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Simon Read [Cathode Ray Mission 12.31.09] Tuvalu post apocalyptic review

Year: 2009
Directors: Nick Copus
Writers: Patrick Harbinson
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Reviewed by: projectcyclops
Rating: 7 out of 10

Ever since I first saw those amazing opening scenes from 28 Days Later, I've been waiting for someone to step-up and adapt John Wyndham's brilliant apocalyptic novel The Day of the Triffids, and do it right. We had a disastrous film version in 1962, that I watched once and vowed never to revisit. There is also a far more faithful UK television adaptation from 1981 that I would recommend to anyone who might be curious, although it was somewhat limited by a low budget and quite stilted direction, although the bleakness and horror were certainly there.

So now it's 2009, and we have a fairly big budget BBC adaptation with some serious star power: Dougary Scott (MI:2), Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck), Eddie Izzard (Valkary), Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement), Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting) and one of my favourite actors Mr. Brian Cox (Manhunter). But... is it any good?

Judging by episode 1, I'm impressed so far. We open with Dr. Bill Mason remembering the death of his mother in Zaire from a Triffid sting in the jungle, then cut to the man himself (played by Scott) suiting-up and voicing his thoughts, "With me and Triffids, it's always been personal." He's a scientist working for Triffoil, a company outside contemporary London who extract oil from the grotesque, sentient plants, oil that has largely replaced fossil fuels on Earth. After an environmentalist (Bremner) breaks into the farm Mason and his assistant manage to corner him, but a loose Triffid stings Mason in the eye, sending him to hospital for an emergency operation to save his sight. Meanwhile, the planet collectively gears-up for a night of incredible light displays caused by a solar flare. While Bill sits in his hospital bed, eyes bandaged and with a 50% chance of waking-up blind, everyone else enjoys the show. In a sudden flash of light all the news cameras fail, and the population is rendered instantly blind themselves, even those on airplanes (yikes!).

On one such plane we have Torrence (Izzard) who was wearing his sleep-blindfold during the flash. He wakes-up to find a rapidly depressurising plane full of panicking blind people, manages to survive the spectacular crash, and begins to take advantage of a country where the one eyed man is king. Mason wakes-up and after removing his bandages, soon realises what's happened, and the threat that the carnivorous plants he works with now pose to the helpless populace. Richardson plays Jo Playton, a female journalist who was sent by her boss to cover the big story from the London Underground, and after the flash she naively tries to help some of the newly blind, but is hounded by them and just manages to escape with some help from Mason, who's on his way back to Triffoil HQ. So begins their quest to find sanctuary in a completely messed-up world.

The series grabbed me right from the start, with high production values, a fast pace and plenty of familiar faces. The action is tightly directed and suspense is handled well and with skill. However, the episode, sitting at 90 minutes, isn't perfect. The weakest link is by far Izzard's Torrence, a slimy and manipulative villain who is played to the hilt, and to such an extent that he appears more pantomime than serious threat, as Izzard, a stand-up comedian who's played bit parts in many films, just can't pull it off (that said, I love his stand-up). A lack of chemistry on the part of Scott and Richardson also makes it difficult to believe that they would stay together throughout everything, and some of the dialogue is just silly. The plot veers away from that of the source material, but this didn't bother me as much as I'd thought it might. One thing that didn't work though is this: the Cold War element is replaced with one of Environmentalism. While the Bill and Jo of the book would look skywards and wonder whether is was one of the governments satellite weapons that had caused the flash, Scott and Richardson are left to shrug at the vague irony that the Triffids who helped to reverse global warming are now eating people... it's not quite the same, is it? Altogether though, the story is solid enough, and I look forward to seeing where we end-up in Part 2.

The special effects warrant mention as they're really not bad at all. For a British/Canadian television sci-fi/thriller, they were pretty polished and the CGI, while just that, didn't seem too obvious or show-offy. It's great to see Triffids in action too, and when the threat becomes real it's fun to watch as Evil Dead-esque branches and vines grab people and drag them around helplessly. The one thing missing though, is the Triffid Gun, they had better introduce that (along with Brain Cox's character please) in Part 2. There is a chapter in the book in which Bill and Jo find an upmarket apartment, gather fresh food and fine wine, and decide to have one last blow-out before beginning a life of frugality and practicality, it's a great chapter and gives them a chance to bond and kick start their relationship. Scott's Mason is far too focused and gritty for any such frivolities and the scene isn't included, and I felt it represented the main gripe I've got. This post-millennium, 'nauties' tendency to make everything so hyper-realistic and gritty that we can sometimes forget that we're supposed to be having fun here. Remember that scene in 'The Quiet Earth' where Zack runs up to the Hitler cut-out and shouts, "You had your chance!" I miss that kind of humour in my PA films. I hope Triffids Ep. 2 gives us a chance to lighten-up a little, it's only the end of the world after all.

'The Day of the Triffids' parts 1 & 2 are available at the BBC website for download and on iPlayer.

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Anonymous (8 years ago) Reply

Can't watch the bloody thing in North America!!!


Matov (8 years ago) Reply

I also enjoyed watching it but thought the ending was very weak and a tad too 'worthy' for my liking but all in all not bad.

What I would have loved to have seen is the 1981 series with 2009 production values. Now that would be something.


JackCrow (8 years ago) Reply

boring, stupid, and only missing new Dr.GayWho


flaspol (8 years ago) Reply

It looked good and there was plenty of action. The CGI is certainly worthy of mention.
The two leads were pretty wooden and the relationship between them just didn't work, this was mainly because there was no character/relationship development and no indication of how much time was passing.
The eye-drop finale was just daft.
It was an OK way to spend 3 hours but my advice is do yourself a favour and get the 1981 version, it may have been low budget and now look a bit dated but it remains a well cast and very faithful adaptation of the story. Vastly superior to the 2009 effort.


Ben Austwick (8 years ago) Reply

I'm annoyed I haven't got chance to watch this yet but am hoping to see it on iPlayer this weekend (if I get time. Damn this time of year!)

However I just know it's going to disappoint after being absolutely terrified by the early 80s BBC (though more by the bubonic plague outbreak than the killer plants). I'm sure it'll still be good though and it certainly sounds better than Survivors...


peter (8 years ago) Reply



Gibgib. (8 years ago) Reply

Yeah... Imdb, where I go when I wanna read a good discussion on movies. Then I go to Youtube and read those comments... Mmmm... The Internet. Gotta love. I wait, watch and the judge.


bad dog (8 years ago) Reply

LOL Gibgib

I thought the original BBC series was great, just like The Survivors. What both lacked in production values they made up for in good storytelling.


J.J. (8 years ago) Reply

Everyone I know who saw it was massively disappointed. As usual, the remake production values are higher but the storytelling is pants ... or so I hear.


Laurence C (8 years ago) Reply

Check my comments:


captain marlow (8 years ago) Reply

Absolutely pathetic! And the ridiculous "they saved the world from global warming!"? I fell off the chair laughing!
Only good thing is Vanessa Redgrave interpreting herself, manipulative caviar communist that she is.


Anonymous (8 years ago) Reply

It was atrocious. Silly unnecessary changes that opened up plotholes galore which simply weren't there in the original. Dougray Scott expressed all the emotion of a wardrobe. The blind extras looked as if they had wandered in from a zombie movie by mistake. It was full of inconsistencies and had no internal logic, and as for the plane crash, duh. Would take too long to list eveything that was wrong with it. Go watch the 1981 series, the only thing that dates it really is the cars.


Felix (8 years ago) Reply

Good review, thanks Projectcyclops. I agree with a lot of what you wrote. I have been waiting for this thing to be remade for years, and thought that given the time (a dismal three hours) it was treated respectably. I don't understand why some people are so quick to dismiss it - we wanted man eating plants, we got man eating plants. I've read the book numerous times and thought given the poor time frame it was quite faithful. I didn't like the ecoterrirism at the start. I mean, would you really care about the rights of plants?? I'm not so sure. I loved it, but there again I am a Triffid whore.


madra (8 years ago) Reply

"..With me and Triffids, it's always been personal..."

well, that's enough for me to decide not to watch it. for feck's sake - for once, why not actually make a movie which stays faithful to the original book, instead of this constant need to 'jazz everything up' so the moronic 5-second attention span 'yoof' of today think it's got enough car chases and explosions per minute to bother watching.

the whirring sound you can hear is john wyndham, spinning in his grave!

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