sturgeonslawyer (sturgeonslawyer) wrote,

Seen: The Day of the Triffids (2009)

I'm told that this BBC Wales TV version is more faithful to the book than the 1962 theatrical and the 1981 teleplay, and, though I haven't seen the latter and haven't read the book in over 40 years, I believe them. But it has some definite "original" plot elements, most important of which is a kind of mystical tribal mask that lets you use the triffids' venom as a sort of triffid repellent.

Well, anyway. Triffids are huge, mobile, carnivorous, semi-sentient, orchid-like plants which (and I'm pretty sure this is *not* in the book) produce an oil that solves all the world's energy problems. Ummmm. Right. Whatever. It's a gimmick that explains why the triffids, a rare deep-African-jungle species, are everywhere on Earth as the story begins: they've been bred in vast numbers to provide oil.

In flashback scenes, we see how the mother of Bill Masen (Dougray Scott) was killed by a jungle triffid these twenty years or so ago, resulting, amongst other things, in little Billy becoming estranged from his father, though both become obsessive about triffids. Bill works for a triffid oil company outside London, and, while capturing a terrorist triffid-rights activist, gets stung in the face by a triffid. (They always aim for the eyes.)

Well, a predicted solar Event takes place, with most of the world watching - never mind that the world is round and half of it *wouldn't* see it - but anyway - it has the unexpected side effect of blinding everyone who sees it. Who could have foreseen that looking at the sun would cause eye damage? Because his face was bandaged, Bill doesn't see it and becomes one of the rare-ish two-eyed people in this new England of the Blind. Awakening in a London hospital, he comes across grotesque scenes of people who don't know how to be blind asking everyone they bump into for help.

Another who didn't see it was the terrorist, who, seeing his opportunity, lets the triffids loose and gets what he undoubtedly merits when he's killed by them. We are given to believe that this has happened all over the world, and certainly all over Great Britain, because the sheer number of triffids loose seems improbable for one plant.

Bill hooks up with a sighted radio personality, Jo Playton (Joely Richardson), and they begin trying to find other sighted people and begin putting society back together. One of the first they meet is Torrance (Eddie Izzard), who miraculously survived a plane crash and who, we have already seen, is an opportunist and not a nice person at all, and who takes a fancy to Jo.

Then they come across a band of, well, survivalists, who have seized arms and who are out for themselves, counting the blind as as-good-as-dead. Bill takes Jo to find her father, who dies at the tentacles of the triffids. It is now Bill's goal to find *his* father in hopes he knows something that will stop the evil orchids.

But they fall back in with Torrance, who has slimed himself into a position of power in a survival gang which is gradually taking over London and "protecting" (in the Mob sense) blind folks. He sends Bill out to be killed by triffids, and begins moving in on Jo, who, incidentally, has fallen in love with Bill, though I don't think she knows it yet.

That ends part one of this two-parter. I'm not going to summarize the second part, except to say that there is a lot of the worst (and a little of the best) of humanity on display in this show; Torrance gets what's coming to him in the end; and the ending is a little hopeful, but basically downbeat.

The acting is off-the-shelf BBC acting except for Izzard, who chews the scenery delightfully. He makes an excellent villain for a melodrama. The triffids, the only major special effect, are only a little bit stiff in their motions and fairly convincing. And the settings are many, varied, British, and quite delightful.

The pacing is deliberate, not like the constant-action-quick-cut-in-your-face pacing of most modern thrillers. There are a few springloaded cats, but mostly the triffids -- like Romero zombies -- frighten more by their numbers and their gradual inevitability than by their speed. Some would call it "slow paced." I wouldn't.

In all, I enjoyed it. I don't feel any pressing desire to see it again, but wouldn't walk out of the room if someone started playing it.

(And I haven't even mentioned Vanessa Redgrave. Oh well.)
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