Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rewind to the far we have come.

I've already told you about my love of the vampire genre. I also love the post-apocalyptic genre which does have links to vampires, but also includes zombies and the general disintegration of society due to plague and war. Things like Day of the Triffids by John Whyndam, 28 Days (and Weeks) Later and Children of the Dust (I've completely avoided The Road as everyone in my unreliable book club hated it but I'm sure it would come in here for many).

So I was delighted to find out that what I thought was a vampire book review in The Age last July turned out to be more to the apocalyptic side of the genre. The Passage by Justin Cronin was a 900 page odyssey through the destruction of America by viral infected blood suckers engineered by the US army. Fantastic. Loved it! Can't wait until the next two books in the series plus the Ridley Scott directed movie.

Upon doing some more research, I was interested to find out that The Passage was in part a homage to Stephen King's epic, The Stand. And so I decided to embark on the mission that is reading the 1300 page extended version of this quite amazing book. Its less a horror (alhough there are some horrific parts) and more a study of the evolution of humanity in the face of darkness and destruction with a bit of the god and the devil chucked in for now.

I was then very excited to find out that there was a mini-series made in the 1990s with a Stephen King written screenplay. I was also very excited to find out Rob Lowe (*swoon*) was one of the stars. Less excited that Molly Ringwald was to play the female lead and really quite bemused that Gary Sinise was the male lead, not at all who I imaged (really, heartthrob?). They were joined by a whole host of names that I hadn't heard since the 1990s (Corky Nemic - I remember him!!) and few that are more well known now!

Being a mini-series, a 1300 page book works much better in 6 hours of TV rather than 2 hour movie, so front a narrative perspective it was a delight. There was only one part of the plot that was quite altered from the novel with the merging of two characters (Nadine and Rita), but it worked as well in achieving the same end. If you haven't read the book, little was lost. So basically, little criticism there.

The main characters were cast generally well and in some instances like they were played by people they were based on. Tom Cullen (Bill Fagerbakke) was just exactly Tom Cullen. Mother Abigail, Glen Bateman and Trashcan Man - all right out of the pages of the book nearly to the most minute detail . The devil's advocate, Randall Flagg, played by Jamey Sheridan was a good choice although I never really got a picture of him in my head and Miguel Ferrer as Flagg's lieutenant was older than I expected but still did the job.

So far so good. Three episodes all pleasing.

Then we come to episode four where all the action happens. This is the part where special effects would come in to their own. However, this is the mid 1990s and I expect that this particular mini-series didn't have a very big budget so really I shouldn't have expected much. But I did and I met with some terrible disappointment. I don't really think that special effects are essential. I watched Star Wars just today and the 'new' effects that George Lucas added in when they did the new edition irk me. I like it looking like a film made in 1977! But when it came to Randell Flagg's change of head from human to horny devil it was reminiscent of Clash of the Titans from from 1981. It looked like a rubber mask (and it clearly was!) and more little relation to the rest of his body! And then there was the 'finger of god' coming down to set off the nuclear warhead which, to be honest, I thought was more figurative in the novel rather than an actual finger coming down from heaven but I seemed to be wrong. A huge golden hand came down from heaven and ended the evil - and left me feeling a little bit 'huh'. 

And with only 15 minutes left they squeezed in a 3 month trip from Las Vegas to Colorado. You can't rush a good ending.....but they did.

I0'ts really a rough diamond of 1990s mini-series but I still can't quite figure out whether I found it a fabulous enhancement of the book, or a distraction, detracting from the book, which was fantastic. I think maybe a second look might be in order......or possibly another read - but only after The Passage sequels are safely under the belt.

Now I'm off to watch The Wire.....happy watching, and stay away from the reality shows - no good can come of them.

The end result

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