I was more excited than I probably should have been when I read today that the BBC are producing a remake of Day of the Triffids, scheduled to air later this year.
Remakes, ‘re-imaginings’ or ‘reboots’ are nothing new. Indeed, over the past few years they have become something of a staple of TV and box office schedules. The small screen has given us Doctor Who, Survivors, Gladiators, Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider and 90210, to name but a handful. And in our cinemas we have the revived Batman franchise, Ocean’s Eleven, War of the Worlds (more on that in a bit) and the upcoming Star Trek.
But Day of the Triffids – perhaps more than any other – sends a tingle down my spine, half of excitement, half of fear. For while I, like many others of my generation, regularly watched Tom Baker’s Doctor Who from behind the sofa, DotT sticks in my mind just as much as any Dalek or Cyberman yarn.
I remember well the original 1981 BBC TV adaptation of the John Wyndham novel – and the subsequent nightmares it gave me. With much of humanity blinded by a freak meteor shower, the triffids – giant, carnivorous and apparently sentient plants – roam Britain freely, killing with their poisonous stings.
It was years before I could look a daffodil in the face again without flinching.
Both the original book and the TV version are widely regarded as seminal science-fiction drama, and I was gutted when I missed a re-run of the serial on BBC Four a few years back. But now I will get the chance to see an updated version later this year, which will no doubt have me hunting down the original on DVD …
I know I shouldn’t be this excited. But I really am.
Much less exciting was the two hours we spent watching the Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds over the weekend.
I can’t deny that it is a visually stunning film; really and truly, it is hard to imagine how it could have been fully visualised without 21st century CGI. It was also generally well received by critics and generated significant box office takings (close to $600m worldwide).
However, as a story I found it somewhat vacuous and more than a little confusing. Understandably, many of the original story elements needed to be updated – H G Wells’ original book deals in Victorian science and technology – but I was still disappointed by how far the film deviates from the original, and also at how Hollywood-ised it had become. You see, WotW is a slightly unusual tale in that, in the book, the unnamed narrator is just that: he is more of an observer – the reader’s eyes, ears and enquiring mind – than a traditional hero. The filmed version, however, is replete with set-pieces which are seemingly tacked on to meet audience expectations of the spectacular and Tom-Cruise-as-action-hero, just in case the basic story isn’t enough to carry their interest.
One sequence in particular – and if you have seen both films you will know exactly what I mean – had me pinching myself to check I wasn’t watching the velociraptors-in-the-lab sequence from Jurassic Park.
To top it all off, the ending of the film is pure Hollywood saccharine: Cruise’s character and his daughter (who was so annoying I spent the entire final hour rooting for the alien invaders) are reunited with his ex-wife in Boston, to discover his son – who he thought had perished earlier – had in fact survived and preceded them there.
What a terrible, terrible waste. A great book – albeit one which, on reflection, doesn’t actually translate particularly easily to the big screen – and two of Hollywood’s biggest box office names, but a distinctly mediocre film. And that’s putting it kindly.
Still, in the interests of balance, I should say that Morgan Freeman’s voiceover narration, which bookends the film, is, as ever, wonderful. That’s about it, though.