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Monday, 7 January 2013

Bag of Bones

Hello, and welcome to the first post of 2013, here on The Impossible Quest. I hope you haven't missed me too much during my extended break.

As with the first post back last year; because tradition is important, dontcha know; I was determined to find something in the terrestrial schedules to write about. After all, isn't the Christmas break supposed to be a time for the television stations to break out their big guns? Also as with last year, I struggled to find something that wasn't the Doctor Who Christmas Special. ALSO, as with last year, Channel 5 came to my rescue late in the day with a mini-series imported from the states. Well done Channel 5. And so, without further ado...

First things first, because I'm told that's the way to do it, I just want to get a little bit of a moan off my chest. Bag of Bones was a mini-series, written and shot to air over two nights. Channel 5, in their infinite wisdom, took the decision to condense it into a movie and show it in one go. Given it's themes, it obviously had to screen post watershed, which meant they had a 3 and a bit hour production that ran until past midnight; how did they not anticipate that that alone would put people off?

Then, of course, the people who did watch, and who were expecting a movie; since Channel 5 were billing it that way, and hadn't made it's original form clear; were faced with over an hour of very slow scene setting and build up. The air of boredom radiating from twitter during the screening was maddening. A slow part one with a decent cliffhanger is one thing, but lumping it together like this meant that when the big finish to part one happened... people looked at the clock and thought 'Another hour plus of this? Nah thanks mate' and went to bed.

They fucked up, is what I'm saying.

But what of the show itself? We all know that Stephen King material can have a bit of difficulty transferring to the screen; for every The Stand or Stand By Me we get, well, virtually everything else ever adapted for the screen from a Stephen King story. Where on the scale is Bag of Bones?  It wasn't awful, let's put it that way.

Hello. I used to be Remington Steele you know.
I'm fairly certain Pierce Brosnan was high, or drunk, or something, for most of the filming, because he hammed it up like no-ones business, but the rest of the cast were excellent, and the little girl playing the main kid managed to stay just on the right side of annoying, so they win points for that at least.

I say the cast were excellent, but here's the thing... they hired a lot of people for this who, when they first appeared on screen, made me very excited. Matt Frewer is here, Melissa George, Jason Priestley... and yet they barely appear; a massive wasted opportunity. And before anyone says anything; I know George's character dies early on in the book too, but she's much better developed there, before she goes, which made the eventual shock of her death that much more, well, shocking. Here you barely care, because you just don't get the sense of her importance. As I say though, she does brilliantly with what she's given.

The mystery at the heart of the story is simplified a hell of a lot in the show, and not in any way that seems particularly necessary, either. Certainly the explanation in the novel is not one that is problematically complicated; it's complex, yes, but makes sense and would have been relatively easy to explain in dialogue. Also, eliminating several characters altogether in order to allow Brosnan more to do might seem logical; you want your hero to be a hero; but it does raise the question of how a middle aged writer is so good at so many things.

Stop diluting my part you fuckers!
The ending of the book is watered down significantly here too, again to the detriment of the story, and again to every character not played by Pierce Brosnan. The book has the villain despatched by the ghost of one of the deceased characters, in defence of their daughter; the show has the villain killed by Brosnan, in defence of someone elses daughter. A small thing, to be sure, and it does play to the paternal responsibility theme, but still, it just makes Melissa George's character that much less important.

If you've not read the book, it probably played a little better; assuming you watch it in it's intended form and therefore haven't fallen asleep at the halfway mark. Certainly the new, truncated version of the mystery is not in itself offensive and makes sense in it's own right; the villains are genuinely creepy, if a little over the top in one case (and they get points for casting Death from Supernatural in one small but pivotal role); and Melissa George looked, as Melissa George is wont to do, very lovely indeed.

In all, I would say watch Bag of Bones. Make sure you're watching it as a two parter with a break between episodes, make sure you brace yourself for the alterations to the book, and make sure you don't expect to take Brosnan seriously; make sure of all those things, and you should have a good time.

It would have been so much fucking better if Priestley and Brosnan had swapped roles though. So. Much. Better.

Maybe in the remake mate. Maybe in the remake.

No idea what I'll be talking about next time, but I'm sure it will be riveting stuff indeed. Riveting, I say!

See you then. Maybe

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