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The Stand

anticlimatic

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One of my all time favorite Stephen King novels, and I really enjoyed the 90s made-for-TV adaptation (at least when it first aired). Kind of looking forward to this new series, with a few caveats. First, I think casting Eric Northman as the walking dude is abysmal casting. I know he's an excellent actor, but most of what makes him great is his very predominant Fi. The walking dude is a maniacal ENFJ/ENTP, I just don't see Northman pulling it off. At all. He will have to do his own thing, which might be cool, but the walking dude is one hell of a great character to waste on a reinterpretation. Also, I see Larry is black now- which is ironic, because in the original TV rendition he had more than a few lines that 2020 would deem racist (they weren't at the time).
 

Lark

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I think a similar miscasting happened when they decided who would be the dark wizard dude in Dark Tower.
 

Totenkindly

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There were a helluva lot more problems with Dark Tower besides who got cast as Walter.
 

Totenkindly

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Ezra Miller reveals his wild top-secret role in The Stand

Fantastic Beasts star Ezra Miller has a big and secret role in The Stand, and EW has your first look.

The Justice League actor will play Trashcan Man, a pivotal character from Stephen King’s 1978 post-apocalyptic novel...

 

Totenkindly

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Third episode dropped on NYE, I am now caught up.

No, it's not perfect -- but what does one expect from a nine-episode limited series? I think a total conversion of the book would need probably 20-25 episodes or so.

Some of the casting is decent. Some of it, I'm kinda meh to. (like Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abigail -- I don't feel any power from her in her scenes, and she just doesn't generate the goodwill/love needed for the character. And sadly the same with Alex Skarsgaard as Flagg -- not feeling it much yet. These are actually BIG things, because those two characters representation the Light vs the Dark, so they NEED to be compelling... but right now they're just kinda... eh. So I would have to label these casts as large mistakes.)

I am surprised so far at things that made the cut. (Rita Blakemore, for instance -- minor character, but her presence adds texture to the scene... and she is played by Heather Graham and it works... weirdly also because I keep remembering Heather Graham as 22 but she is actually 50 years old IRL now... holy shit... so the casting is "on point" and she got good direction because she pulls off her final scenes well) while saddened by things that did not (like Fran's relationship with her father, it was so sweet and so sad -- the show actually captures the scene of her wrapping him up in his medals and it is highly effective, although I wish there could have been more). There's also a great cameo by JK Simmons for example as a general in the compromised lab facility base, that I can't even remember if it was in the book, but Simmons really sells it well -- that's the kind of stuff I like, complex emotion.

I am cool with Larry being black, and it works just fine -- I think it's kind of an oversight of the original text. Also more focus on Larry Underwood as a character drama would help, as Larry moves noticeably from immaturity to maturity in the text, or to put it another way, boyhood to manhood. (Ralph/Ray and Glenn Bateman aren't really fleshed out as much in the book, they're kind of already 'good' guys.) He is one of the more important figures in the book IMO, in terms of "whose souls are really at stake here," from my recollection.

Henry Zaga is actually doing fine as Nick Andros, he barely looks like himself, and I like how gaunt he looks (he weirdly looks a lot like Michael Wincott as Rochefort from the 1993 Three Musketeers).

Amber Heard is actually pulling Nadine Cross off but needs more backstory. I consider her another one of the more complex battlegrounds, as she's kind of given herself to Flagg but there are things about her that she is holding back / fighting. We're not really getting to see as much moral choice at play as I'd hoped, although there's a bit of chemistry between her and Flagg.

The Tom Cullen character isn't playing out well, though -- script/acting issues, IMO, and the physical size of the character is intimidating rather than harmless-feeling.

Mixed feelings on Owen Teague as Harold Lauder, as the character is SO important to the story and in fact one of the strongest ethical dramas in the book -- some characters are genuinely good at heart, some are genuinely selfish, but Harold is both intelligent and articulate, yet tainted, and is one of the few characters whose soul actually seems suspended between heaven and hell. He is a moral battleground, perched between good and evil. (And nowadays he'd be called an incel, I am sure.) Teague actually does an amazing job at pulling this off, but he is whip-thin and gaunt here, more of a geek/nerd (as opposed to a different character type, the very tall and also overweight ostracized boy). There's a different feel for a physically vulnerable male with control issues, versus someone who is physically large if inept and feels rejected by society. So my issue is more than his character is flavored differently and thus doesn't scan quite the same. This is a casting issue, as Teague doesn't have the physicality to play Harold as per how he is scripted in King's book, but he does take the part and do the most with it so far that he has been able -- his performance itself is decent.

Of course, James Marsden is solid as the down to earth "everyman" Stu Redman.

I think the mini-series is more enjoyable for me than past runs because (1) it's longer and can capture more of the text and (2) the sensibilities are based more off today's TV Drama approach which has larger budgets and more nuanced/textures tones. i.e., this isn't high camp, this is drama more on the level of HBO's "The Outsider" series, for example.

There's a lot of overtones from TWD and 28 Days Later here so far as well.
 

Totenkindly

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BTW, isn't it eerily prescient that King created the prototype incel with Harold Lauder?

(Like, totally what we ended up seeing on the Internet and in the news 25 years later or so.)

he even ends up acting out with the same kind of shit we saw in the news, but just a generation before it become more apparent to society that this stuff was manifesting.

Harold is basically what an incel would have looked like before the Internet appeared.
 

Totenkindly

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Been watching this each week on day of release. Seven episodes have aired now, two left to go.

Last night was the conclusion of Harold Lauter's storyline and Nadine's arrival to Flagg's presence. Also, the four walkers + Kojack started their trek to Las Vegas, with harm falling on at least one of them along the way.

Okay, I'm being as fair as possible with this. I think the series has great production values and am glad it is being treated more seriously and with a 9-episode storyline versus something ridiculous like a 2 hour film or 3-4 part miniseries of only a few hours. It's a 1000+ page book for goodness sake. Some characters are well-cast.

But I have to say that overall I am underwhelmed by this. Like, there is no real emotional current to any of it. I kinda don't care and am simply watching to complete the story and see how they treat certain things. I'll put comments in spoilers since now they would spoil major plotpoints.



Overall, the whole series feels kind of inert despite the production quality and some decent casting. Like, emotionally I am just watching stuff on the screen. It's sad when the most I feel towards someone is Rita freaking Blakemore, played by an actress who I typically dislike. It was an opportunity wasted by CBS Access... but hey, it's Josh Boone. He is adequate but not stellar.
 

Totenkindly

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Okay, Episode 8 was last night -- which was the "big bang / climax" episode. There's only episode 9 left, which is more like a coda in the book and will ramp things back down to conclude what happens back in Denver.

It was pretty terrible. Which is a disappointment, considering the time invested and the production quality. Like I said before, trying to built sensible emotional arcs from a 1000+ page book, over 9 episodes, just isn't going to happen. THere are way too many characters. The series gave Harold Lauder a lot of time so that he was almost the protagonist, but even easing up on him wouldn't have made much difference because they just really did not have the time necessary to make the viewers care. I think maybe it could have been done -- but only with a much better writer and/or showrunner than Josh Boone.

Also, the bad writing/characterization didn't really help much, in spots.

Here, they mishandled:
- The end of Nadine
- The character of Lloyd
- The character of Flagg
- The character of Ray/Ralph... somewhat
- What finally happens in Vegas (and dang, I hope it all stays in Vegas)

Josh Boone and company just does not have the writing chops for a work that demands a lot of nuance to be taken seriously -- it's a hard tightrope to manage Flagg on screen, but so much of the Vegas storylines seem to devolve into goofiness. Like, is there any serious belief Vegas would have ever stayed running? Flagg gets confused a bit in the books too, but he is also very dangerous and deadly -- only one scene in the entire TV series seemed to give Flagg any teeth, otherwise he is a joke. An aimless, muddled, confusing joke. I mean, cutting to the chase: would anyone else would bring on this version of Lloyd Henreid as his "right-hand" man? (It's a bad acting job and bad writing job for Lloyd.) For the Walking Dude, who is all shadows and teeth, this seems to be more like pudding and hair in need of combing.

Nothing really makes sense either. Nadine's ending makes sense in the book, it is just odd here -- they did not really connect the dots well. Also the ending of Vegas in the book at least partially derives from Flagg's abuse of his power, which again bites him in the butt. It makes no sense why Trashy is bringing his prize to the casino here (although it's justified in the book) or why no one stops him. Larry and Ray are okay but there's no impetus to what they are doing.

This is supposed to be a post-apocalyptic good vs evil showdown with some supernatural overtones, but there's no real good sense of that in the show. It's just trying to capture some scenes from the book without really understanding what they mean, how they are supposed to feel, or what connects them all together.

So at least it is not clunky in the sense of 80-90's shorter miniseries clunky, but it manages to take a lot more time and polish to be just as thoughtless under the hood.

End result: I have been watching this series with a slight bit of hope for something good and a dash of mild curiosity... which never really has stretched beyond that. Definitely not a re-watch series.


Edit: Vulture was a bit kinder, I'm more aligned with this review from AV Club:
In its penultimate hour, The Stand stumbles through its own mess
 

Totenkindly

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Finale aired yesterday, so now this is put to bed... hopefully with a pillow over its face.

The finale leaped right over some of the good stuff in the denouement of the book, so that it had time to do a "new chapter" involving two characters making their way back to Maine -- which did happen in the book, I think, but without the middle part detour where the series and even maybe King himself tried to salvage the "Abigail vs Flagg / good vs evil" bit that isn't quite resolved in the book well, and that this adaptation failed miserably on.

In doing so, it actually gives Flagg a few minutes of screen time that is probably better than 99% of what we actually saw in the mini-series, and even a bit better of Abigail as well... but for no good purpose except just to state the obvious and after the fact. So it really amounts to more of a curiosity -- and I am also left thinking, "Why didn't you use that 30 minutes to serve the main narrative better in the first place?"

A big problem here is that Denver and Las Vegas were supposed to be pitted again each other good vs evil -- attempts to rebuild society as wholesome, vs attempts to rebuild society directed towards power and control. The adaptation totally mischaracterized Vegas as a hedonistic free-for-all that at best was goofy, not terrifying; the book Vegas was actually structured, organized, like a bunch fo worker ants (albeit with lots of bad cogs) directed by Flagg to destroy any threats. Vegas was very dangerous to Denver, which seemed less efficient and capable with rebuilding partly due to resources but also because they were trying to rebuild with Freedom, while Flagg was rebuilding quickly by dominating the Vegas folks. Denver was going to be good, but the time it would take them to get there (because they were doing it right and also not trying to reclaim the dangerous tools of past humanity that destroyed everyone anyway) could make them vulnerable to the Vegas machine under Flagg's control.

The show entirely missed this, made Vegas out to be a joke, and make Flagg more an agent of chaos at best rather than someone trying to build an empire. None of it was that unsettling.

The series also concludes with the throwaway tag ending King himself penned I think for the unabridged version, about Flagg rebuilding with natives... and it just scans really bad nowadays, in how it pits a white savior type taking over a less intellectually advanced native tribe. Like, seriously? Did they ever think through this stuff before they shot it? it was such a cliche in the presentation.

This adaptation had some nice production values but missed the point and did not capture the essence of the story or even make something interesting of its own to observe. It's sad that the most memorable arc for me was Rita Blakemore, considering she's a small side character portrayed by an actress I normally don't like much. Yeesh.
 
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