Char­ac­ter­less as­sas­si­na­tion

SFX - - Reviews -

re­leased OUT NOW! 2016 | 15 | Blu-ray/dVd Cre­ator Brid­get Car­pen­ter Cast James Franco, sarah Gadon, George MacKay, daniel Web­ber

Af­ter killing Hitler, daytrip­ping to the Cru­ci­fix­ion and pon­der­ing the wis­dom of shag­ging one of your grand­par­ents to see if you can be­come your own an­ces­tor, the next most com­mon thing on every time trav­eller’s bucket list is pre­vent­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of JFK. Which is prob­a­bly why there were weary sighs when Stephen King tack­led this hoary old sci-fi chest­nut with his 2011 book 11/22/63. Against all odds, it turned out to be his best novel in yonks.

Sadly, the minis­eries based on it isn’t a sim­i­lar treat. Quite the opposite. This is a plod­ding, lethar­gic, charm-free clunker with life­less char­ac­ters and pay-off-free plot­lines. In the book time travel is a mere means to an end, a hook on which to hang a whole load of King’s other pre­oc­cu­pa­tions: his nos­tal­gia for ’60s small-town Amer­ica; his ex­haus­tive re­search into the facts of the as­sas­si­na­tion and the life of Lee Har­vey Oswald; a sur­pris­ingly ten­der love story which em­bod­ies the book’s theme about small per­sonal choices hav­ing as much im­pact on the world as the big game-chang­ing ones; oh, and a bit of gore, of course.

The minis­eries, con­versely, be­comes hung up on time travel, with “time” prac­ti­cally be­com­ing a char­ac­ter in the nar­ra­tive. It’s a poor choice, as it starts mak­ing you ask ques­tions about the way time travel op­er­ates in the se­ries, which it never an­swers. This starts as a nig­gle, but ul­ti­mately be­comes a de­bil­i­tat­ing stum­bling block.

When teacher Jake Ep­ping (James Franco) dis­cov­ers a por­tal to 1960 in the cup­board of a diner he de­cides it’s worth wait­ing around for three years in the past for the op­por­tu­nity to save Kennedy. Then each week the show de­cides it needs to ad­dress the fact that it’s a time travel show, with para­doxes, weird­ness and moral dis­cus­sions. Mean­while, the love story so cen­tral to the book be­comes a cold ex­er­cise in plot­ting ne­ces­sity, not helped by the fact that Franco’s Ep­ping is at best an im­pos­si­ble-to-read blank can­vas, and at worst an ut­terly un­like­able prick.

It’s not all bad. Daniel Web­ber puts in an ut­terly com­pelling and

A plod­ding, lethar­gic, charm-free clunker

sub­tly com­plex per­for­mance as Lee Har­vey Oswald. The pe­riod de­tail is im­pec­ca­ble, and the re­cre­ation of fa­mous events from his­tory is very im­pres­sive in­deed. There are a couple of gen­uinely ex­cit­ing ac­tion se­quences. And the sea­son-closer de­liv­ers a mighty swerve­ball (di­rect from the book) that al­most makes sit­ting through the pre­vi­ous seven episodes of list­less stodge worth­while.

Even then, though, that fi­nal episode leaves too many ques­tions unan­swered – ques­tions that didn’t mat­ter in the book, but which feel vi­tal here. But a sec­ond sea­son that might an­swer those ques­tions would be point­less, as there’s nowhere left for the char­ac­ters to go.

Ex­tras Just a 14-minute Mak­ing Of. Dave Golder

Stephen King Easter eggs in­clude a cameo from the car from Chris­tine and some “re­drum” graf­fiti (à la The Shin­ing).

No one turned up for Si­na­tra’s ware­house gig.

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