The 2017 Thai film Bad Genius follows four teenagers who scheme up a cheating racket worth millions of baht. The movie was an international hit and — unsurprisingly — was remade as a series three years later in 2020. 
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I sure as all get-out was not expecting the series to be so great. I mean, it does what every single movie-to-series adaptation in the world needs to do: it takes the original story and simply adds meat to it. After watching both, I actually ended up liking the series significantly more than the movie (and that’s saying a lot — I’m a big fan in case that’s not clear by now).
So that’s essentially the gist of this post; I get to talk about a franchise I really love and hopefully you guys get to glean some insight that will maybe help you decide which version you want to watch (though I think both are excellent and highly recommend watching both if and when you have the time to).
Alright, how this works is we’ll take a look at specific elements of both of them (like how each one tells the story or how characters are portrayed) and I’ll tell you right now that Series wins in most cases, but Movie has its share of wins as well. Ultimately, I’ll explain why I think the series works so much better than the film ever did.
And with that, let’s get right into it with a good ole sparring match between Movie and Series.
We all know series and movies have very different lengths, with movies being far more limited time-wise. Thus, as great as the movie Bad Genius is, it understandably focuses most of its run time on the action: specifically, the cheating the kids do and the thrilling suspense that comes with those quick-paced sequences. Consequently, less action-driven content (such as character development) isn’t delved into as much as I personally would have liked.
This is where Bad Genius: The Series truly shines by totally keeping the original story, characters, and general essence of the movie — but going much deeper with everything. Characters are fleshed out, plotlines are elaborated, and most things in general are explained properly and in due time.
As a specific example, the series excels at explaining something the movie only touches upon briefly: the reason behind the kids’ actions. Why do these youth risk so much while putting themselves through such severe mental anguish? I’ll give you a friendly hint and suggest you watch the series for that answer — rather than the movie — because that’s a question the series simply has a heck of a lot more time to explore.
All things considered, I have to conclude that the story of four cheating high school students is far more suited to the length of a series than to that of a film.
After watching both the series and the movie, I couldn’t help comparing each version of the four main characters. So I thought it would be interesting to set them side by side and pick my favorite version of each character.
And please remember: all actors and actresses did phenomenal and the performances are really quite groundbreaking for the most part. I don’t want to sound like a broken record saying that for each one, so I’m putting this blanket observation right here.
This was the most difficult one to choose. I think both young women portrayed this character perfectly. In each case, it was so easy to empathize with the pressure and stress Lin puts on herself. Each young actress completely pulls off portraying a kindhearted genius who’s also brutal enough to organize and carry out an entire cheating racket worth millions of baht.
Movie Lin is more robotic and calculating, which works for the character. Series Lin is also incredibly calculating, but is a little less sure of herself at times. Since we get to see more of her, we get to see Series Lin hesitate, falter, feel hurt. This makes her more relatable — and consequently, my ultimate favorite portrayal of Lin.
I found Movie Bank frustratingly powerless. It’s hard to watch him be so used by others while given so little chance to fight back. And quite honestly, he just doesn’t have time to. But Series Bank does have the time, and the series takes full advantage of that by developing him into a well-rounded character who’s pains and victories are acutely felt by viewers.
I’d also argue that Bank is way more significant to the series plot than that of the movie; he is a huge catalyst for change who drives a lot of the series’ action. And since we get to see more of Series Bank’s backstory, I’d say he’s also generally more compelling and even more likable than his Movie counterpart.
Pat is the character who differed the most between the movie and the series. Movie Pat is superficial, shallow, aloof, and ignorant; he represents the untouchables. I kind of wanted to see Movie Pat fail because he’s almost an antagonist. (Almost!) In the series, however, I actually found myself rooting for the little booger now and then.
Series Pat is as shallow and aloof as Movie Pat, but he is also a lot more relatable. As the series progresses, we get to know him as a person and come to understand what motivates his actions (namely, the intense pressure from his dad). Knowing why he does what he does helped me sympathize with him.
I know it sounds like I liked Series Pat more, but I actually found that I prefer the distant, unreachable, almost antagonistic Pat. So, Movie Pat it is.
I don’t have much to say about Movie Grace because she’s actually rather unmemorable. This isn’t because of the actress who plays her — don’t get me wrong — but because Grace herself isn’t very important to the movie’s version of the story. She’s not developed as a character and is nearly pointless to the plot except for bringing in Pat. After that, she really takes a backseat and is kind of just…Pat’s girlfriend.
Series Grace has way more character development and is crucial to the plot. She’s still pretty much glued to Pat, but that’s actually an essential element to her character arc here. Plus, we do eventually get to see her think about her decisions and question if she really wants to live in this dude’s shadow (and that of his overbearing family). I also love that Series Grace is the perfect blend of devious and naïve that’s so essential to her character; the actress who plays her truly knocked it out of the park.
It’s a clear win here, ladies and gents.
Before moving on: The overarching theme of this section is that each character in the movie could have done with more time to develop, so the series takes that notion and runs with it. It does a fantastic job showing character arcs and focusing just as much on the cheating and action-oriented sequences as the movie did, while also utilizing the time it has to nurture its characters.
One thing I immediately noticed about the series is that it solved a huge issue with the cheating strategy used in the movie.
I was never 100% on board with the finger tapping technique used in the film, so I thought it was really cool that the series mentioned it — and then threw it out of the window right away. They realized how problematic it was and came up with something more elaborate and (very likely) more realistic.
It was a neat nod to the movie but a totally appropriate (and needed) deviation from the original.
Don’t have enough time to binge a whole series but you want a fun watch for the evening? Winner: Movie
Want to get more emotionally invested with significantly more content? Winner: Series
Or you could do what I did and just watch both.
In case you weren’t counting, that’s a final count of Series: 6, Movie: 2. So, yes, while the story is better suited to the style of a series than to that of a film, both are solid productions and thoroughly enjoyable watches. (I do have major beef with one particular element they put in the series that isn’t in the original film; can anyone guess what it is? Ten points to Gryffindor if you do. I’m thinking of writing another post on that in the [hopefully] near future.)
Ultimately, if you want to bite your nails off in a severely thrilling ride, chose either one and you won’t be disappointed.
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Currently watching: Through the Darkness
All-time favorite drama: Sakura no Oyakodon: Season 3
Anticipated upcoming dramas: Juvenile Justice, D.P.: Season 2
photos from IMDb and MyDramaList