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8 Modest Suggestions for the 24 Movie - Page 2

Make it International

Kiefer Sutherland in Japan
Jack was recently spotted by a cell-phone camera in Japan (the man who took the photo is missing three fingers)

Jack Bauer's exploits are not exclusive to the United States of America, though he absolutely defends American values everywhere he goes. At the close of the show, he is wanted by the Russian government and has crimes to answer for in China, Great Britain, and elsewhere. In his past, he worked black ops all over the globe, and there's no telling how many places his fingerprints could get him into trouble. To top it all off, he's also wanted by the United States government yet again, meaning that he'd be on the run at the start of the story.

So, with the help of a big screen budget and the luxury of time and location shooting, it only makes sense to have the story be international. We've seen Jack in Africa and Mexico, but it'd be interesting to see him in other contexts like Europe, Asia, or South America. Of course the story would eventually have to bring him back to the states, but the rest of it could span other locales to lend the movie a taste of epicness and global importance.

Make it Relevant

Jack in a shattered mirror
It's called a visual metaphor, people

Since the show premiered with an episode featuring an exploding airplane in September of 2001, it has always been tapped into America's veins, reflecting many of our anxieties and concerns and exploring them with oddly prescient gusto. The show has portrayed terrorists that are foreign and domestic, has unleashed images from our nightmares like a nuclear mushroom cloud over a populated city and a hotel falling victim to a brutal biological attack, and has never been afraid to ponder the moral implications or necessity of torture and murder in the most extreme of conditions. The show portrayed a black president six years before there was one in real life, explored the wisdom of attacking a foreign nation on the basis of shoddy intelligence while the nation was considering the seemingly inevitable invasion of Iraq, and asked very serious questions about how far we can go to get intelligence on our enemies when things like Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and waterboarding were on the front pages of every newspaper.

There should be a central thematic idea for the movie that is based somewhere in this maelstrom of American consciousness and it should absolutely be relevant to right now. This is an important part of the 24 formula, and as such, it cannot be ignored.

Moral and Political Ambiguity is Crucial

Jack on Trial
"Yep, I've tortured both Republicans and Democrats. What of it?"

At the same time, however, the movie shouldn't let its message be black and white. Jack Bauer lives in a perpetual grey area, doing horrible things for a greater good and absolutely believing that, when the stakes are at their highest, the ends justify the means. Still, he has repeatedly shown a willingness to answer for his crimes and even be punished for them. This is part of the paradox that is Jack Bauer: he is an unrepentant criminal, but he respects the rule of law above all else and is ready to be judged by the system he fights so hard to protect.

The show never really takes a firm stand on the moral implications, often leading the audience down a certain path before pulling the rug out. In matters of politics, the show gives voice to all sorts of political leanings, but it refuses to prove any one political ideology to be more correct than the others. This is why 24 manages to be both deeply provocative and beloved by people of various political inclinations. The movie should follow suit, only taking stands on things we can all agree on while leaving everything else open to debate and interpretation.

The Villain Needs to Be Memorable

I will never forget Mandy

24 has had many great villains over the years, but has also had its share of lackluster ones. For the movie, you'd need a villain who is larger than life but who's motivation is stronger than your typical bad guy.

Think of 24's best baddies (Charles Logan, Nina Myers, Sherry Palmer) and compare them to 24's lamest ones (Stephen Saunders, Phillip Bauer). The best villains have nuanced motivations and, with the exception of Nina, tend to believe they are doing what is right. The worst villains tend to have nonsensical or cartoonish reasons for allowing themselves to embrace evil.

24 is too intellectual a property to allow its villain to be motivated by simple vengeance, hatred, or greed; there has to be more to it than that. The villain should be grey enough to be a compelling character, but just evil enough to separate him in the end from Jack Bauer. In fact, the closer the villain is to being Jack Bauer, the better.

You Can't Kill Jack

Jack at the end of the final season
They couldn't before, so why do it now?

At this point, it is impossible to get away with killing off Jack Bauer. It would be like killing Dirty Harry, John McClaine, or James Bond. He has simply become too iconic and too strong a character to let him die. Naturally, you can (and should) toy with the audience and make them believe it is possible that Jack could die in the end, but he needs to limp away to reluctantly fight on another day.

Killing Bauer would be like killing a part of America at this point, and it would force the movie to end too bleakly. After all, Jack Bauer is the modern superman who cannot be replaced, so if he dies, there won't be anybody to take his place and America would crumble under the weight of all the terrorists, CTU moles, and evil government agents Jack Bauer keeps at bay on a daily basis. Besides, I'm sure the execs at Fox want Jack Bauer to live for as long as he remains profitable, so killing him off is a good way to get your script rejected.

On a related note, please don't include a younger character who can be a potential replacement somewhere down the line; that has worked exactly zero times in the history of popular story franchises.

There you have it: my humble suggestions for whomever is tasked with writing the 24 movie. Of course, if the next script gets rejected by Fox, my services are open, but they probably can't afford me.

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-e. magill 1/25/2011

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