5 Ways to Prep: Murder on the Orient Express
By George Rose
November 9, 2017
One example of how this twist ending can fall flat on its face is if it follows the path of the classic Simpsons murder mystery. During the peak of my childhood and the Simpsons legendary run on television was the biggest mystery of 1995. Just before the summer started The Simpsons ended their sixth season with the shocking shooting of the town’s most rich and powerful douche bag. The audience was asked to play along and guess who killed Mr. Burns. We watched, we waited and we debated for months. When the seventh season premier finally arrived, we learned the shooter was… Maggie Simpson?! Murder mysteries are only fun when the killer ends up being someone you had the ability to actually guess but didn’t expect. Having the killer be a baby that only shot the victim as the result of some infantile accident is just plain cheating. Sure, nobody expected it but that’s because it wasn’t really worth considering. If you make the baby a killer, why not have the dog trip over a gun and shoot Mr. Burns. Nobody will guess that either! Mysteries are good when they reveal a truth, not expose an accident. Here’s hoping that Orient Express has an actual killer and not some nonsense trickery.
Way to Prep #3 - Clue (1985)
Based on one of the best board games around, Clue was a movie adaptation of the story we all know and love. A couple of guests are invited to a house, the host of the party is murdered and everyone is a suspect. The game has us investigate who the killer is, what weapon they used and what room they did the deed . The movie turns this premise into a murder mystery comedy, full of laughs and death. The problem here was that the producers of the movie made THREE different versions with THREE different killers. The different versions were released to different locations across the country in an attempt to create demand for repeat viewings. The plan failed and the film bombed at the box office. It was destined to live on as great movie to watch on TV but has been plagued by these multiple versions because now all three are shown with the movie. After it stopped playing in theaters, all three endings were tagged onto the feature and that’s what we get whenever we see it on TV. Turns out, the only thing worse than having the killer be a baby is to have three killers across three different versions. If Orient Express can settle on just one or two killers with a clear vision it will make finding the truth worth the hunt.
Way to Prep #4 - Murder on the Orient Express (1934 novel by Agatha Christie)
I imagine the classic book is better than original movie because, well, it’s the source material. However, I have a theory about book-to-movie adaptations: watch the movie first, read the book second. I have always lived by this theory and it has worked wonders for me. I loved Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and, yes, even Twilight. Those movies were great because I never read the books, so I wasn’t pissed as I watched the movie because the movie cut things out of the book to clock in at a reasonable runtime. Instead, if you watch the movie first and then the book second, the book becomes the extended edition of the movie you loved! Never have I uttered the words, “Oh man, they cut that out of the book and now the movie sucks as a result!” If you never read the book first then you can’t be disappointed with what’s missing in the movie. If you read the book second, you’re doing so because you enjoyed the movie and you can expand on the world you now love with a book full of additional content. It might be a backwards way of thinking but it has served me well in making sure I enjoy my experience at the movies.
Way to Prep #5 - The Polar Express (2004)
The Polar Express is a modern animated holiday classic, telling the tale of a boy that gets onto a magical train on Christmas Eve and takes a ride to the North Pole. Adventures are had, beauty is seen and magic is made in this family favorite. Polar Express had decent reviews (55% positive) and opened to $23 million, but then chugged along to $163 million and three Oscar nominations. Orient Express is tracking towards a similar $25 million debut and has better reviews. Granted, Orient Express wasn’t made for families but maybe magic can carry this one through a long winter towards blockbuster status. Most of the cast could use a hit on their resume, and the holiday season is the time for surprise blockbusters. Orient Express is primed for such a breakout. If you think 65% positive reviews isn’t enough, wait for Justice League. When that is released, 65% positive might just seem good enough for a few Oscar nominations.