If there’s one thing that a quick look at the current state of television and movies will tell you, it’s that there’s not much need for original ideas when there’s so much out there ready and waiting to be adapted, updated or just outright ripped off. That’s why we’ve decided to help in that process with a series which offers up some of the things we’d like to see being brought to big screen or small. This week’s suggestion? Alpha.
What Is It?
The latest novel by Greg Rucka, Alpha – released a couple of weeks ago by Mulholland Books, and definitely worth a read for anyone who likes thrillers – is, essentially, Die Hard in a theme park, but smarter. As the publisher’s blurb copy puts it:
For the visitors to Wilsonville, the largest theme park in the world, the day begins with a smile. But, by the end, they start to wonder: will they escape with their lives? Undercover Delta Force operator, Master Sergeant Jonathan “Jad” Bell has been deployed to act as Wilsonville’s lead undercover security officer. The threat begins with the announcement of a hidden dirty bomb, but quickly becomes something far, far worse.
Quite what the “far, far worse” is is part of the fun of reading the book, so I won’t spoil that for you. I will, however, direct you to the Mulholland Books site, where you can read the first couple of chapters of the book.
What Could It Be?
Apparently, you missed the part where I described the book as “Die Hard in a theme park, but smarter.”
One of Rucka’s strengths as a writer is his ability to build fiction that reads like mainstream pop cultural treatments of the core idea, but has more depth and intelligence (See his Queen and Country comics and novels as evidence of this – or, for that matter, compare his original Whiteout with Steve Lieber with the horrendously dumbed-down movie version); Alpha is perhaps the strongest example of this tendency that I’ve seen to date – In terms of pure plot beats, it’s very close to the kind of action thriller you could imagine a younger Bruce Willis (Who is that, these days, anyway? I know that Jeremy Renner would happily volunteer for the role – See Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy for Mr. Renner’s desperate need to be an action hero – but I’m imagining someone older, and craggier. Help me out in the comments, please?) starring in. But there’s more there than just the plot beats or an “OMG, STUFF IS EXPLODING THIS IS AWESOME” attitude; Rucka addresses the logical and emotional rationales for what is happening, and uses both to create a story that’s just more satisfying than you might expect from its plot summary.
Which isn’t to say that it would automatically make a perfect movie; again, look at the fate of Whiteout to see how good things can turn out less good when handled in the wrong way by the wrong people. But, if a studio bought the rights and brought on a director who was as interested in character as they were in pyrotechnics or stunts…? Then it’d be interesting to see what’d come out. My mind goes back to Ghost Protocol again, just because Brad Bird’s direction there was amazing – Beautifully framed, but expertly paced, turning what could’ve easily been shlock into genuine edge-of-your-seat stuff. Imagine someone like that playing with a story by Rucka… and then add all of the visual tricks you get to play with from the theme park setting (complete with all-new Disney-esque analog characters). I don’t want to say “How could it fail?” because… well, we all know how it could fail (Hint: It starts with “Taylor Kitsch has been cast as the lead character in Alpha, alongside Amanda Seyfried…”), but if handled properly…? This is exactly the sort of thing that shouldn’t fail.