27
Feb 06

Terminal Error

Do You SeePost a comment • 294 views

Watching the only Spielberg film wot I have never seen at the weekend, got me thinking about form and content. I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about television. What it can, and cannot do well. And watching The Terminal it suddenly occurred to me that this was actually a sitcom, or a comedy drama at least, waiting for a NBC run.

The sit: A man becomes stateless in the air, is not allowed to enter New York. As such he ends up living in JFK airport in the passenger lounge. It is a situation without an end in sight, it is only cleared up when the civil war at home ends. And as we know from M*A*S*H, wars last as long as the series needs. There is a quirky supporting cast of cleaners, immigration official, baggage handlers. There is a nemesis who can be constantly thwarted. A love interest in the stewardess who comes through occasionally. And there are endless story opportunities with the passengers passing through.

Oh, and your lead character can have a funny accent.

The Terminal’s strength as a sit-com are its weaknesses as a film. The interminable battle between Immigration is seen as a petty personal vendetta, rather than anything worthwhile. There are about six sub-plots which are all rather extraneous to a movie plot. The romance (rightly) never goes anywhere, which would be perfect in a sitcom but feels wrong in a film. And we know the film is going to end in two hours, it is not time-bound.

The Terminal is Spielberg’s strangest film: perhaps as for once it is not long enough*. It needed to be eight series of twenty four episodes rather than a two hour film.

*It is still too long as a film.

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