Nattawut Poonpiriya’s Bad Genius is a success story when it donned heist elements in exam-cheating drama, making it an effective, nerve-racking thriller. Not only did it orchestrated the rise of newcomer, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying (Happy Old Year), it also sparks waves of remake (Erik Feig and Patrick Wachsberger have been keen to produce a Hollywood remake with Eva Anderson’s writings; meanwhile, Neeraj Pandey’s currently supervising a Bollywood rendition). This also includes an expansion by the production house, GDH, to what eventually becomes Bad Genius: The Series a.k.a. ฉลาดเกมส์โกง—with total of 12 50-minute episodes.
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Expansion might not be a correct word to describe Bad Genius: The Series. It’s more like an extension or, to be precise, prolongation. Created and directed in its entirety by Pat Boonitipat, the series’ narrative is basically a carbon copy of the source materials with not much backstories and expositions added to the plot. What paints it with completely different colors, which surprisingly matters to the characterizations, is the new ensemble of casts.
Pleanrpichaya Komalarajun portrays the protagonist, Lynn a.k.a. the Bad Genius, with a different shade of confidence compared to Chuengcharoensukying in the original movie. While the original Lynn is socially awkward in the sense that she has the psyche to pull the story’s stunts, the series’ Lynn is a bit more carefree—making the character prone to manipulation. This change had gone hand-in-hand with the new traits for Grace (Sawanya Paisarnpayak)—who was originally simple-minded; this time, she’s a little manipulative as she conceals her ulterior motives under her innocent face.
As for Pat (Paris Intarakomalyasut), the series showcases just how big the stakes for the character. Everything about him is in superlative—from how much money and influence he’s got, to just how helpless he is. Newcomer, Jinjett Wattanasin, adds a new complexity to Bank just by the new face. Wattanasin does not own the vulnerable look that Chanon Santinatornkul had in portraying Bank; but, he’s got a stream of emotions that can erupt at any moment.
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The changes, however, works mostly for cosmetic purposes only. Nothing has changed significantly with the narrative apparatus. Bad Genius: The Series, apparently, adds more cheat/heist stunts that don’t stem from the original movie (including one ultimate heist that ends up being one of the most frustrating elements). The finest new cheat/heist is the one that unravels Grace’s true nature—a personal trait that isn’t merely cosmetic. Other than that, the stunts went on either exaggerating or dissatisfying. Unlike the movie, the plot of the series rely mostly on character’s luck, especially on those cheat/heists that differ from the original.
It returns to the initial hypothesis: there’s a good reason Bad Genius (2017) is compact and concise with limited details and enough ambiguity. Poonpiriya’s movie invites audiences to participate to deduce information from the subtext and align it with the movie’s context—unravelling the utmost irony in the narrative. Bad Genius: The Series gives away almost too much of the irony; even, when it eventually spits out the satire, it doesn’t spark any impact to the audience.