"...I have no desire to be disoriented for six hours. There's also a reason why I am not conking myself on the head with a croquet mallet, but 'The Prisoner' somehow has the same effect." -- Paige Wiser, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.
It's pretty painful, really: watching a remake of a story you enjoyed be reshaped in the hands of incompetents. AMC has the first episode of their Prisoner remake available online. It didn't take the 45:52 minutes to decide that the new thing's missing what the old thing had. It only took about 30 seconds. The preview alone shows you that this remake is flat, flat, flat.
I was giving this a chance. And what did it do? Stabbed me with a dull knife and turned it slowly, slowly, slowly. Sure, there's eye-popping sets, big name actors, and forty years to sift through what people have said they loved about the original. But where's the action? Where's the depth? Where's my will to take any more of this drivel?
The first sign that something might not be right was when interviews with the actors playing Two and Six showed that they didn't know or care much about the original series, and that they were relying on their screenwriters to capture what needed to be expressed. Great, I thought. They don't even know what they're getting into!
I used to think that big, majestic movie lines were the worst thing possible in a script. Now I know differently. The worst thing in a script is when even the actors are embarrassed to say what it says! And will you stop with the dream sequences already?! Freud was defrocked as the High Priest of Dreamology years ago. Anyway, enough movies were made about dreams in the 40's to last for the next thousand millennia!
The pace is a plodding one, with a few chase scenes and many confused flashbacks. The awkward bits of dialogue throughout the episode slows an already dragging movie like a hot piece of bubble gum on a heavy man's shoe.
In the preview that accurately portended disaster, Six is wheeled into Two's office to "demand" (AKA whine) to be taken to the American Consulate. Contrast this scene -- and the new Six's petulant slap of the table -- to the original resign scene that Number Six did. Six is simply not forceful enough to be believable. Is this all the emotion he can muster at his perceived wrongs? Throughout the episode, boo-hooing to his doctor, he seems more like a child to be coddled than a hero to be cheered.
Sure, the new kid has to make sure it's distinct from the old kid. But is this just change for change's sake, or was there a reason for the changes? Take the change from "Number Six" to simply "Six," the addition of dashed numbers, or the over-used address of characters by their numbers. These may seem like inconsequential changes, but they make an already awkward and embarrassed-seeming cast trip over their dialogue even more!
And what's this griping by the taxi driver? Much of the distinctives that McGoohan instilled into the original Village is missing: the festive garb, the cheerful manner between occupants, the glimmers of humor, and the thought that this was the beginning of something very interesting.
Forget the rest of the cast for a minute. If Six carried his weight, the rest wouldn't be so glaringly bad. Maybe. There's several factors in this: Caviezel as "Six" just doesn't have the intensity or self awareness that McGoohan had. McGoohan was a man with a plan. We didn't always know what his plan was, but we knew it existed. Caviezel? The man needs a Kleenex. While McGoohan confronted the world with a wry, vigilant smile, the new Six faces the world with a pouty, confused droop. Self-possession? The new Six doesn't have that. Morals? McGoohan's Number Six drops curses like cigarette butts and chases women. Was the original too unique for you, Hollywood?
The female lead has a pointy mouth that dominates every scene she's present in. The dialogue stinks. Take any scene -- minus one (the one where Six talks about an open mind) -- and you'll see what I mean. These aren't conversations. These are words spoken in the presence of witnesses, with plenty of pauses for effect.
Instead of being enigmnatic, this version comes off as pretentious. It's supposed to be a big deal that Two requires a cake with cherries. So important it was that the phrase "And bring cake" wasn't even uttered when the taxi driver and his wife read the letter. So I waited with increasingly cynical anticipation. Was Six allergic to cherries? Would some powerstruggle over the cake ensue? No. Two just wanted to eat a cake with cherries. Letdown. Like the entire episode. No actual depth, just perceived depth. Don't dive in and break your neck.
(While I watched only Episode 1 and was mind-numbingly bored, it turns out that boredom is not the worst aspect of this series. Others have included synopses of the episodes. The review of Episode 3 alone shows that the producers have trashed this. Not only is the "hero" compromised, but everything's sordid).
Here's what others have said:
"They didn't remake 1967's The Prisoner; they remade 1966's original Star Trek pilot, "The Cage"! Somebody slipped the hack writer the wrong tape for reference material!"
"Ah. It was an 'Absurdist art,' 'alternative type of narrative.' And here I thought it was a six-hour commercial for the PalmPre with random bits of filmed acting fitted in."
"If viewed by someone with no previous awareness of the original, this version of The Prisoner is beyond cryptic... it's mind numbingly boring."
"From this point on, the remake loses track of many of the elements that made the original so remarkable. The unmistakable streak of individuality, intensity and freedom that ran through the original was dropped somewhere in the past 40 years, only to be replaced to with choppy, schizophrenic editing and vague symbolism."
"Plus, the homosexual son who murders his lover. What the heck was that about? Teenage rebellion against his father? The mother in a constant coma. Way too much side-tracking. Give me the old series any day."
"If this show were given a different title, and all the character names were changed, I would have had absolutely no clue that it was supposed to be a remake of the 1960's The Prisoner."
"But Two embodies, among other things, the drawbacks of capitalism," McKellen says. "Capitalism offers you freedom, but far from giving people freedom, it enslaves them," he says. "That's part of the show's message." ("McKellen says he saw only enough 'to get a flavor' of the original 'Prisoner' series...)
"Too many scenes of 6 passing out in the sand."
"There are many mistakes that stand out. The one that irritates me the most for some reason is that they explain why Six resigned."
"Caviezel's Number Six is troubled by unnecessary baggage, including two love interests who also function as psychological guinea pigs. It's a marked divergence from the late, great McGoohan's legendary character, which eschewed any kind of overly romantic attachment in favor of a dogged pursuit of Number One, who turned out to be more familiar than England expected."
"The memory-wipe approach is a writer's cop-out."
"McGoohan's Number Six is an iconic hero because his strength of character is absolutely incorruptible."
"Caviezel CAN'T say why he resigned because he's not entirely sure of it himself. It is the lack of sure-footed self-confidence that is glaringly absent."
"His character is actually somewhat 'emo' - you don't believe in his ability to stand up to whatever is thrown at him... You endure it, you do not enjoy it."
"I saw something in the credits I've never seen before: 'Acting Coach for James Caviezel'. They had an acting coach for their lead man. And they admitted it. …Must have been the same guy who helped make Hayden Christensen's performance in the Star Wars prequels so successful. He should be executed."
"The entire Village is actually the collective subconcious of all of it's residents, with the primary guiding hand being the wife of Number 2, who is kept in a chemically induced coma in order to hold the world together, at times she can be brought back to full conciousness, during these periods, massive sink holes start to appear in the village, which are really like holes in the fabric of the reality. The purpose of this dream world, is to take people that are not able to integrate into society, take their subconciouses [sic] and place them into a community where everyone can get along, and everyone has a place and purpose.
"The big surprise at the end, is when Two's wife dies, and Six's love interest opts to take her place, with Six assuming the role of Two, and trying to continue the work of the Village, but in a better way."
"It's an interesting idea for a sci-fi show, but the problem is in the politics. One cannot but see the political dimension to the original series (the triumph of the individual in a society that seeks to repress such tendancies). While the remake seems to have no political ideology (despite Ian McKellen claiming it is about the "flaws of capitalism"), one cannot but look for the politics. And if you do so, the result is scary. For it seems that 6's pursuit of individualism, of his inability to accept the routine of the Village and search for more, is what actually makes him the secret antagonist of the series, his actions damaging the psyche of those around him (the real-life 313 is actually mentally disturbed)." (Read the rest of the review this is from: it is heartily worth it!).
"The first two episodes were rather dull and I thought to myself: 'Well, they're just setting the scene, it'll get better.' The second two episodes were also rather dull and I said to myself: 'They're saving all the action for the end.' The final two episodes were also rather dull and then I had nothing left to say to myself."