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You Are Now Re-Entering… The Twilight Zone

This is one of those ideas I am not too sure about. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way has announced that they are moving forward with a new Twilight Zone movie. With The Box coming out later this year, I imagined that Hollywood’s thirst for remakes could soon find its way to these precious anthology series (which have themselves been remade). It makes sense – there’s a lot more scope and freedom in taking a name from a show without a regular cast or confined to single storyline but still has name recognition. The only problem is that, without these staples, what exactly are they going to do to create a two hour movie?

If only the Twlight Zone were so easy to find...

If only the Twlight Zone were so easy to find...

Two possible formats of adaptation occur to me, neither particularly appealing. The first involves adapting a single story from the show into a two-hour film. Certainly there is no shortage of individual stories that could be adapted or extended. However, there are several problems with this. The first is that all the best stories have twists in the tale, which everyone knows. Change the twist, change the story. Don’t change the twist, everyone interested will know your ending from a cursory browsing of Wikipedia.

The second is that these are in effect short stories, stretching them out to two hours might not be the best idea, unless you’re willing to make significant changes. If you do make the changes, why not just create a new movie from scratch?

And finally, why have an anthology title attached to a single movie. I could understand if you were building a franchise, but there’s a more solid case for letting these moves stand on their own two feet. The Box is an example of this approach. I don’t know what the difference between The Box and a standalone Twilight Zone movie would be, save an ominous narration at the beginning and end.

The other approach that I can see being adopted is similar to that taken during the “original” Twilight Zone movie in 1983 – though the content and style of the movie has been somewhat overshadowed by the tragedy that occurred while filming it. The format of the movie was that of an extended episode. Four segments, each directed by a relatively prominent director (Stephen Spielberg, John Landis, Joe Dante and George Miller). Each of the four segments was a remake of a classic episode.

I have my doubts about this approach, in that I see little point in emulating the small-screen experience on a larger screen. Surely acknowledging that the stories work better in shorter formats concedes that the project belongs on television in those bite-sized chunks. Still, that’s not to say that anthology films don’t work (Short Cuts and Pulp Fiction are two great examples), but they are very difficult to pull off without seeming random and disjointed (in fact, Roger Ebert considered the movie so disjointed he rated each segment individually).

I don’t know. I’ll be following this project closely as a film fan, but I remain skeptical. The Twilight Zone itself is a very hard show to emulate and has an essence that is hard to find, let alone distill. Perhaps the franchise itself is as transcendental as the eponymous zone:

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

I want to visit the Twilight Zone again. If only it were as easy as opening that strange door.

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One Response

  1. [...] Well, it’s been a busy week for Leonardo DiCaprio. First his production company snaps up the rights to make a Twilight Zone movie. And now the word on the street suggests that his company, Appian Way, has picked up the rights to [...]

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