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The Box (Script) – Review

I read last night the script for The Box, the movie adaptation from a short story by Richard Matheson published in the 70s and then adapted in a Twilight Zone episode in the 80s.
I have read the short story and saw the epi a few months ago. Loved them, even though the Twilight epi is somewhat different in its ending.

The movie is going to star James Marsden and Cameron Diaz as the young couple, and Frank Langella as the creepy visitor.

The original story went something like this:
A young couple receive a visitor with a box, a briefcase, and a mysterious offer.
The visitor, a man, gives them the box which has a button on it.
The man tells them that if they push the button, two things will happen:
1) Someone, somewhere in the world, that they do not know, will die.
2) They will receive a large sum of money.
The man then opens his briefcase, revealing the cash.
They have 24 hours to push, or not, the button.
After that, the man will come and take the box.

The plot might sound ridiculous but what is lost now is the original context.
It’s the 70s (or 80s) and the Cold War is still in full swing. Everyone is afraid that someone is going to “push the button” and release nukes everywhere, leading to the creation of WWIII.
The original title for the story is actually Button, Button!.

The tour de force of the original story was all about the tension that lied behind the decision to push or not push, as well as the great resolution (especially the short story’s).

If done well, a good movie take on the idea, IMO, would have been a story revolving around that decision, the 90 minutes being almost in real-time with the couple coping with the dilemma.

Unfortunately, like I was afraid of, the movie goes way over the original story, trying to explain everything about the box, the man, and everything else. Even trying to connect all the dots.

Also, the couple now has a kid.

Without giving too much away, the end of the Twilight Episode is basically the middle of the movie.

Everything ends up being waaaayyyyy out there, literally. And to be honest, the story is quite laughable. Really too sci-fyi for something that should be more psychological.
There’s even some kind of ridiculous metaphorical connection with Jean-Paul Sartre’s No-Exit being made throughout the second half of the movie.

The movie is set in the 70s, and besides no Google nor cellphones, there’s another important reason why it is set during that time.
And that reason is linked to that previous “waaaaayyyyy out there” story I was talking about.

Although it might be good on screen, some things are definitely problematic on the page.
20-30 minutes of introduction to the characters who, page after page, have more and more problems, just so you can empathize with them.
Yes, I get it, you need to feel for the characters, and emphasize their financial dilemmas, but most of it ends up being actually pretty useless.

Ultimately, I’ll probably watch the movie just to see Frank Langella’s portrayal of Arlingtown Steward that will definitely be worthwhile.
Speaking of, the character in the movie reminded me a lot of the character Andre Linoge from Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, a great TV mini-series.

One Comment

  1. I remember seeing that episode of the twilight zone back when I was a kid- at least 20 years ago!
    It has stayed with me all these years and I think about the ending when I make decisions sometimes (generally not life or death, but karma will get you either way).
    doesn’t sound like the remake will have the same impact…

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