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.