Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Scott & Jean: Wasted Story Potential (Part 2)

Yesterday I introduced the topic of the Scott & Jean and talked about how mine is wasted story potential. Today I bring to you my top five. Enjoy! 

5. West Wing Season 4 to 5 Transition: This is my all-time favorite TV show. I can watch the first four seasons of West Wing over and over again. And I have. You quote it and odds are I’ll know the line and be able to quote the next one. Chances are I’ll be able to tell you which episode it came from and, failing that, at least which season it was and where it is in the story. Pathetic? Yes. But, hey, some of you probably like American Idol, so I refuse to be criticized. Anyway, at the end of season 4, President Bartlet’s daughter, Zoey, has been kidnapped, he’s invoked the 25th amendment and –because of the VP’s recent resignation- the Republican Speaker of the House (played by the always awesome John Goodman) has assumed the office of the president. Awesome sequence of events (if, admittedly, a little contrived with the whole lack of a VP thang) . The problem? That was the end of show creator Aaron Sorkin’s run as the show’s lead writer. I don’t know the name of the person or people who took over, but they were not Aaron Sorkin. They completely and totally botched this beautiful setup and did not nothing with it. I’m sure they tried, but the enormity of the task crushed them like Nerds (the candy) caught in the soles of your shoe at a movie theater. The plotline fizzled. I gave up on the show about 10 episodes into Season 5. Still, at least it got four good years.

4. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. When it comes to film adaptations of books, comics, etc. I’m not a zealot. I understand details must change to better fit a different format. I was totally onboard with the changes to Fellowship of the Ring -no Tom Bombadil, Arwen’s increased role, Aragorn actually saying goodbye to Frodo- because these things made the movie better (or at least didn’t hurt it). For my money it’s as close as you get to a perfect adaptation. The Two Towers was not. (Nor was Return of the King for that matter, but TT was worse.) Peter Jackson had all the pieces in place to blow people’s minds and he blew it by wasting time with Aragorn’s “death” scene and fallout thereof, something that was not in the book because it’s a horrible idea and a horrible waste of time. Did anyone actually believe Aragorn was dead? No. And the changes to Faramir’s character are a complete betrayal of that character. At no point does Faramir covet the ring. It’s what makes him distinct and, dare I say, better than his brother. I understood the need to drum up the action and tension a bit by having him try to take Frodo to Gondor, but good god Jackson, you could have had it both ways. You could’ve done it without completely changing Faramir’s character make up. He’s a guy with huge daddy-pleasing issues. Have him say outright that trying to possess the ring is folly, but that he has no choice but to accede to his father’s will. It would still have been a departure from the book that would’ve brought the action scenes Jackson wanted to include, and at the same time not been a complete betrayal of the character. Finally, if I ever have to endure another extreme close-up or Liv Tyler crying it’s entirely possible that I will achieve posthumous fame as the first verifiable case of spontaneous human combustion.

3. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Take a step back away from the keyboard on this one. We all know and agree the prequel trilogy sucked. And yes, that trilogy in and of itself is a walking testament to unfulfilled potential. But the third film, the one they had to nail, that was the king of it all. There is good stuff in that flick. Lots of good stuff. So much good stuff that you can’t help but want to drive a pen into your skull using a Fisher Price hammer (wow, the visual!) each and every time the film manages to suck you in only to have Lucas and Co. do their best Lucy and yank the football away. Take the scene where Vader get his suit. There’s Anakin on the table getting treated. We seem him as the helmet descends, the score is rising, and we see that perfect look of terror on his face just before it becomes a permanent fixture. Then what? He asks about Padme, is told he killed her and then staggers forward like frikk’n Frankestein and wails, “Noooooooooooooo,” like he just stepped out of a scene from an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

2. X-Men 2 to X-Men 3. Fans of the X-Men comic know this one. We get X-Men 2, arguably the single greatest comic book movie ever, and it was finished with that absolutely perfect final shot and voice over in which the camera zooms over the lake where Jean Grey has died and in the water we see the shape of a phoenix as Xavier talks in the voice over about evolution taking a giant leap forward. No fan of the X-Men didn’t see that and not jump the fuck out of their chair and exclaim that they couldn’t wait for the next movie. Perfect fucking setup for the Phoenix Saga storyline. And then what happens? We lose Bryan Singer as a director. Since he was the driving force on the first two that was a bad omen, but you can replace directors. They’re not perfect. Hell, Singer went on to mess up the Superman franchise re-launch with Superman Returns. (Speaking of wasted potential, Kevin Spacey was a perfect fit for Lex Luthor. Wasted.) But then Brett Ratner was attached and you immediately had to know that X3 wasn’t going to fulfill the promise of X2. And it didn’t. In fact if there’s some kind of inverse black hole potential to expectations in which a high expectation can be changed to represent the exact same value but in a negative space, that was X3. I mean they made Dark Phoenix a side plot to yet another anti-mutancy magic syringe. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Dark Phoenix is a side plot to nothing!

1. Firefly: This show was on its way to being the best thing Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) had ever done. I really like those previous shows. At times I outright love them. But there’s no denying that they were the TV equivalent of playing golf. Many, maybe even most, of the episodes were kinda above average to average, with the occasional awful one thrown in for good measure. But the good ones, they were as good as TV got. Like a good golf shot, they kept you coming back. Firefly? Of the episodes produced (and released on DVD – go buy it) each and every one of them was awesome. I mean Jaynestown? Out of Gas? Objects in Space? Our Mrs. Reynolds, for god’s sake? Fox stuck Firefly in the Friday night death slot and cancelled it after… what? Eight episodes? It’s been years since I first watched Firefly and it still pisses me off to contemplate what could’ve been and wasn’t because Fox had no freaking idea what they had. “Two-by-two, hands of blue,” you motherfuckers!

1 comment:

Dave said...

I follow your logic - and have 2 connected ones...Babylon 5 and Crusade.

B5, designed from the outset as a 5 year, 5 series arc. Early in season 4, network (Sci-Fi, I think) announce that they aren't picking up season 5, so JMS has to rewrite and hurriedly conclude story arcs to finish by the end of season 4. Then, having done that, they change their mind, meaning that a brand new series of stories has to be written, and some key characters have left and now have other commitments (notably Claudia Christian). Cue a fairly reasonable last series, but not a great one.

Then there was Crusade. Meant as another multi-series arc, following on from the full length TV film that was released. Good strong premise (5 years to save the Earth), good cast (the ever-dependable Gary Cole, Daniel Dae Kim (of Lost fame) and Tracy Scoggins. Canned after 13 episodes, which included a completely superfluous intro episode, and a whole number shown in completely the wrong order. canned in favour of the crap they show now.

So yes, I own all the boxsets, the TV movies etc, and yes B5 looks awful now because it was produced in the early 90s and presumably filmes on video (aka ST:TNG disease) - but the story arcs were some of the best on TV, and I still miss it :(