American Gods SXSW Premiere Reaction: Fans Worshipful of 'Bloody,' 'Beautiful' Series Opener

Starz series' first episode mesmerizes appreciative Austin audience.

by | March 11, 2017 | Comments

Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle in American Gods (Starz)

Highly anticipated Starz series American Gods premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, on Saturday. The long-awaited adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel played to a packed house. Organizers even brought in extra chairs to squeeze in a few more fans.

Bryan Fuller and Michael Green produce the show. Ricky Whittle stars as Shadow Moon, a convict who gets released a few days early when his wife Laura (Emily Browning) suddenly dies. On his flight home, a stranger calling himself Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) hires him as a bodyguard for a mysterious job he hasn’t quite explained yet. Shadow will find out that he is embroiled in nothing less than a war between gods!

Rotten Tomatoes spoke with fans after the screening, and followed the response on Twitter from both fans who’ve read Gaiman’s book and those who went in blind. Below are some of our favorite reactions.

Be sure to read Rotten Tomatoes’ interview with Fuller and Green here.

Cheyenne (right) and Jo (left) Koerth were both fans of the book and were pleased by the adaptation’s diverse cast.

“I loved the expansion of the female characters,” Cheyenne said. “I thought that was awesome.”

Jo added, “I’m really excited to see the different ethnicities of characters. That Shadow wasn’t the white guy was really exciting.”

On Twitter, fans also appreciated the updates made for 2017; for example, Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) has a more virtual reality–friendly surprise for Shadow when they first meet.

American Gods the series may be more graphic than even Gaiman’s words suggest. It opens with a bloody ancient battle among gods stranded on a beach and includes a graphic supernatural sex scene. Still, the fans appreciated the beauty of those extreme images.

Zontee Hou, who’s normally sensitive to blood and gore, found herself moved by the show’s images.

“I thought it was really beautifully shot,” Hou said. “I’m not normally a fan of over-the-top violence, but in the same way as Kill BillTarantino’s usage of the blood bathing over the people, there’s a scene where the blood shoots over Shadow. I actually found that very compelling. It was kind of over the top and a little gross, but also really cool.”

Kate Parsons also read the book and recognized some of the images in Shadow’s dreams.

“The special effects were pretty great, what I think is supposed to be the World Tree, and the buffalo,” Parsons said.

More fans heaped praise on the trippy visuals of American Gods on social media.

Some fans came to the new series purely as a fan of Fuller, who with American Gods, expands his portfolio of weird and wonderful TV, including HannibalDead Like Me, and Pushing Daisies.

Ben Vance (pictured with Kate Parsons below) found the show full of surprises.

“Bryan Fuller is amazing,” Vance said. “Just watching that, I was blown away. The directing is incredible. I didn’t know what to expect from one moment to the next, so it was really fun.”

Fans in the crowd were excited to see the stars of American Gods up close.

Ian McShane, Cloris Leachman in American Gods (Starz)

As satisfied as the fans were by the first hour of American Gods, it only left them wanting more.

“I’m waiting to see the development of the characters that we didn’t get a chance to meet yet,” Cheyenne Koerth said. “Just the interplay of those characters who we met already, and how they’re going to adapt such an expansive novel to a TV format and how they’re going to keep book people guessing as we go through.”

Laura only appeared as a voice on the phone and a dead body in the premiere, so Jo Koerth is waiting to see more of her.

“I really want to see Laura Moon,” she said. “She was one of my favorite characters.”

Orlando Jones in American Gods (Starz)

Kate Parsons felt the casting was perfect and can’t wait to see them continue their roles.

“I’m a big fan of the cast, so I’m really excited to see what they did with Ian McShane, seeing what they do with Mr. Wednesday,” Parsons said. “They were talking about really strengthening some of the female characters as well and that’s really exciting.”

Hou feels she got a sense of where the show was going based on where it begins.

“Each of the individual journeys is very intriguing,” Hou said. “I think you see a lot of opportunity for development of each of them. The interplay with Shadow and Mr. Wednesday and the side characters they’re introducing, you just say, ‘Ooh, I want to know more about who that person is.’”

American Gods premieres April 30 at 9 p.m. on Starz

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