Big Screen to Small Screen: Shutter Island

shutter_islandBY TROY PHILLIPS

Sometimes its fun to envision what your favorite movie would look like if it were produced for television. Television audiences crave the more detailed and drawn-out storytelling measures of the small screen, so at Poor Scholars we decided to take movies we enjoyed and pitch them as television shows. Of course, these would never actually happen — nor would we probably want to see network execs butcher our favorite movies — but it is fun to think about. This week, Poor Scholars’ Troy Phillips imagines Shutter Island as a television series.

Shutter Island, the T.V. series,  just has network deals written all over it. The show could easily outpace the feature-length edition in less than a season if produced with the same suspenseful flare on a weekly basis. Now that isn’t intended as an indictment to Shutter Island the film, it was well received on Rotten Tomatoes (very well for a horror movie) and holds solid standing on my (prestigious) top ten of all time. If The Walking Dead were condensed into one action packed apocalyptic flick, I’m sure that would be a decent movie as well.

But the real appeal for the legions of Walking Dead faithful lies in the weekly carousel of characters and objectives that makes the time between undead pulverization sequences all the more intriguing. Shutter Island, sans the last twenty minutes of obvious spoiler content, would flourish in the same way by keeping viewers guessing with eerie twists played out over a handful of hour-long installments.

To avoid going on a tedious tangent for those that are already aware, the movie revolves around detective Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he tries to uncover the sinister secrets hidden beneath the surface of an isolated mental institution that is seemingly entrenched in gray skies and bland expressions. It also contains a helluva final few scenes that left me with the kind of black-hole-in-the-stomach feeling that made me curse the producers for leaving me frozen in my seat and craving more content that would never appear.

Enter the significant up kick in total airtime that comes with multiple seasons of content. For better or worse, viewers would get their fill of Daniels and his cohorts, assuming the show was picked up for multiple seasons, which of course we will assume in this completely idealized theoretical situation.

The main plot line, similar to that of the movie, would involve Daniels ducking the suspicions of shady island staff while attempting to extract meaningful answers from an audience of the criminally insane. Daniels’ past would be kept under wraps during the initial seasons save for occasional disjointed interludes from his former life to add an element of intrigue beyond the present. The backbone for the story stands largely in place, though many additional nuggets would have to be added in order to supplement the increased content load. Slightly off kilter conversations between Daniels and his partner Chuck Aule as well as showdowns between the detectives and the head doctors would become semi-frequent installments to provide foundation.  Lighter moments involving skirmishes with patients and darkly comedic moments could be intermixed to complete the tapestry —  which, coincidentally, holds very true to The Walking Dead‘s dialogue/action scene/main issue/tenuous resolution formula that has served it so well for three seasons.

Overall, the main struggle for Shutter Island would be for Daniels and Aule to determime if the island was truly serving its’ purpose as a mental treatment facility and pursue the rumors of illegitimate and harmful practices used on patients that brought them there in the first place. Somewhere down the line, the scope would most likely shift to the two trying to escape the island for fear of large-scale wrong doing and their subsequent troubles in doing so. Though the ending would be have to be adapted in some form or fashion to intrigue those that had already seen the film, some distant cousin of the orignal closing sequence would appear necessary in order to cash in on all of the momentum built up from the exchanges and flashbacks in earlier episodes.

With the right content and acting (retaining the core of the original cast would be a must), Shutter Island would not have to go about reinventing the wheel to have years of success on air. If you’ve seen any portion of the movie, you can imagine how many imperatives could be manipulated to make the show one of the most compelling dramas on television. If you haven’t, there are a large number of imperatives that could be manipulated to make the show one of the most compelling dramas on television.

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