When one thinks of Leonardo Di Vinci, they often picture an elderly, bearded genius inventor, artist, and Renaissance Man. One doesn't often think of a young, handsome, eccentric and often careless bad boy with a penchant for leather jackets and inventing his way into and out of trouble.
That’s the man that Starz Da Vinci’s Demons depicts. Set in the time of his late 20s/early 30s, creator David S Goyer has mined select pieces of the inventor and artist’s life to mix with a rich, fictionalized history (no, this is NOT a documentary) to create a story that’s both compelling and sexy.
You might recognize the name David S Goyer. For a long time, he’s been the go-to guy when the studios need a superhero movie written. He’s the man behind the Dark Knight trilogy (co-writer), the Blade trilogy, and this summer’s Man of Steel. He’s even written the story behind the acclaimed Call of Duty: Black Ops video game. And now he’s the man responsible for making one of history’s greatest minds into an unlikely Renaissance era superhero.
Though Da Vinci resembles Tony Stark more than Bruce Wayne in his mannerisms and mindset, Goyer sets the artist in his own Gotham City – Florence, Italy – a city Leonardo is sworn to uphold and protect above all else. Set between men of power on all sides who wish to manipulate his talents to their own ends or destroy him outright, Da Vinci uses his genius and charm to confound any who cross his path, whether they be bankers and politicians or the corrupt Pope Sixtus IV himself.
However, the Da Vinci depicted in this series isn’t yet the man he is known to be in the history books. He still has a lot of learning (and inventing) to do. His brash and erratic way of doing things often leads him into more trouble while trying to solve a problem. It doesn’t help that he cavorts with an unsavory lot, who often either assist him in building and testing his inventions between dubious escapades of their own. And the women, regardless of their social standing, lead Da Vinci down paths, though pleasurable, that seem to make matters only worse for him, even if he doesn’t yet know it. (Yes, some historians contend that he was gay, but we’ll not get into that here.)
For historians, it’s fun to get a glimpse at a real world inventions of Leonardo’s (often in its early, unstable stages) as they’re practically applied to solve a problem he’s facing, but it’s the fictional, twisted conspiracy that builds through the series that reaches for something greater in the story that’s being told. The conspiracy involves an ancient organization that claims to know the world’s true history, one that the church has tried to conceal, and can be revealed through a mythical tome called the Book of Leaves. Da Vinci is soon pulled into a greater conflict that he’s, at first, unwilling to directly involve himself in. But with the promise of opening his mind to things even he can’t comprehend, that mystery proves too tantalizing to deny.
Starring Tom Riley as a Da Vinci, along with a host of actors quite well known in the UK, this pseudo-historical tale opens up a wealth of storytelling opportunities for Goyer and his cast and crew. And there’s something for everyone. For the intellectual crowd, there’s lots to learn through the recreated real-world inventions, seen in context with the era they were designed, centuries ahead of their time. For those who love complex and immersive worlds and mysteries that are around every corner, Da Vinci’s Demons has lots of that, and it’s only getting started. And for those who just want a little televised titillation on their Friday nights, where else would you other than Starz? Be warned, as educational as this show may be at times, there’s more than a little full frontal nudity that would warrant keeping the kids away for now. And for the nitpicky, don’t expect 100% accuracy when it comes to Da Vinci’s lifestyle or the finer details of his youth. Again, this is not a documentary.
The first of the 8 episode first season of Da Vinci’s Demons premieres April 12, 2013, after the series finale of Spartacus: War of the Damned on Starz at 10pm ET/PT. Check your local listings.