The Odyssey is arguably one of the oldest books in western literature as it is believed to have been written around the 8th century BC by Homer. Despite being thousands of years old, the Odyssey is generally considered a classic to this day. While I had a vague knowledge of the story of the Odyssey, I can’t remember ever reading the story or watching any film adaptation of the story. Therefore I only knew pieces of the story. In the past there have been quite a few film adaptations of the Odyssey but today I am looking at the 1997 mini-series which aired on NBC. The mini-series received quite a few award nominations ultimately winning an Emmy for directing a mini-series and special visual effects. With the mini-series receiving awards and being based on a classic story, I was interested in checking it out. The Odyssey Mini-Series is a solid mini-series that is impressive in some areas and could use work in other areas.
We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copy of The Odyssey Mini Series used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
The Odyssey follows the story of Odysseus. Shortly after the birth of his son, Odysseus is forced to leave his wife (Penelope) and his son to serve in the Trojan War. After a long fought war, Odysseus is ready to return home. His arrogance in attributing his success in the war to his own greatness angers Poseidon though. To get his revenge Poseidon swears to make Odysseus’ journey home as difficult as possible. This forces Odysseus and his crew to face great trials and tribulations as they try to make their way back home. Meanwhile due to rumors that Odysseus perished in battle, suitors start arriving in Ithaca to try and marry Penelope and take over Odysseus’ kingdom. Will Odysseus make it home or will his journey end on one of his adventures?
While not nearly as popular as they once were, TV mini-series are an interesting genre. Some mini-series can be quite good while others can be really bad. The reason why mini-series can vary so much is that they try to tell epic stories on a smaller budget than a normal movie. They also tend to extend the story to three plus hours. This leads to some mini-series really suffering by being too long and just not being that all that interesting. Some mini-series do a good job utilizing the lower budget and longer run time to create a really good story. Then there are the mini-series that land somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. The Odyssey Mini-Series falls squarely in this later category.
Everything about The Odyssey Mini-Series screams solid but unspectacular. I will shortly get into specifics but I think the word solid perfectly describes The Odyssey Mini-Series. There are some things that the mini-series does really well and other things where you can tell that the budget was a limiting factor. This leads to an overall satisfying experience that I enjoyed watching but I could see areas where the mini-series could have been better.
On the story front I would say that The Odyssey Mini-Series is a pretty accurate portrayal of the source material. It seems like most of the major events of the original story are included in the mini-series. The mini-series does tweak a few things here and there in order to make the story more appropriate for a TV audience. It also slightly updates a few things to make the story more appealing to modern audiences. None of these changes are drastic as they are more minor details that were used to somewhat modernize the story while also streamlining the adventures that were cut from the mini-series.
I would say the biggest changes are which stories the mini-series decides to cover and which it decides to drop. As I mentioned earlier I have never read the Odyssey, but based on reading a synopsis the mini-series seems to have kept most of the adventures of Odysseus. There are a few adventures that were cut though. Some of these were cut because they were lesser adventures that don’t impact the overall story. I don’t exactly understand why some of the adventures were cut though. The mini-series couldn’t have covered every adventure or it would have been too long. I think the mini-series could trimmed the length of some of the adventures though in order to add in some of the cut adventures.
As a whole there are things I liked about the plot and there are other things that I think could have been better. For a story that is thousands of years old, it actually holds up a lot better than you would expect. I enjoyed watching the mini-series as it is an interesting adventure. There are some interesting adventure/action sequences that can be a little cheesy (in a good way) at times. There are some slow points though where I think the mini-series could have streamlined the story. The mini-series is over three hours long so it was bound to be a little dull at times.
The production quality is also kind of hit or miss. On the positive side it seems like more money was put into the mini-series than you would normally expect. The mini-series was actually filmed on location in the Mediterranean where the events of the story would have taken place. The sets and props are also pretty good for a mini-series. The thing that I was most impressed by was some of the practical effects. Most of the creature designs are quite impressive. They aren’t as good as what you would expect out of a theatrical release, but you couldn’t ask for much more from a television mini-series from the 1990s.
While the practical effects are good, the special effects in The Odyssey Mini-Series are the complete opposite. Take 1990s CGI and combine it with what you would expect from a TV movie and you get the quality of the special effects in the mini-series. Sometimes the special effects are laughably bad and sometimes they are just bad. They don’t ruin the film but they do occasionally take you out of the experience.
One thing I was surprised by was that The Odyssey Mini-Series was quite a bit more violent than I would have expected from a TV mini-series. The mini-series apparently received a PG-13 rating and I would say that today it would probably receive between a PG-13 and R rating (probably closer to the PG-13 rating). When the various monsters kill members of Odysseus’ crew, it is quite a bit more graphic than I expected. It is not bad enough where most adults shouldn’t have an issue with it, but I would not recommend having children watch as it is more a film for teenagers and adults.
I might sound like a broken record at this point, but like most things in the mini-series the acting is pretty hit or miss. Some of the actors are pretty good while others are pretty bad. I think Armand Assante does a pretty good job in the role of Odysseus. This is key as he is on screen for a lot of the mini-series. Most of the other main characters are also pretty good. Some of the actors can be pretty bad though. Some of the acting can be cringey from time to time, basically what you would expect out of a TV movie.
As far as the DVD itself is concerned, you get what you would expect from a 1990s TV mini-series. The video is fullscreen as it was shot for television and wide screen televisions weren’t particularly popular back in the 1990s. The video quality is pretty much what you would expect out of a 1990s television mini-series. Other than the mini-series itself, the DVD doesn’t have any special features. This is not particularly surprising as I doubt many mini-series from the 1990s filmed special features to eventually put on a DVD. You can’t blame Mill Creek Entertainment for not making new special features for a mini-series that is over 20 years old. I think the mini-series could have benefited from some special features though as some behind the scenes features would have been interesting with the mini-series being filmed in the Mediterranean region where the events of the Odyssey would have taken place.
With only a vague knowledge of what happened in the Odyssey, I didn’t know exactly what to expect out of the mini-series. Mini-series can be hit or miss as their length and lack of budget can affect the overall quality. In the case of The Odyssey Mini-Series I would say that it is quite solid. For the most part the mini-series is pretty faithful to the original story. Some of the adventures are cut for time and some small details are occasionally altered but the overall story is quite similar to the original story. The story for the most part is pretty entertaining despite there being occasional slow points. I was impressed with the visuals for the most part as the sets, props, and practical effects are quite good. The special effects are pretty terrible though. The acting is also a little hit or miss as the main actors are pretty good but some of the supporting actors can be cringey at times.
If you don’t really care for the story of the Odyssey, I don’t think The Odyssey Mini-Series will be for you as it is a pretty faithful retelling of the original story. If you like the Odyssey or general adventure stories, I think you should consider picking up the DVD.