I’m usually not a fan of films and TV shows based on Stephen King’s fiction, finding them emphasizing what I don’t like about King’s work while leaving out the critical atmospheric horror that in my view makes it so deep and penetrating. A few notable exceptions come to mind, such as the new IT, THE MIST, and THE SHINING. When an updated adaptation of THE STAND released from CBS Productions, I’d heard a few bad things, but I decided to give it a shot.
The series is overall faithful to the novel with some innovations and numerous shortcuts for time. One big innovation is time jumps between past and present, which allows the show to explore certain characters with some depth before introducing us to the next. I didn’t mind that at all, and I thought it added something. The production quality is fairly good, and with the first episode, I was somewhat hopeful and thinking it wasn’t all that bad. Unfortunately, for me, the series became progressively sloppier until I gave up on it near the end.
I think the series did a lot of things well, but overall it has a TV sheen to it, with everybody wearing brand-new clothes and driving shiny new cars because ka-ching, you gotta have those product placements. The characters are all one-note and overly familiar archtypes, with zero complexity and almost no back story. Numerous shortcuts from the source material look like, well, shortcuts. Randall Flagg’s Babylon in Vegas doesn’t look evil so much as silly, and many of the horror elements, including Flagg himself, similarly come across as silly rather than scary or menacing. The actors are miscast, with few seeming to feel comfortable in their role, though there were a few notable exceptions, in particular Brad William Henke as Tom Cullen.
Overall, I think if you’re going to adapt a classic horror novel that is highly familiar with your core audience, you should stick with the source material and if you don’t, then you should innovate in a way that improves or adds to the story rather than one that appears as a shortcut. With so much great stuff to work with, this new adaptation of THE STAND had the potential to be extremely dark, fun, and surprising. Instead, it comes across as the usual, with little surprising. Clearly, a lot of effort went into it, and there are again good qualities, but I watched it hoping for something both familiar and unexpected, and ended up bored. It’s a shame, as I think of what somebody like Frank Darabont could have accomplished with this with a budget and the gloves off. It makes me wonder why it’s so hard to adapt Stephen King’s work onto the screen?