Monday, February 4, 2013

Eyes Have It: Day of the Triffids 2009 ep. 1 of 2s

Back when I occupied a spot on the Tates Creek Senior High School's rather illustrious competitive Speech Team,  I did a couple stints of dramatic monologue. Trying to differentiate myself from the usual fare, I had the audacity / vanity to adapt my own pieces from the goofy sorts of books I read then. The first script I built came from the scene in Myth Adventures when the kid conjures the demon and botches the spell, hilarity ensues. Still surprised no one has made a TV series out of the Myth books, lot of great Teen rated stuff in there.
Any rate, after several sessions trotting that beast through the paces before several dispassionate judges, I decided a new piece was needed to get more than a few polite chuckles, and  turned to John Wyndham's novel The Day of the Triffids and adapted the scene when the protagonist wakes, hears all the panic, takes off the bandages from his eyes and discovers a real world demonstration of the proverb about the one eyed cat being king in the land of the blind. I managed to place in state finals and in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee hosted Southern Regional competition with that piece, though I never won more than the satisfaction of getting to final rounds. I as much blame the inability for judges to take man-eating plants seriously versus the tried and true Neil Simon staples as I do my inability to convince them to feel the passion of the plants, the peril of the protagonist, the panic of the peoples.
Received the only back-rub-with-bare-breasts of my entire lifetime from a concerned female teammate during that Gatlinburg competition, and perhaps that's what gave me the confidence to best depict a man waking to a world utterly different to the one he'd briefly had to close his eyes to, to confront an alien situation that held as much morbid fascination as fearful hesitation, and to take my shtick all the way to finals. Other words, I learned the merit of a cold shower on that away trip.
Funny how writing these reviews really incites some interesting and largely extraneous recollections. But I digress.
For a better sense of the tone of my era of high school years, watch Better Off DeadWeird ScienceHeathersBack to the Future 2, or Hot Tub Time MachineYou can get some sense of the pop culture late 80's vibe, though in my circles with way, way less illegal substances and way, way more illegal fashions and day glow colors.
This quick flashback is simply to explain my gut reaction of giddy, giggly glee to discovering this new adaptation had hit the small screen, especially after learning Eddie Izzard is in it. If only it had Tim Curry, too...
I've just finished the first half of the two-parter and suffice to say I'd like to see the rest. Sure, this might be my completionist streak, the same one that prohibited me from turning off Murder World or as I call it "Murder World: The Worst Film Ever Made & So Bad as Not to Come Round Again to Schlocky Goodness, the Absolutely Irrehensibly Worst Bucket of Sick Except Maybe for Feast 3". Could be I'm a glutton for heavy handed drama and fairly threadbare plot devices. Perhaps I just have a real soft spot for the combination of end of days scenarios and snaking grabbing carnivorous vines like chocolate eloping with peanut butter chunky style.
Most likely I'm just enjoying the twists Eddie Izzard's character is introducing, color me curious about his Napoleon meets Heath Ledger does Joker sort of compulsive liar passive=aggressive power plays as well as a Best Fan Forever because its Eddie freakin' Izzard and no one can fill a bathroom with self-inflating life vests like he can.
Overall, or at least, so far the adaptation could be less heavy handed, the protagonist more empathetic, the military forces less offhandedly dismissed, and the plot twist at the end of part one far less contrived.
Spoiler Alert... Let me afford an alternative ending to episode one for your consideration. The villain apparent of the piece would seem far craftier if he lead the heroes to harm's way with them thinking they'd had free will and choices in their actions instead of forcing them there through thuggish manipulation or even more needlessly at gunpoint.
To further the point, I'll refer to the plot. The villains have had first hand experience with how dangerous the Triffids are, and have decided a couple men need to disappear. While feeding them to the Triffids might seem like a good idea if you could drop them outside a wall or into a pit, driving the men as hostages out into the middle of the woods at night into the midst of a Triffid infestation they knew awaited them everywhere outside the city makes no sense. If you want someone gone in a city where most people are blind or dead, wouldn't there be an ample number of places the persons might be dispatched without putting yourself needlessly at risk? Elevator shaft would do the trick, not like there'd be a queue for it.
I'm not saying I wanted the heroes killed, I'm suggesting that instead of taking the men hostage and driving them out into the woods to have a needless and frankly underwhelming showdown just to set up a cliffhanger for episode 2, the plot instead could have twisted with one news anchor, guilt ridden over not saving the woman she'd been involuntarily hand-cuffed to, staying behind while the other two men, of their own volition, taking a truck and trying to brave the wilds to reach the protagonist's father's place, only to be thwarted by shoddy road conditions and overwhelmed by corpse craving carnivorous cambium containers.
Also, continuity person keeping the editing staff in check, did you not notice all the close ups of our hero shooting plants point blank with a shot gun, or that there next to him is the bad guy sprawled and writhing on the ground, the one that earlier shot our hero in the shoulder and took him hostage? A ruthless anti-hero sort of protagonist might pause to offhandedly put some buckshot into the bad guy, both as payback and as insurance, perhaps with a snappy macho line like, "Now lets see if the plants can get you before the worms do." Or, "Here, let me help you stay down." Our hero this day isn't so petty, however I'm still unable to buy that he's suddenly without shotgun when the bad guy stands up, waves a pistol around, and demands the keys to the truck. Maybe if you'd showed me a shot of the hero running out of shells or having the weapon wrested from his clammy grasp by a thick Triffid tentacle. Maybe. This turn of events when the baddie again gets the upper hand while a forest of Triffids closes in, including the drippy ones that can apparently climb trees, caused me to say out loud incredulously, "Aw, come on, he's not dead yet?" Startling my very pregnant wife and causing our 100 pound dog to sleepily get up and move to a different room.
That said, the big dying urban landscape scenes, the man-eating plants, the buffed up narrative elements about how the Triffids cured global warming through weening the masses off of the oil tit (however no one can know the terrible secret that the Triffids live off of blood and bone and like Japanese businessmen in love hotels they always aim for the eyes). And didn't the Triffids come from space in the novel?
Doesn't matter, aliens or bio-engineered, the Triffids are purple blossomed bad asses, and while I often felt Torchwood might show up at any moment, the show is worth a watch through, especially if you've some quilting or knitting to do, or gardening if you like a bit of irony with your boob tube.

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