So surprisingly, AMC's version of the Prisoner was pleasantly watchable. Aside from the central idea (man is kidnapped and held in an outwardly placid town and toyed with to find out what he knows) they've taken it in several different directions, so much so that I don't feel it can be referred to as a straight remake (and I loathe the term "re-imagining") so version will have to do. The surreal design ethic is there, with everything built and decorated in an odd 40's/50's pastel style, and since we don't have anything like Portmeirion, the majority of the populace live in pastel A-frame beach houses, all set in lines, all exactly alike. The setting has been changed to an inhospitable desert, with miles of hard travel in every direction, and in order to further keep the peace, "there's no way out" has been upgraded to "there *is* no out, there is only *in*." There are lots of little odd touches, both in dialogue and in general Village life. In the original, alcohol was unavailable (a nightmare situation for the British) and in this version, all food is some version of the "wrap, " the most generic food item ever- when Six asks if there's anything else on the menu, the waitress blinks at him and asks in genuine confusion, "Why would there be?" The cars are small and rather toylike, tours are given daily of the Village and the desert environs, though the town is so small everything can be seen from a quick walk anyway, and there's a resort, called "Escape, " which unsurprisingly everyone wants to go to. The ongoing soap opera ("Wonkers" - man, what a name) that everyone follows religiously is, of course, an already overly emotional genre taken to a ridiculous extreme- and what is a soap opera but unending surveillance of someone's personal life? Families are everywhere, as they've finally realized that the best way to keep people in line is to allow them something to lose, a concept not explored in the original, where no one had the spine to fight back, much less form personal attachments in a place where everyone was suspect. Here, attachments are encouraged, presumably to make it easier on the overlords- forget hours and hours of difficult and time-consuming conditioning for every single act of rebellion; just lean on the family, and the dissenter folds. And it's anyone's guess whether the families in question are real or impostors implanted in the memories of the person in question, but who's going to take that risk? Trusting no one is a fairly easy rule to follow if you're on your own, but can you take a chance that someone will hurt your children if you don't play by the rules? Even if they're not your children? But what if they *are*?
Since the Cold War is no longer relevant, the implication is that corporations are now the cat's paw, with information still the most important commodity. (I actually missed the "Why did you resign?" until the Owlvark chuckled; it sounded so *reasonable* coming from the pretty girl...) The central figure, this version's Number Six, is *not* a spy- he's simply a cog in a corporate machine, who, upon leaving his job after finding out more than he should have, has been kidnapped and thrown into a prison that is mainly of the soul. It's no wonder he's not coping as well as our original man did; he has no training for this sort of thing, and no prior experience- his job up until now has been to simply observe, safe behind cameras in a comfortable office a thousand miles from any real danger, and now for the first time he's on the other end of the surveillance spectrum- not to mention the extensive brainwashing, veiled threats, and the violent repercussions that dissenters receive. It's a bit much to expect him to take it all in stride, seeing as his most strenuous job to date involved sitting on his butt in a cubicle. But we do get some flashes of anger and resentment that are likely a reflection of things to come. Sooner or later he's going to Bring Down The System, maybe with a little help this time, despite all the veiled (and sometimes not so veiled) menace of Number Two, the ever-excellent Ian McKellen, who has decided to say screw it to Machiavelli and have it both ways, demanding to be both feared *and* loved- mostly feared, though, probably due to his endearing little hobbies. And his job comes with cake, which pleases him mightily and is another of the little WTF? surreal touches that we enjoyed. And there are Rovers. Oh yes, there are Rovers, and towers that may or may not be a mirage, and many other things that I won't spoil for you here.
Is it brilliant? Well, of course not- the original is brilliant, as it's the originator of the concept, and I imagine no one gave themselves three nervous breakdowns trying to get this version right. But it's certainly watchable, even enjoyable, at least so far, and it's not a travesty, no matter what you might hear- and trust me, the inflexibility of fans will no doubt lead to a lot of bashing. I have a feeling that a lot of fans of the original went into this already decided to hate it on principle, which is a singularly disutile attitude. Being that I love the original in all its angry paranoid surreal glory, I had worried that this was going to be a train wreck, but it isn't, and I should have considered that anyone who was enough of a fan to want to remake it (not to mention petition for enough money to do it on this scale) would have to have some brains in the first place, because if you're dull yourself, you're not going to enjoy the original in any way, shape or form. This is certainly interesting enough for us to keep watching. If you liked the original, give this one a fair shot.
Labels: movie review