From Book to Screen: The Stand

Connor Adamson

Connor is currently studying Law at Villanova University. When he isn't swamped by law readings, he watches plenty of films and sometimes writes about them. He hopes to be the most qualified evaluator of John Grisham based films at the end of law school.

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3 Responses

  1. The problem I always have with Stephen King movies is that his characters are designed on the page to start simple and then grow more complex as we learn more about them and their history. Very very few movies do this with their characters, unless the movie is *about* a backstory in some way (more on this later).

    Most King movies end up work like most “normal” Hollywood movies: here’s the man, we chase him up a tree, we throw rocks at him, then he gets out of the tree. And I think _The Stand_ the movie essentially tried to do that, albeit with several “main” characters because it had a wide enough canvas to do so.

    But it was not the journey to Mother Abigail and the conflict with Flagg which made the novel so likable. It was the super juicy nuances of the characters which we continued to discover along the way, nuances which, as you mention, are of necessity glossed over in the adaptation. I think this pattern gives many movies based on King novels a certain thinness to their characterization regardless of casting or other factors.

    If you look at Flickchart’s convenient “Stephen King” filter (http://www.flickchart.com/Charts.aspx?franchise=114), I think the pattern mostly holds:

    Shawshank Redemption – not based on a novel
    The Shining – Kubrick defiles King’s intent and bulldozes backstory, frontstory, actual words, etc; ends up telling very different story (well)
    Stand By Me – not based on a novel
    The Green Mile – *about* backstory; heavily utilizes flashback
    Misery – er, i don’t know, never saw it
    Carrie – thin character archetypes; successful due to decent acting and iconic imagery
    The Dead Zone – thin characters
    Creepshow – thin characters
    The Running Man – thin, stupid characters, not written by “Stephen King”
    Christine (never saw, but I’ll bet thin characters)
    The Mist, Pet Sematary, Children of the Corn – all thin-charactered spookfests without nuance

  2. Connor Adamson says:

    By and large, I agree with you Doug. You nail what I like about King’s writing style and why I feel many of the adaptations fall short. That said my #1, 1408, is my #1 because I feel that is fairly expands on the short story in the voice of King and feels like maybe the best version of King’s writing coming to screen.

    To follow with your examples:

    Shawshank: It is a novella though, one I haven’t read. Shawshank is a top 20 for me.

    Stand By Me – No which probably helps it succeed at being a great adaption.

    Green Mile – One I haven’t read. It feels like the movie Grant constantly imagines Shawshank to be though.

    Misery – One of the best adaptions. Probably helps that the book is shorter but it brings the characters to life very well.

    Carrie – Hmm not sure I completely agree. I feel like it adapts the characters well, though arguably they are thin in the book as well.

    The Dead Zone – Haven’t watched the movie in a long time and don’t remember it

    Creepshow – Haven’t read/seen

    The Running Man – Haven’t read/seen

    Christine – I haven’t seen it, but given John Carpenter and the shorter length of the novel I feel like it might be a good one

    The Mist – I’ve only read it and seen it once many years back but I thought it did a good job. I think the ending is changer for the better in the film personally.

    Pet Sematary – Agreed

    Children of the Corn – Haven’t seen, though it’s infamous.