The quality of the third episode of Around the World in 80 Days falls somewhere between the first and the second in my opinion. The structure of the story was fairly similar to that of the previous episode. We meet some new and interesting people, and our heroes find themselves in grave danger.
In a travel tales such as this, these sorts of plot devices are fairly integral to moving the story along. The protagonist and companions find themselves in a desperate situation and must extricate themselves either with the aid or hinderance of the new characters.
In this case the new characters are based on people from real life, most notably Lady Jane Digby. I heartily approve including historical figures in a work fiction of this nature but found myself sadly disappointed in the amount of screen time for Digby. In fact, that is my primary complaint.
This episode of Around the World in 80 Days finds our heroes aboard a ship headed for the Suez Canal with everything seemingly in order but, of course, that changes quickly enough. The ship is delayed by the threat of pirates and they find themselves in the city waiting for a British war ship to escort them to Aden.
At the port our trio spots the scandalous Digby and her husband and ignore them as social outcasts.
Our heroes, led by Fogg, decide to hire camels to cross Saudi Arabia to get to Aden. A distance of some 1500 miles although shortened dramatically for narrative purposes to a three-day trip. Fogg refuses to allow Fix to go as the journey is dangerous. The guide abandons Fogg and Passepartout and only Fix hiring Digby saves our heroes.
They continue on in the desert where Bedouin tribesmen attack and only the quick thinking of Fogg and the marksmanship of Passepartout save the day. Eventually they arrive safely in Aden where the erstwhile fake valet is offered money in order to sabotage the endeavor and seems to agree to the proposal.
Pacing in Around the World in 80 Days
This episode of Around the World in 80 Days suffered from a lack of proper pacing. Parts that needed fleshing out and time sped by in an instant while sections that didn’t require a great deal of effort lingered too long. In addition, Digby and husband, interesting characters to be certain, suffered from a lack of development.
We start on the deck of the steamer headed across the Mediterranean toward the Suez Canal. Valuable time is wasted in watching Passepartout attempt to throw food in his mouth while Fogg and Fix talk about nothing useful. Then, suddenly, they are in a city where we are treated to a long series of expositions.
Fogg complains about the captain delaying the ship because of pirates. There’s Lady Jane Digby and let me tell you all about her. Why didn’t we see the captain explaining the pirate situation to Fogg? Why wasn’t the history Digby told through conversation with Fix later as they are chasing after Fogg? Exposition is lazy and not particularly entertaining. I was extremely bored through the opening sequences.
Finally, the story gets going when Fogg foolishly trusts a local to guide them to Aden for a mere ten pounds. Passepartout is skeptical and fights for Fix to join them but Fogg insists on having his own way despite the fact he can’t even unbutton his shirt properly. I liked this scene because it shows Fogg’s naivete and incompetence as part of the Hero’s Journey.
Left behind, Fix hires Digby and her husband to chase after Fogg. This was the opportunity for us to learn about Digby and her past connection with Fix’s father. An extended scene with Fix, Digby, and her husband to explain all the nuances of their connections seemed in order but we didn’t get it.
Then we waste more time back in London showing the embarrassing financial situation of Fogg’s friend at the Reform Club. This entire plot line just takes away from the main story of Around the World in 80 Days, that is to say, getting around the world. I shall only briefly mention the improperly arranged Snooker table.
Fogg and Passepartout find themselves abandoned in the desert. We waste a tremendous amount of time watching them slowly bake. The scenes just don’t convey desperate and dangerous. The sandstorm, the looming death. I felt nothing, no sense of danger.
Then, suddenly everyone is rescued. Why not spend most of that time with Fix, and Digby and her husband? They are compelling characters with interesting stories. In episode two we got to spend time with the industrialist and his son.
The best scene happened when Digby’s husband virulently defends her. I found the actor didn’t fit the role in appearance but I absolutely believed this was a proud man who deeply loved his wife. It was largely the only compelling moment of the episode.
Digby tells Fix outright going forward is almost certain death at the hands of Bedouins but suddenly, for reasons I can’t figure out, offers to take them to Aden if that’s what Fix wants. I want Fix to prove her worth to Digby, to show she’s a woman cut from the same cloth, to drive the plot forward.
In any case, the predictable Bedouin attack is handled badly from a cinematographic perspective. Our heroes repeatedly tell us they can’t see the attackers and are firing blindly into the night at the sound of hooves but we, the audience, can see pretty clearly. I guess the decision was made so that we can visually see the actions of the various protagonists.
It seems to me a scene of darkness, thundering hooves, shouts, gunshots, a scream from Fix, confusion, and mayhem was in order. I might have found that dramatic. What I saw was rather dull. I won’t talk about the flammable properties of raw crude oil as the mechanism for Fogg to save the day.
Another decent episode of Around the World in 80 Days. Certainly not compelling or particularly good but watchable and moderately entertaining. I suspect this is what we’ll get the rest of the way.
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