Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Wicked a brilliant paranormal debut for Passionflix

When Passionflix decided to step into the world of paranormal romance with Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Wicked trilogy, it was a risk. Until now, the romance streamer hadn’t come out to play in the wonderfully expansive realm of paranormal and supernatural elements, and let’s just say the door has been thrown open and there’s no turning back now.

Wicked surpassed all expectations, and I mean that as a fan and as an entertainment journalist who understands that Passionflix isn’t Netflix. I knew it would be good because I had full confidence in director Taryn O’Neill and executive producer Tosca Musk, who tapped O’Neill to helm the movie in her directorial debut. But it wasn’t until I watched my screener that I realized how the cast and crew knocked Wicked out of the park.

Bringing Armentrout’s story to life was never going to be easy. Wicked is a great novel, but it could be problematic in an onscreen adaptation. The fights have to feel real, the fae can’t be campy and the connection between Ivy Morgan and Ren Owens has to be smoldering. And Tink has to be realistic.

It would be easy(ish) to do those things with a massive Netflix budget, but the fact that O’Neill and her team pull it off so effortlessly (for viewers, anyway; it took a village to bring this movie to life, in the middle of a pandemic, no less) is a testament to her ability as a director and the people that Musk brings into the Passionflix fold.

Wicked suprasses expectations as Passionflix dives into paranormal romance

Wicked stands up not only as a faithful adaptation to Armentrout’s book, and not only as a love story, but as a fantasy story that takes viewers into a world where dangerous fae live among humans.

The movie comes to life in such a way that it will have major crossover appeal for all audiences. People who turn away from romance movies will find things to love about it, just as fantasy lovers and paranormal lovers will enjoy it, too. The mass appeal is a huge draw for the film and it will help usher Passionflix into a new echelon of fans.

O’Neill and her team utilize the uniquely mysterious city of New Orleans as a character unto itself, taking time to appreciate the atmosphere as the story plays out. The VFX are superbly subtle; the fae could become too silly or campy very quick but the effects team gave them a unique look that is adequate and understated. From the VFX to the editing to the music, Wicked draws you in and keeps you there.

We can’t talk about how brilliant the movie is without talking about the cast. The cast makes this movie what it is through their dedicated performances and their connection to the story.

Anna Maiche couldn’t be a better Ivy Morgan. As a talented dancer, Maiche knows how to move. Maiche had never done a fight scene before, nor has she trained in any sort of martial arts prior to being cast in Wicked. Not that you can tell. Her dance training gives her fight scenes a fluidity that make it look like she’s been doing it for years, which is exactly what Ivy has been doing. Maiche is able to capture Ivy’s sadness and joy with her expressions, making our heroine so much fun to watch and root for as she kicks butt and takes names.

When it comes to Ren, Liam Hall embodies the role to absolute perfection. He’s tall, dark and broody, but his twinkling eyes give away his kindness and affection for Ivy. When Ren fights beside Ivy it’s like watching synchronized swimmers. They move so well together, and that’s a sign of impeccable casting. There couldn’t be a better actor to bring Ren to life.

I remember watching Andrew Rogers in a holiday rom-com called Christmas Matchmakers, knowing that he was going to play Tink in Wicked. (It’s a very cute holiday movie and it’s on Amazon Prime, appropriately enough!) His expressiveness alone makes him an ideal Tink, but when you see him come to life on screen as the diminutive brownie it’s his energy that makes it all work so well. Tink goes from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye and Rogers is incredibly suited to keep up with his frenetic moods and mannerisms so that Tink feels impossibly real.

Joy Rovaris gives Val so much sass and snark, and she brightens every scene she’s in. As Val, her energy plays really well off of Anna’s Ivy. And though we only saw the Prince for a few moments, Kevin Joy leans into the role with gusto, giving the Prince the perfect mix of menacing terror and the promise of seduction.

Wicked follows the book’s ending, leaving off on a cliffhanger and the promise of “to be continued.”

Armentrout’s fans know what happens in the next book, of course.

For Passionflix fans wondering what’s happening with the sequels I spoke with Passionflix Director of Marketing and Public Relations Ali Straub Whitaker to find out the status of the sequels. She told me that all of the books in the trilogy have been optioned and they’re actively looking at schedules to see when everyone will be able to film.

(Please keep in mind that the pandemic has thrown schedules off so getting everyone back together is more challenging than usual, but what’s important here is that the sequels are in the works!)

A quick glance at social media suggests that fans are loving Wicked and that’s a good thing for the future of paranormal romance and Passionflix. Wicked stands out because you can remove the supernatural elements and it’s still a great love story, or through the addition of the it becomes more of a fantasy. It works both ways. That’s one of the many reasons Wicked is a brilliant film, and I can’t wait to see more from this very talented cast and crew.