A 2006 adaptation of a one-shot comic book, “The Amazing Screw-On Head” was a pilot that failed to be picked up for series. It was written by Bryan Fuller, in the time in-between “Wonderfalls” and “Pushing Daisies”.
[There are no spoilers for this very short animation in this review.]
The art style really stands out, the comic creator Mike Mignola (more famous for his “Hellboy” series) was the art director for the pilot so his style carried over well. The usage of blacks is very striking. I’d say the visuals are the best aspect of the pilot.
It’s certainly a better failed pilot than Fuller’s previous failed pilot, the 2002 adaptation of Stephen King’s “Carrie”, but I still overall disliked it. The tone really didn’t work for me. I’m fine with a casual attitude to death and the morbid, but I feel like the story tries to coast off it’s oh-so-quirky premise, and it never really amounts to anything beyond a “look at me, I’m so random” type of humour in my eyes. What’s the draw of a crazy premise? What exactly is meant to be so compelling about a robot serving Abraham Lincoln? I’ve never understood this type of humour that just inserts historical figures like Lincoln into genre stories and expects fireworks to happen. There’s just nothing under the hood, and the America-centric storytelling is off-putting to me.
There’s a talented voice cast, but I just failed to connect with what they were trying to do. I feel like “Wonderfalls” managed its quirky and twee nature much better, setting up well-realised characters and stories that worked without relying on just the zaniness of their premise. “The Amazing Screw-On Head” is very visually appealing, but Fuller has made plenty of shows with striking visuals that still have a lot of story and a lot to say. Apparently the story was inspired by the way action figures are usually the same essential bodies but with different paint jobs and heads, and I think that speaks to how the story feels like just a bunch of disparate elements (American history, robots, mythical monsters, etc.) haphazardly mashed together.
I do find the process of Fuller and Mignola’s collaboration fascinating though. In interviews, Fuller has talked about his experience with “Dead Like Me” (having to leave early into the first season, then hearing off the show going off the rails and torpedoding the stories he’d set up) affecting how he tried to manage respecting Mignola’s status as the original creator of the comic that this failed pilot adapted. Fuller’s eventual relationship with with Neil Gaiman in their “American Gods” adaptation sounds a lot more easily-managed and fruitful, but the way Fuller acted in complete liberation from Thomas’ Harris material when he made his “Hannibal” show interests me most.
Fuller’s very skilled at reconfigurating source material in creative ways, so perhaps stymieing his own instincts there and trying to please Mignola rather than tell whatever reinterpreted story he might have had in his head contributed to the flatness of this adaptation. In any case, I give it one and a half robot bodies, and a vegetable prison.