Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Turning the familiar into something new

I never saw "Titanic" when it first came out for several reasons. The ads and that whining theme song made it seem like a sappy romance and I'm not a fan of those. But mostly, I didn't go see it because I knew the ending - the ship sank, lots of people drowned, others died of hypothermia. No big surprise ending. What would be the point of seeing it played out on the big screen for over 3 hours?

So imagine my surprise when Michael and I finally saw "Titanic" in 3D last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though it's long, the story's many layers kept the film moving along. There were indeed lots of surprises along the way, and a couple memorable characters. The romance was integral to the story, but not overdone except for that awful song. And even though I knew how it would end, my heart raced as Jack and Rose clung to the deck rail as the ship sank. What an amazing job James Cameron did turning that familiar story into something unique and new.

Stephen King's novel "11-22-63" strikes me the same way. Most people recognize the title as the date JFK was shot, and would assume the story is about that horrible day in American history. In a way it is, but it's more, much more and thankfully it's not about conspiracy theories or other attempts to shed new light on the assassination. King wrote the story as a time travel novel in which a contemporary man is given an opportunity to stop Lee Harvey Oswald before he kills JFK. It's a complex tale over 800 pages long, filled with the struggles of a guy who realizes that the past is now his enemy and that it will do anything to keep him from changing it. Not what I expected, much better than I expected. I should have realized King would work his storytelling magic on something as familiar as JFK's assassination and turn it into a whole new story.

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