Stephen King's THE STAND on CBS All Access

firesprite

Master Member
Oh, man, I loathed this adaptation so much. It had no suspense. No character. There were some good actors and fine performances, but as an adaptation of the Stand? Dismal, IMO.

Unfortunately, this took me from 'not a fan' of Ezra Miller, to actively wanting to avoid seeing him in anything ever if I can.
 

batguy

Sr Member
The ending:

I actually liked most of how 'The Stand' ends. (Book and first miniseries. I haven't seen the new one.) Or at least I didn't hate it.

The whole story is a Sociology lesson. It's about human nature, governments, and the many different responses that are possible with a crisis. It's not an action franchise, or a military one, or a superhero one.

Okay, the 'hand of god' thing is laying it on pretty thick. But come on, the whole story was Mother Abigail vs Dr. Mullet. He transformed into a crow. Many characters had nightmarish visions & premonitions from start to finish. A few people were even crucified later in the story.

After all that, did you expect a finale without any supernatural stuff? Come on. When the Nazis finally open up the Ark of the Covenant there is gonna be a light show and it's gonna be spooky.
 

Solo4114

Master Member
Yeah, I mean, in hindsight, thinking about how the book ends, it's difficult to come up with any other way the book could have ended. Maybe not quite so literally, but it was gonna be something like that.

And the thing I like about it was that (1) the catalyst for the ending is the surviving good guy characters' willingness to just literally "stand" up to this evil figure, and (2) he kind of hoists himself on his own petard at the end. None of it would occur if not for his own actions. That's different from how other King books I've read (e.g., Needful Things, and IT) finish.

Although, in hindsight, I'm actually happier with the novel ending of IT than I am with the miniseries and the film adaptations (although I enjoy those as well). If IT is meant to be King's spin on Lovecraft, I think King's original ending -- as wacky as it is -- fits better because it's wacky. The film version is decent for what it's presenting Pennywise to be, and the miniseries...kinda had to end the way it did because it was the 90s and they're on a budget. But the book fits with the presentation of what Pennywise actually is the best, and so you need a truly alien, bizarre mechanism to (kinda) defeat it.
 

Solo4114

Master Member
Watching more of this, and 7 episodes in, I still can't decide how I feel about it.

The performances are undoubtedly excellent. I mean, the actors here are all doing a great job with what they're given. But there are directing choices and character choices that just...don't work for me. Like, at all. Ezra Miller, I think, is a perfectly good actor, but his take of Trashcan Man feels like it doesn't really understand the character at all. It's a far cry from the nuance that Matt Frewer brought to the role. And yes, both performances are broad (it's a broadly written character, after all), but with Frewer, there's more behind it, and with Miller, the performance at least isn't backed up by the narrative at all.

Once again, I find that the narrative structure and the choice to chop it up and jumble it really robs the characters -- and the performances -- of a lot of their "oomph." Flagg's behavior, for example, might work in other settings, but within the book and the '94 miniseries, the sequences of events leading to his downfall feel better set up. I'll wait to see how it wraps up, but my guess is that it'll land a lot weaker than it should've.

All that said, for me, the standout performance in this has got to be Owen Teague's rendition of Harold Lauder. He's just terrific. But as good as he is...I just don't get why they went all-in on Harold. Yes, he's an interesting character, but they devote so much attention to him -- at the expense of other characters -- that it just feels unbalanced.

I'm also not a fan of this version of Lloyd Henried. He just seems like a buffoon. Like, yeah, I get that he's a lowlife, but the decision to have him be played like this, and to use the character the way they have, he feels like some dumb underling from a 1980s cartoon, like TMNT or He-Man. Why the hell would Flagg tap this cretin to be his #1 guy? In the book and the '94 miniseries, it's clear that Lloyd is actually quite intelligent, tactical, and utterly loyal to Flagg, as well as ruthless if he needs to be, but he's got complexities and layers to him. In this, he's like...I dunno...Be-Bop or some doofus from M.A.S.K. or whatever. He comes across as a chicken-fried moron. And again, it's not for lack of talent on the part of the actor. He's acting the hell out of his role as a chicken-fried moron. It's just...another really weird choice.

I'll still give the show credit for really committing to its own vision of King's work. They took a risk, and they owned it. It just doesn't seem to be paying off the way they wanted to.
 

Solo4114

Master Member
Finished the show and....yeah, this thing couldn't stick the landing. A big part of it is that they didn't effectively build to the climax.

See, the book is structured in four broad sections:

1. The fall, where the virus hits, we meet our characters, and society crumbles.

2. The coming together, where each of the two new factions that will duke it out form up and we get to see our characters gradually start to change.

3. The lull, where the characters are in their new locations (Boulder and Vegas) and are starting to put together society, but are also trying to figure out where to go and what to do.

4. The climax, where the forces of good finally confront the forces of evil.


It's a pretty well known story, but King wrote the first two parts and then got stuck in the third part when he was writing the book. He'd written all these characters with all these threads, and then -- like the characters themselves -- got bogged down in writing about how they were rebuilding society with no idea how to move on to building to the climax and actually pulling it off. So, he added a bomb and shook things up, killed off a bunch of them, and pushed the story into action again. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that lull part is the least interesting part of the book, and it's the part that mired King in the development of the book.

It's also the part that the show focuses on the most. It's the centerpoint for the story. Given the chopped up narrative structure, it's the point they keep returning to. You open in media res with Harold on the body crew cleaning up the corpses that were in Boulder, then flash back, and move around in the timeline a bit. But the narrative always comes to rest in that middle portion, treating it as "the now." So, yeah, you always come back to the now, wherever the narrative jumps to.

As a result, you spend the most time in this "lull" portion. Probably 2/3 of the show feels like it's devoted to it. That may not be the case, but because it's the "resting point" for the narrative, the "now" that you return to whenever the timeline jumps, it sure feels like it. I think this was...a critical mistake. It's ambitious in a way. The showrunners said that to them, the most interesting part of the story is where people are trying to rebuild society, and it shows that they really think that. It's a smaller story, more character-focused, and the show itself focuses intensely on Harold, whom they definitely make into one of the most interesting characters in the tale. He's who we open the whole show on, he's basically the focus for the entire first episode, and his descent takes up a big, big portion of the middle. The other characters feel as if they orbit him. And I get it. It's an interesting story, peering into the mind of a guy who you could easily just write off as this incel nutbag, but who the show tries to demonstrate has moments where he could've turned away from that path. I honestly really enjoyed this examination of him. But not at the expense of, like, everything else, and ultimately that's how it feels.

The show also doesn't take enough time with the other characters to build them up, to lay the groundwork for their development. Nor, for that matter does it take hardly any time to showcase how Flagg's society crumbles -- in large part due to his own evil. Lloyd, his right-hand man, just comes across as a buffoon. It makes zero sense why this demon would say "You, you shall be my captain." Lloyd's a complete coward in this, rather than a ruthless guy who also has some complexity and maybe a teensy bit of good in him. He's a moron, too. Or at least, he sure seems like one. But this guy is second in command to Mephistopheles or whatever? Really?

For that matter, Flagg himself just never really came together as a character. Alexander Skarsgard is a fantastic actor, but he's wasted on this role. He has no real menace to him (which is nuts, because he could absolutely bring that when he played Eric on True Blood), he doesn't have a ton of charisma either. And there's no humor in him at all. I mean, he looks great. But he doesn't really do all that much. He stands around glowering occasionally, or smirking, whispering most of the time, but it all feels like it's lacking in intensity. And he's not remotely scary. Like, not one little bit. Hell, the 1994 version is scarier, even with it's 30-year-old f/x. This version? Meh.

And I think a lot of that has to do with -- again -- the intense focus on the "lull "portion of the story. There simply isn't time to let Flagg be Flagg, so what we get is mostly hinted at instead of shown. It's the same story with Trashcan Man who is literally barely in the story at all, but who plays a central part in the book and the '94 version. Ezra Miller's (or the director's?) choice for how to portray him is also just....bizarre. He shrieks and mumbles and jabbers and twitches, but it's all sound and fury signifying nothing...because the show didn't bother to develop him at all. Again, there just isn't time.

We spend so much time on the "mundane" evil of Harold that we have almost no time for the true evil that is Flagg and those around him. There's no real sense of Flagg as a corrupting presence, a tempting one, a dangerous one. And when the end finally comes, it just kinda...happens. I've criticized -- and later changed my mind and praised -- the end of the book as feeling abrupt (and then deciding it isn't, really). But in this, it really, really is. Because the show hasn't spent time showing us the gradual erosion of Flagg's society, because it hasn't spent time demonstrating Flagg's power and presence, when it falls apart, it just sort of comes out of nowhere. There's a brief moment or two where Glen talks about how it's all a society driven by fear -- which it isn't -- and that if they can all just say they aren't afraid, Flagg's got nothing. But it all happens so quickly that when that motif is used as the thing that undoes Flagg, it feels totally unearned. And then when the lightning ball from God shows up and zaps everything, triggering the bomb, well....it ends up being neither a bang nor a whimper, but a "meh."

It's a shame, too, because there's a lot to like about this adaptation. The performances are all good, the actors are all talented. They're delivering what they've been tasked with delivering. It's just not anything that's all that interesting, largely because of things out of the actors' control: the intense focus on the "lull" portion, and within it the focus on Harold.

Some day maybe someone will take a 3rd crack at this source material, but honestly, at this point, I'm fine if nobody does. It's enough to have it as a book.

Edit:

I will say that in the final episode, Skarsgard does his best work and comes across as his most seductive and evil. Would that he'd been this charismatic during the entire run and that we got to see more of this version of Flagg, but tinged with more menace and potential evil, playing on the fears, prejudices, and desires of the characters.
 
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