Play It Again, Sam

From a newsgroup post dated August 9, 2013 (exactly four years ago!):

I’m listening to the soundtrack of the movie version of “Tommy.”

That was a spectacularly bad movie. Listening to this I’m reminded over and over of all the places it went off the rails, all the wrong choices they made, from casting to setting to pacing.

But you know, it didn’t have to be. I don’t think the story is unfilmable. They just did it wrong.

Yeah, the original WW1-to-1930s setting has very serious problems, but 1945-1960s doesn’t work much better. Aging Tommy at the time of the murder from three or four to six wasn’t an improvement — by six most kids are a little more resilient. It was apparently done entirely to preserve the rhyme scheme in “1921”/”1951.”

Oliver Reed was miscast. Ann-Margret… well, better, but still not great. Tina Turner sounds like brilliant casting as the Acid Queen, but in fact she was pretty bad.

The most disappointing thing to me, when I saw it, was the visuals. I mean, here you have something kinetic and visual at the center of the story — pinball — and you do nothing with it! Elton John looked totally stupid on stilts, and when they show him playing he’s terrible at pinball, draining every ball instantly.

Ken Russell was not the right director, to put it mildly.

Someone should remake it. Seriously. With modern CGI you could do a fine job on the surrealistic parts, show things from Tommy’s warped point of view. Move it to a contemporary setting. Have Captain Walker lost in Iraq or Afghanistan or somewhere in Africa; you don’t need to get specific. And modern mass media make a pinball (or videogame) cult more plausible — he’d be all over YouTube.

It could be cool.

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