I get no time to write creatively these days, and I don’t do a whole lot of reading outside that which is required for my work. I miss both, and for the same reason: Skull Cinema.
This was a phrase coined by Stephen King. It describes the imaginary movie projector inside a reader’s head that allows the world of the novel to come to life as though the words on the page are transmuting into celluloid images. Ideally, at the end of the novel, you should feel like you have already watched the movie of the novel.
From a reader’s point of view, it’s a concept that strikes a chord with me; it’s how I experience a novel. From an erstwhile novelist’s point of view, however, it is the total underpinning of everything I have written creatively – my two published novels, my one unpublished, and everything else I have dabbled in over the years from lovelorn poetry to kill-em-all screenplay. Everything I have written is stored visually in my head in exactly the same way as any movie I have seen. When I was working through plot scenarios, I “watched” various scenes as a movie director might, then considered which would work best for the novel. In my head, I see the final cut of my novels the same now as when I turned my keystrokes into actions around 15 years ago.
One question I have is whether Skull Cinema is a universal experience. From my time as a teacher, I am well aware that there are numerous styles of pupil learning. Although visual is usually the first one listed – which is best for Skull Cinema – there are others, such as aural, verbal, and kinaesthetic. Do these people with other learning styles “see” the novel as the visual people do? If they don’t, how do they actually receive it?
The other big question I have is how the hell I can revert to my original skull viewing experience when some twat of a movie director has created a celluloid version that poops all over my initial take on events.
Specifically, I am referring to Hollywood’s recent incarnation of English novelist Lee Child’s anti-hero Jack Reacher.
Jack Reacher has been around for a good number of years, and I am very surprised it’s taken so long for Hollywood to cotton on. The Jack Reacher novels have always been movies waiting to happen. Nothing fancy, just strong storylines, interesting characters, and extremely well-written. Reacher is a man alone. He is The Man With No Name who has a name. He is Dirty Harry for the modern age.
In terms of character, I have to say Reacher is something of a cliché for an anti-hero. An ex-military policeman, he is 6′ 5″ tall, has a 50-inch chest, weighs around 250 pounds, and has ice-blue eyes and dirty blond hair. He is the kind of person you would conjure up if you needed someone to kick the crap out of your bullying boss. But, on paper, he works. You forget the cliché. Child’s writing is so good that you are slapped down into your burgundy velour seat in your local Skull Cinema, and you just accept.
So … wanna guess who they cast to star as Jack Reacher in the first of what I imagine will be a series of films?
None other than the Diddy Dianetic himself, Tom Cruise. Tom help-me-onto-that-bar-stool Cruise. Measuring in at a foot shorter than the paper Reacher, Cruise also fails on every other character descriptor. No barn-door chest, no blue eyes, no blond hair. Reacher? Only if you need him to switch the light on for you.
God bless him, I love him, but Tom Cruise is small. The only way to make him look tall is to surround him with Oompa Loompas. Which is what I think they did in the internet teaser for the movie that I watched recently. A group of aggressive Oompa Loompas crowd in and Cruise warns them off, as Nathan Hunt or practically any other Cruise character would warn them off: “Remember, you wanted this …”
The Oompa Loompas then swarm under him, pick him up, and carry him off to coat him in chocolate.
Uh … sorry, that’s a dream I had.
Anyway, that’s it with Jack Reacher for me. I have a novel unread in the basement and I can’t read it now. Jacker Reacher is Tom Cruise and he is fighting off Oompa Loompas. It’s in my head, in my Skull Cinema.
I’d prefer Dolph Lundgren. I’d even prefer Steven Seagal with a blond wig if he could stay off his eat-like-Elvis-before-his-death diet for a few weeks. Anything but Tom Cruise.
RIP Jack Reacher.