"Looking for Alaska" recently debuted on Hulu as a film adaptation to John Green’s novel that was published in 2005. It is a dramatic, heart-filled mini series that you will enjoy as long as you aren’t attached to the ideas of faithful film adaptations or a strong lead. It will excite and intrigue the watcher who has never read the book, but may disappoint dedicated John Green fans. The heavily advertised Hulu mini series is created by Josh Schwartz and is eight episodes long; each episode fifty minutes of drama, significant looks, and last words that may make you think more deeply about life, death and teenage feelings of invincibility.
The keynote part of Alaska Young is played by the graceful Kristine Froseth, who gives the role everything she’s got without ever seeming to have a hair out of place. Charlie Plummer, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired in his portrayal of main character Miles “Pudge” Halter. Dry, dull, and dreary, Plummer as “Pudge” delivered his lines with as much excitement as a clock telling the time. Luckily, Denny Love as Chip “The Colonel” Martin was there to pick up the slack and make the audience grin without knowing it. Love is both charming and changeable, and surely the boldest and brightest on screen. Jay Lee as Takumi is a non-memorable sidekick but cast quite well. Other notable performances include: Timothy Simmons, who gives a beating heart to “The Eagle”, and Ron Cephas Jones, who gives Dr. Hyde depth and a moving backstory.
John Green explained in a 2018 YouTube video entitled “The Looking for Alaska Thing” that he had sold the production rights to "Looking for Alaska" years ago, and therefore didn’t have control over how it was produced. However, he also stated that the producers of the new series were “really welcoming” to him “in every aspect of the process” of creating the series. Yet Green’s lack of control in the series becomes clear: for die hard fans of John Green, this new series will seem like a different-dimension version of the book they love. While its setting, characters, and themes are all technically true to the novel, many things are “off.” The overall plot stays the same, but parts of it have been changed seemingly at random, and many new backstories and side plots are created. For example, we see much more of “Jake,” Alaska’s boyfriend (Henry Zaga), on-screen. We also learn of Dr. Hyde’s compelling backstory, something that is never even hinted at in the novel. “The Eagle” is given both a softer side and a love life. Pretty much all of the pranks pulled by the Culver Creek kids are in some way slightly mutated from their original form. Overall, I found the effect of these numerous changes to be slightly unsettling. However, this wouldn’t affect the watching experience of someone who doesn’t care too deeply for Green’s book.
Despite all this, I cannot discount the enjoyment a "Looking for Alaska" fan will have in seeing all those little things that make the book what it is portrayed on-screen. It was a delight to be reminded of “bufriedos,” the “smoking hole” by the creek, and the flustered wonder of young love. Even Pudge’s favorite last words are entwined deeply into the series. The story will make you think about the beauty and fleeting nature of life, death and the labyrinth. It will make you cry (it did to me), smile and perhaps laugh.