledge in the world to people. There's some secret book or something plus a secret room with all the knowledge of the universe or some such junk like that, and the Catholic Church is suppressing it all so they can control what people know and do not know.
It's pretty amateurish stuff for the guy that helped write The Dark Knight trilogy. Other than its obviousness, however, DaVinci's Demons can be a fun and unique show.
One of the cooler aspects to the series is the look. Goyer directs the first two episodes and he brings a unique style to the way he shows DaVinci solving problems. The show becomes part animated as we go inside his mind. It's a neat trick that never feels hokey.
Still, Da Vinci's Demons is too much of a mixed bag to recommend especially when you consider the other higher quality series' awaiting you on television. Despite a charismatic central performance and unique look and feel, Demons is too obvious and cliche for its own good.
The DVD set includes plenty of episode commentaries, deleted scenes and a few features on the look and themes of show.