Sep 13, 2010

Tradecraft: True Lies Lives Again

Deadline reports that James Cameron is reviving True Lies... but not in the long rumored (and long hoped for) sequel movie, but instead as a TV show.  I'm not quite sure why, since J.J. Abrams' new TV series Undercovers looks like it  deals with very similar themes (the similarity is no doubt what inspired Cameron to revive his own franchise).  Perhaps Cameron is banking on Undercovers flopping, or perhaps he just feels that his brand is strong enough to survive in a competitive marketplace.  I'm not sure if that's true without the presence of the original movie's star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I guess we'll see! 

I probably haven't seen True Lies since it first came out in 1994, but I've always had mixed feelings about it.  The action scenes were incredible, but rather than tiding me over in that long gap between Bond movies, they basically just made me long for the real thing.  The marital comedy aspects never quite gelled for me, but of course that's the story's selling point as both a film and a potential television series.  It's certainly regarded as one of the more successfull attempts at that difficult blend of action movie and romantic comedy, so I should probably revisit the film.  (I've actually been meaning to for a while; this news gives me the excuse.) 

The gimmick was that Arnold was a superspy, Harry Tasker, but had to keep that a secret from his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), who thought he was a boring, nerdy computer salesman.  Helen sought escape in the arms of sleazy car salesman (Bill Paxton), who appealed to her sense of adventure by pretending that he was a spy. Harry eventually got wind of that, and set out to teach his wife a lesson.  (That's the part that never really worked for me.)  Eventually, she learns the truth and they both end up on a big, exciting mission.  As it ended, it looked like the couple would spy together in the future. 

If that's the direction that the TV series goes, then it would be very similar to Undercovers.  But perhaps Cameron and showrunner/executive producer Rene Echevarria (Castle) will instead revisit the concept at its inception, picking up with Harry as a spy deceiving his family?  Then it becomes more like Covert Affairs or the first season of Abrams' previous spy drama, Alias.  Or perhaps the short-lived My Own Worst Enemy.  There's no question that just about every variation on this concept has been tried a lot (Mr. and Mrs. Smith put the best spin on the material by having the married couple actually be rival agents, neither one knowing the truth about the other; that film was also developed as a TV series that sadly never made it past a pilot), but that doesn't mean that Cameron won't be the one to nail it once again.

I hope I don't come off sounding down on this news. I think it's exciting; I'm just trying to figure out how it will manage to standout in a very competitive environment.  Personally, I hope that Cameron ups the ante when it comes to the action.  The action scenes were the best part of the movie, and the big-budget, movie-scale action scenes made his previous TV foray, Dark Angel, stand out.  Based on the trailers for Undercovers, action also seems to be in relatively short supply on that series, which looks to focus more on the romantic plot.  I would definitely tune in each week to watch a weekly spy series with a James Cameron level of action! Owing to the involvement of the highest-grossing filmmaker twice-over, I have little doubt that this series will actually make it to the air.  Personally, though, I would rather see a movie sequel with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will soon be looking for work.


Brian R. Sheridan said...

I agree. True Lies never really gelled. Arnie and Jamie Lee had great chemistry and it is probably Tom Arnold's best role. The "teaching a lesson" part I thought was rather cruel and mean-spirited which detracted from the "fun" of the movie. I'd rather see a sequel with the original cast.

Delmo said...

The middle of the movie dragged for me.