Documentaries, whether it’s a TV Show or a Movie, seem to be well fit for the crime genre. Films like A Thin Blue Line and Capturing the Friedmans have a way of putting a different twist or showing a new light in what would be more or less a “did he or didn’t he?” type of development.
Netflix’s popular miniseries Making a Murderer has it’s own spin on a specific person who has been dealing with the law for over 30 plus years: Steven Avery. His story is certainly fascinating, but is it fascinating enough to watch for over 10 hours?
Making a Murderer follows the story of Steven Avery, a man is arrested for a crime as he believes he’s completely innocent. Putting more points in the plot would actually spoil the series and should go in blind, if you so choose to watch the entire series.
It’s odd that Making a Murderer reminds me of last year’s big crime documentary The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. In both, but in opposite spectrums, they tell the story of how socio-economic means may help or hinder your chance for justice. In both, they tell the story of one single man’s pursuit of justice. In both, and what might be it’s biggest deturrent, are films that seriously needed to be trimmed.
Making a Murderer clearly wants to be many things to many viewers, but the series stretches itself too far when it goes for eye-grabbing tableaus and moments that only serve to be emotionally manipulative. Yet, it’s when the series focuses on the socio-economical stances of it’s main character and the way the justice system manipulates the law to their means, that the series shines.
First, the series should have been 3 – 4 episodes shorter. Making a Murderer gets waylaid by side plots in the middle of the series that doesn’t serve to progress the main narrative. This leads to detail after detail of things that could have been addressed in two episodes at maximum but instead drags for about 4 episodes.
One key example is the discussion of Brendan Dassey. His entire plot development is stretched out with repeating information and with no details to warrant that kind of justification. A single episode could talk about the person, what he has to do with the narrative and how it’s attached to Avery. The series takes 2 – 3 episodes to do it and it drags the narrative down.
Other details, including Avery’s girlfriends and time between arrests, could have been shortened or altogether taken out entirely. Having his family throughout the series is one thing, particularly the parents, but having to deal with the girlfriend, the next girlfriend, the prison girlfriend, miscellaneous family members: these are people that didn’t need dedicated time in the documentary.
Yet, the one thing that this series does right, and it does it incredibly well, is to show the plight of a poor families struggle to get competent help or a sense of justice. This is where the series is at it’s strongest and by far it’s most captivating: relaying the details of the police investigations, interrogations and the incompetence of appointed defense lawyers.
Making a Murderer shows a harrowing example of corruption in a small city and how modern techniques of law enforcement can be seen as more a manipulation of an ends to means than a way to catch the bad guy. Every example is shown clearly and with no blemish or excitement: it lets the viewer see for themselves and make a decision on how to feel about it.
That is not to say that the film doesn’t have an agenda. The film clearly think Avery is innocent, but doesn’t really hide that fact either. I’d normally fault a documentary for having a stance and leaning into it, but when backed with the amazing amount of footage, information and interviews, it’s hard not to see a stance being made even when the filmmakers don’t intend on doing so.
And honestly, Making a Murderer, as it is shown, is kind of a rough recommendation. The series is too long, clearly has a specific stance it rolls to and gets stuck on innocuous details that drag it far too long than it needs to. Then again, cut the film up more and you might not get the narrative punch that the film delivers.
You can experience Making a Murderer in two ways: Google “Steven Avery” and read up on the details or watch this 10 hour series. I’d recommend either/or, but not both. The main narrative does a fantastic job of showing financial maladjusted people in plight by showing the very limited (and often time fruitless) needs of defending one’s self against a government that doesn’t play by the rules.
3/5 – Excellent narrative about socio-economical inequality when it comes to law representation. But it’s too long and has too many unnecessary details.
The Wiz Says #48