Thursday, February 25, 2016

James Franco Goes Back To The Future to Save JFK in 11.22.63.

Stephen King adaptations are tricky.  The best ones that immediately come to mind are Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), Brian DePalma’s Carrie (1976), and The Mist (2007), with Pet Sematary (1989) getting an honorable mention because I like The Ramones so much.  It’s also interesting to note that Stephen King was notoriously unsatisfied with Kubrick’s version of his beloved Overlook Hotel, to the point that he made his own miniseries with Stephen Weber in 1997.
Stephen King is able to create amiable characters and compelling plots, mainly because his novels are completely grounded in reality but with one twist, one supernatural or science fiction schism to fractal across the story with interesting and often horrific consequences.  Ordinary lives are changed in one extraordinary moment, and while this sounds cinematic, Stephen King’s narrative style is slow, meandering and leisurely.  He wants to draw the reader in and he takes his time, a strategy that is problematic for movies.  Viewing is an entirely different experience than reading, simply because we can’t read minds and everything has to be shown, or told.
A filmmaker has a better chance of adapting his novels in a miniseries, as producers JJ Abrams and Stephen King have accomplished with 11.22.63. on Hulu.  James Franco, who did such a great job in The Interview (2014) and, always seems to play the same role, (let’s call him the maniac pixie best friend) is Jake Epping, who goes back in time to prevent the Kennedy Assassination, revisiting a theme Stephen King explored in The Dead Zone.
He accomplishes this via an unexplained, magic time travel closet like The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe that always leads back to a specific date in the early 60’s.  Mid-century America is portrayed as bright and optimistic, albeit with segregated rest rooms, where all the men where suits and everybody smokes.  The streets are crowded with gorgeous vintage cars in showroom condition, an anachronistic element that always takes me out of the story.
The story has elements of The Lost Room(1996), the Sci-Fi miniseries starring Peter Krause from Six Feet Under, Groundhog Day (1993) and of course like Biff from Back to The Future 2, Jake Epping finances his crusade by betting on sports events that have already occurred.  The first episode also reminded me of Fringe (2008), as he is essentially a time travel agent with unseen, undefined quasi-supernatural forces working against him.  “Time pushes back,” Jake is warned and he encounters grisly Final Destination (2000) type accidents that need to be avoided like sand traps or video game levels.
The larger question raised by this series is how relevant are baby boomers, at least from a pop culture perspective?  The national trauma of Vietnam is like a faded scar compared to 9/11 and the chaos of the Mideast, the current refugee crisis, and the almost daily mass shootings.  And consider the optimistic idealism of the Kennedy campaign as portrayed in this miniseries against the cynicism and indifference of the 2016 election year.

There’s a certain naïveté to this baby boomer wish fulfillment of a brighter past and a bleaker future.  The miniseries supposes, of course, that the world would be a better place now if JFK had survived.  He remains our most respected president, next to Lincoln, but what if he had lived?  Would he still be "JFK", or would he be a president who had an affair with Marilyn Monroe, a footnote in history, much like the blue dress from The Gap or the Watergate tapes?



my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.