Looking Back At THE PRISONER (2009) - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At THE PRISONER (2009)

Rob McCarthy goes to the desert. Finds nothing.

After reading Matthew Kresal's wonderful retrospective of Patrick McGoohan's 1960s television classic The Prisoner, it reminded me of all the many times there had been talk of the show being remade or rebooted. There were rumours that Mel Gibson wanted to produce and/or star in an updated version, after he worked with McGoohan on Braveheart. Now that could've been interesting. Maybe McGoohan himself as No. 2? Nothing, of course, ever came from that or any of the other rumoured versions. Nothing at all until this 2009 re-imagining.

The biggest mistake AMC made here is actual bothering to credit this as "a re-imagining of the classic 1960s series". If they'd just produced The Prisoner as a new show, and cut out one or two references to the original, then it probably would've been better received. The thing is how do you remake The Prisoner? It's so iconic in so many ways and is one the greatest TV shows of all time. Although I'd longed for a continuation or new take, this was all the evidence I needed to realise you don't remake a show like The Prisoner. Just don't touch it ever again. Never.

The 2009 version of The Prisoner comes with a trio of really capable lead actors; Jim Caviezel as 6, Ian McKellen as 2 and Hayley Atwell as Lucy. McKellen steals the show - but then you'd expect that, he's Ian McKellen after all! Caviezel is unfortunately quite bland as 6 (no 'Number 6', just '6'), he's better than the material he's given. This 6 displays none of Patrick McGoohan's anarchistic temperament, and he's much less interesting for not doing so.

This show has none of the charisma or style of the original, and so many important elements have been jettisoned for no real apparent reason. Gone is the iconic location of Portmeirion, the backdrop to the show was such an integral part of the original series. In the 2009 version the Village is in a desert. It's just kind of bland, and the show loses so much because of it. Also in the modern version, the Village seems to no longer care why 6 resigned, it just wants him to understand that he can't.

Although this take can be quite confusing at times, there's not the same underlying mystery about the show that made the confusion of the original version a key factor in its success. It's just 'confusing'. We're presented with some modern day waffle about consumer culture being inescapable and the 'Village' being everywhere. So instead of foiling all of Number 6's attempts to escape, this new Village just makes it clear that there's nowhere for 6 to escape too - it's a global village. Which loses the point of the Village, if you ask me.

Aside from all of these changes to the show, there is another HUGE problem. The 2009 version of The Prisoner is just really dull. The first two hours were shown back to back, which was quite a task getting through. The following four are even duller. It's near impossible to have any empathy with this 6, you just don't really care one bit about this character's fate, not at all like you did about McGoohan's Number 6. Number 6 remained, in the large part, a proper protagonist throughout the series. 6 is just a character on a show whose story is never made clear or compelling enough.

The original finale caused outrage and confusion, the 2009 finale had the confusion but mainly is so self-absorbed to the point of incoherence that the only thing it offered me was relief that it was all over.

I know this version has it's fans (and I'm happy for them that they've managed to find something in it that I can not), but I wonder how many of them have actual seen the original? It's incomparable really.

Every remake is always going to draw comparisons with the original, if we hold a classic version in high regard then any modern take will always struggle to win us over. But I'm not just stating that I feel the 2009 version of The Prisoner is one of the worst remakes I've ever had the misfortune of encountering because it just doesn't match the original, no it's because we were presented with a finished product that doesn't even try to come close to Patrick McGoohan's legacy.

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