Let’s talk about Stephen King. When I was growing up, my mother loved to read Stephen King novels and then passed them on to me when she was finished with them. My earliest memories in reading books came from reading things like Nightmares and Dreamscapes, It, and Christine. I say this because my love for Stephen King’s stories has also translated into the mini series and movies based on his book… Well okay that is sort of a missed number. The Stephen King Mini Series is some of the most awesomely bad stuff I have seen in my entire life. Hell, I could even say that Stephen King’s stories made movies were my first guilty pleasures growing up. I knew damn well that they were bad… But really it was because they were so laughably bad that I enjoyed them.
Now not all of Stephen King’s works have turned into crap as it slipped into film. Just look at Misery, The Shining, and Shawshank Redemption for proof of that. But man when Stephen King’s stories go bad, they go hilariously bad. I’m not even sure why, it just seems like the directors and the casting do not get Stephen King or his stories and end up giving us goofy direction, poorly translated material, and some of the hokiest miscasted actors in the history of filmmaking. The made for TV movie The Langoliers and It definitely fit into that category and we might get into those some day. But for today I want to talk about the book that is my personal favorite from Stephen King, the TV Mini Series The Stand.
The Stand has a complicated history with Stephen King. It was originally created and set in the 1970’s but was later repackaged in an ‘uncut version’ and set in the 1980’s. Then the mini series came out and pretty much set the series into the early 90’s if we are going by how the actors and actresses look and act. So this story has basically spanned three decades. Confusing to say the least.
As stated in the last paragraph, The Stand was released in 1994 and split into four hour and a half long episodes and aired on ABC. With the major cast that The Stand boasted, ABC and Laurel Entertainment pulled out all the stops and hired the most amazing cast of B List actors that the 90’s could create. The post Brat Pack Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Gary Sinise, Shawnee Smith, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, John Landis, Ed Harris, Miguel Ferrer, Laura San Giacomo, Matt Frewer Bill Fagerbakke, Kareem Abdul Jabar, and fucking Sam Raimi just to name a few. That is quite an impressive cast of people, even though most of them were so horribly miscast in their roles, it adds a whole new level of comedy to the mix.
The Stand is set sometime between the 70’s and 90’s. A superflu nicknamed Captain Tripps has swept across the globe, annihilating the population as 99.8% of the world has been wiped out by the virus. Those left alive were those who were naturally immune to the deadly pathogen and now must continue on after they watch the world as they know it decay and die. The survivors find themselves adrift, trying to move on from the aftermath. But then the survivors begin to get visions of an elderly old lady named Mother Abigail and the nefarious ‘Walkin’ Dude’ Randall Flagg. Both Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg act as beacons for these people as they begin to congregate, the people with Mother Abigail going to Boulder Colorado and the people in Randall Flagg’s camp going to Las Vegas. It is learned that this has all been apart of the greater plan as the survivors become apart of a battle of good vs. evil. It is learned that Mother Abigail is receiving visions from ‘God’ in order to defeat Flagg who is either the devil himself or a devil like being. The story then becomes a final match between Flagg and the people of Boulder as they try to listen to Mother Abigail’s God and defeat Flagg.
Believe me when I say that I am not even close to skimming the surface to what is my favorite book of all time. There is plenty in this story and the moral ambiguity that is ‘good’ and ‘evil’, but for intents and purposes I have to keep this in generalities or else you as the reader will be reading a thesis paper.
Visuals and Soundtrack are Stunning
Out of all the Emmy’s that this series won, all of them came in the visual and musical department and it clearly shows. The series is VERY well shot and the visuals are some of the best I’ve seen when it comes to any type of television mini series or movie. There is a stark and enjoyable contrast to the serene atmosphere of bright summer days mixed in with old decaying bodies and the destruction of the world. The sets look wonderful and the demise of human civilization is shown in a much more… Quiet way then it is seen in something like a zombie apocalypse or similar to that.
The soundtrack mixes perfectly with the series. Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper is a great edition in the opening scene of the series and really is a subtle way to set the tone for the rest of the movie. The background music is very whimsical and have a sort of hopeful western feel to it that I really enjoy.
How Much it Cost to Make The Series
So I am going to stress this because this is something that I feel is wrong with the film industry today. In order to make this 6 hour long epic that spans across the fucking country, it cost $28,000,000 to create it. Approximately $44,120,000 once you account for inflation. Today people are making 2 hour pieces of shit like The Lone Ranger for the absurd price of over $200,000,000!
This series needs to be a testament to the film making industry that Mick Garris, Stephen King, Laurel Entertainment, and ABC were able to create a 6 hour epic story by a FRACTION of the cost of the shit that is being put out today. Let it be known that more money does NOT mean better quality.
Many Actors give good performances while others are COMPLETELY Miscast
The cast is completely hit and miss. While many of them are big name actors and actresses, a lot of them give some pretty goofy performances. The one that immediately come to mind is Molly Ringwald as Frannie. This was moving into the mid 90’s and by this time Ringwald’s career was clearly fading into 80’s obscurity. I’m not even sure why they casted her in the role since she feels like the complete antithesis of Frannie Goldsmith.
In the book, Frannie comes across as this tough as nails kid. She loses her father to Captain Tripps but is by no means a girly girl or a damsel in distress. She is usually the type of woman to take charge of a situation. In the movie, Ringwald is portrayed as this girly girl who wears mini skirts as she rides on the back of motorcycles. She let’s the others constantly take charge and really just seems to sit in the background and let Stu (Gary Sinise) do all the work for her.
Even though I do enjoy Matt Frewer in other stories, his portrayal of Trashcan Man is a lot less of a schizophrenic man being manipulated by Randall Flagg and a lot more of some crazy cartoon character that was ripped straight out of a bad Wil-E Cyote sketch.
Other actors and actresses do pretty good jobs. A young Shawnee Smith (yeah from the Saw Series, chew on that.) Does a pretty fantastic job. Miguel Ferrer is always a good sleazy second man, Bill Fagerbakke does a great Tom Cullen as well.
But out of all the actors and actresses, the people who hit the nail on the head is Ruby Dee as Mother Abigail, Jamey Sheridan as Randall Flagg, Gary Sinise as Stu Redman, and Peter Van Norden as Ralph Brentner. While the other actors and acresses I can pick flaws in and some with admirable performances, these four became the living personification of the characters from the book and I have to give them a hand for it.
The reason this is in the meh category is because the acting really is all over the map. Some do pretty good jobs while others come across as goofy and cartoonish, especially from the characters in Las Vegas.
The Stand is Just Too Large of a Story to Condense it Into 6 Hours
More than any other of Stephen King’s stories, The Stand is just too big of a story with too much information that needs to be told in order to adapt it to a movie or mini series format. With books like It and The Shining, yeah it makes sense that they can be condensed into some sort of format that works for film. When you really break down The Shining it is about a family of three who goes to a haunted hotel and becomes stranded. Is there more in the book that needs to be told? Well yes that would certainly help. But Stanley Kubrick was able to adapt it to the big screen and do a damn good job at it (Even if Stephen King didn’t like the end result). A book like It is very similar to The Stand. There is tons of back story and that helps you really grow attached to the characters involved and understand the creature in the book. But really at the end of the day it is about a group of people who return to their childhood town to kill a supernatural clown that murders and eats children. It isn’t that hard to adapt it to a video format.
But when you get a book like The Stand. A book that is written so well and includes a HUGE cast of characters each with VERY intricate backstories and not only have the plot point of a disease wiping out 99% of the population, the survivors traveling across the United States, AND the ultimate fight of good and evil as God and the Devil himself squares off… That is just too big a book to condense into 6 hours of screen time.
Stephen King himself wrote the screenplay for The Stand and also had the help of director Mick Garris, who has worked on other King adaptations like The Shining remake (Not Kubrick’s), Bag of Bones, Desperation, and Sleepwalkers. I’m not saying that Garris and King did a poor job with the screenplay and the direction. Lord knows, this is probably the best it can ever hope to do in any kind of video format. But there is just too much there for the film to really do the book justice. I would say that this 6 hour mini series is too short and needs to be about 4 hours longer to truly insert all of the back story and information that needed to be present that just wasn’t.
I know this comes off as a bookworm bitching that they didn’t make the book exactly the same for the movie, but really I am not one to complain about adaptations. I understand completely that translating books to film is a daunting task. BUT they can be done if they are in the right hands! Some books though, just don’t translate to film or it would take too much to translate it to film. The Stand is a prime example of a book that just can’t translate well into film. There is just too much information that needs to be told in order to properly tell the story that a movie or a miniseries cannot do unless they have nearly 10-15 hours worth of time to do it.
This mini series is a ton of fun to watch and I enjoy watching it every chance that I get. Some of the acting is pretty hokey and due to the fact that it is adapting from such an engaging and large novel, the pacing does feel rushed at times even for a 6 hours series.
I’m sad to say compared to the book, this drops the score pretty low… Just because the book is my favorite and one of the best books that I have ever read and the series can’t hold up to it. But that shouldn’t stop you from giving it a watch. You will not be disappointed.
Final Score 2.5/5
Thank you for reading. Please return tomorrow where you will find one of my newest projects. Until then, please like and subscribe for more reviews.