Monday, February 4, 2013

Spread Eagle Eddie: Day of the Triffids Pt 2 of 2

Finally got round to watching the second part of Brit television's recent adaptation / re-imagining of The Day of the TriffidsMy impressions on the first part were largely favorable, though a few glaring issues had my garters into a twist.
Second half quickly drags itself out of an unnecessary cliffhanger and gets to business with an on foot road trip through Triffid occupied England, and while the travel narrative doesn't have the poetry of 28 Days Later or the pulse of Book of Eli, there's a couple decent beats like silver age hottie Vanessa Redgrave tramping as a wicked queen bee nun, or the kid sister gunslingers hiding out in a countryside B & B tavern much like the one my wife & I had the good fortune of boarding at during our honeymoon travels visiting friends in Whitehorse, England.
Still not sure if Whitehorse counts as a Shire or not, in my mind of course it does.
While I didn't hate the second half, there were moments that felt lazy, sloppy, or just simply stupid.
Why did Eddie invade the compound?
How did a man that single-handed (pardon the contextual pun) best, wrangle, and hogtie a Triffid manage to get POWN'd by one. Don't say the recording of the Triffid chatter made it angry, I'm sure it felt far more hostile about being tied up and stuffed into a giant kiln with a grate for a friend like Gregory sans rodents. Unless perhaps Triffids, like so many carnivorous types, are also into some kinky type stuff. Think that might've needed some deeper consideration, and frankly, the show?
The show clearly demonstrates many days at the least passing by, and if you take into account the construction of blockades using double-deck buses and what appears to be a lot of spot welding of plates and barbed-wire, as well as the ever expanding and extremely well armed army Eddie Izzard is commanding, and the war map with the chess pieces that shows multiple fronts or ensconced areas color coded to appear under human or Triffid control might indicate months, not just days or weeks, have passed.
Why does this matter? Wouldn't at all until the protagonist femme flees the power mad Eddie's castle mansion and heads into the DMZ crawlign with man eating Triffids and has to take refuge in a restaurant. Whether days, weeks, or months, I'm relatively sure for one reason or another the very freshly dead waiter lying on the floor by some car keys the femme will need to help expedite her getaway, I'm sure he wouldn't be there.
Oh, he might be there as a skeleton picked over by Triffids like another cadaver the woman had passed only moments earlier in the street. Or he could be a dead guy dressed like the people in Eddie's army that'd perhaps been just recently caught unawares while looting the restaurant for nonperishable goods to take back to the castle to trade for sex, drugs, or rock and roll. What I'm sure of is that time and space did not collapse enough to facilitate a fresh kill of a waiter about to attend Table Three with Service for two unfortunately struck down mid-shift by a Triffid's barbed kiss without Dr. Who or the Improbability Drive's direct intervention.
By the time our femme hero sauntered into the wrecked up restaurant, any waiters still on premises would've long dead, and even a few days at the least would be a nasty discovery to make, let along a few weeks. They'd not be lying there looking as rosy cheeked as a Shakespearean lover on a poison Jell-o shots bender.
With cars and tanks of gas throughout England, why does our hero doctor consistently travel everywhere on foot like Johnny Appleseed hoping to sew the land afresh? True, he slept in the open on a runway tarmac, cradled in the lip of a massive jet engine. I'm unsure why Triffids wouldn't traverse an airstrip, though clearly the doctor felt confident they wouldn't, perhaps his studies revealed to him that Triffids, like B.A. Baracus, don't fly with coercion, and certainly don't collect air miles. Personally, have ridden in a car through a fair part of England's villages and countrysides, I felt the show really did a disservice to automotive practicality versus the potential threat of genetically enhanced yet woefully slow moving carnivorous plants.
Did the lady hero really have to wreck her tiny, sensibly fuel efficient car while looking at a map? True, this wouldn't have happened to a dude because men never use maps. However, clearly in view of the car she wrecks, and by wreck I mean drive into a ditch with a slight dip in a car that clearly is too small and light to warrant have a reverse gear, are several more cars to choose from, many of them very much looking intact and viable.
I believe her character is forced to walk, aka "leg it", because the writers or director(s) wanted to set up the unlikely event of her rescue by the hiking doctor's warrior scientist dad. I feel this could have been achieved more spectacularly had she perhaps been on the run from Triffids that had just thrown her car from the roadway down and embankment and into the bog. Or, she simply could have reached the old man's distinctive retreat and parked out front, then had to fight her way into the grounds, about to die just short of the door when fences go on and the old grumpy man saves her.
Coincidence is a tough gimmick to swallow, and could have been avoided simply by letting her journey to reach the same known destination her lover is bound for be rife with arduous and exciting occasions, rather than smidgens of improbable, impractical, or nigh impossible twists.
England is a land of cops without guns. Where did two little girls get firearms Tank Girl would drool over? Sure, could happen, the details would have been interesting to know, more interesting than the minutes wasted seeing the hero woman's inability to navigate her washing machine on wheels along a road three cars wide.
We've seen Eddie offhandedly shoot people working for him. When the kid lets the hero woman go free, Eddie appears distrustful of the kid, yet lets the kid live, leading to the kids later, bigger betrayal. Does Eddie secretly have a moral code that exempts the kid from Eddie's frequent acts of violent discontent? Is the kid his manservant? The relationship between Eddie and staff that love to serve him yet fear his furrowed brow of fury isn't sufficiently developed, and seems to settle to quickly into fairly stale, predictable, hero versus villain fare that hides all of the many talents Eddie Izzard the actor could bring to the role, and leaves us instead with generic Gary Oldman style villain played by the best comedian we could afford that's willing to work Sci-Fi for a new flooring of his flat in Manchester.
Not that everything about the show is horrible, however, enough is good that what isn't stands out all the more as the delivery of unrealized potential. So much promise derailed into mediocrity by adherence to stale conventions and trite, contrived plot devices.
I hope Walking Dead's adaptation does better. And when someone wises up and adapts Monster Island they had damn well do better than this. The richness of stories like these is in the characters and how they confront, adapt, experiment, stand up, fall down, win, fail, survive, or die versus a monumental change to their norm, their safety, their situation.
Just as having a baby this week will be a massive test and measure of our characters as people, and a challenge I hope to survive, the Day of the Triffids is not all that noteworthy for the man eating plants, that's just a treatment on a change of circumstance, a perpetual threat, a backdrop calling characters to action and testing their natures, abilities, and ethics. The book has merit as a story about people and what they do when all the rules change, when the society they knew is blasted away.
The series started out with some potential, especially around Eddie Izzard's character, from his clever means of surviving the plane crash to his constantly changing bio he'd feed people to his ambitions to become lord and liege of a new country defined by his will and vision. There could have been so much room to explore his pathological desires, reveal his needs, make him flawed and in his own mind trying to do something just and right and good instead of feeling like a shallower version of Alan Rickman's Sheriff of Nottingham in the Kevin Costner version of Robin Hood, all bluster and tiny tyrant rage instead of a layered character with mysterious ambitions that one might expect from a person such as Eddie Izzard.
And why did the hero need to be the very scientist who's father created the hybrid Triffids? I have the same issues with the whole Skywalker family doomed for greatness that the rest of the known universe orbits around thing. It's contrived, and worse, it's lazy. And while our history is full of it through monarchies and dictatorships and an ingrained sense of nepotism as the easiest route to greatness, I personally take issue with a story that at heart tries to stage a central cast around people who were predestined to play the roles they do for the story.
I appreciate that the show is trying to emphasize the importance of family and community and collaborative efforts against adversity and a common foe. I think that could be accomplished without contriving a father son relationship hinged on having created the Triffids, perhaps the savior of the human race isn't the son of the man that created the plague that dooms humanity. Please don't misunderstand me though, I do earnestly think there is great richness in exploring the relationship between father and son, especially when put under duress, internally or externally. What I'm not a fan of is tacking that notion into a larger story like a sort of lazy shorthand for two dimensional archetypes. Had the show focused more on the relationship between father and son at least as much as Indy and his dad in the Last Crusade, I might have bought in, however unfortunately not the case here.
Also, when the little girl starts calling the female hero "Mom" not hours after meeting her, I had to question whether that were a bit heavy handed on the writers' part, or whether scenes had been cut to better inform the viewer as to how the little girl had become so stripped to the core as to need to fill a mother figure void? I just don't get to know the little girl well enough, her back story, or how she and her sister survived, sight intact, with hefty machine guns too boot. I'd like to know. I'd like to see a whole episode devoted to the month or more the two girls spent in their village watching the rest of the people die, or flee, or eat one another, get eaten, or form rape gangs the girls had to trick into a bomb shelter and subsequently set ablaze, or whatever else happened that left them alone with guns, food, booze, seemingly limitless ammo, and keys to a sweet vintage ride apparently neither of them had bothered figuring out how to drive.
The program did not do the girls, potentially the most interesting characters in the whole show, justice.  They, and the blind surgeon from the church compound, deserve a followup, or a reboot, or something, much like Joss Whedon managed to do so often in Buffy & Angel, present dumb initial episodes and yet subsequently redeem them through salvaging interesting characters and giving those characters a chance to grow, develop, and delight audiences.

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