One of the good King adaptations
Continuing my post apocalyptic phase, I stumbled upon a television miniseries adaptation of a Stephen King novel called The Stand. I actually have this book, although I never made it past the first 100 pages or so. Despite it being engrossing and obviously well written, the book is ridiculously dense and slow moving and as a result, I never really gave it the time it needed to truly wrap me up in its world. Once I discovered a TV adaptation existed, it was a no brainer to check it out.
The Stand is one of the countless King stories which has been translated into another media form. Thankfully, this is one of the good ones. The book is often heralded as a masterpiece of its genre so I assume ABC and King himself wanted to do it complete justice and not create a half assed cash in. This definitely shows in the end result.
The Stand opens as a deadly experimental virus escapes a classified US military base, wiping out the vast majority of the country’s (and presumably, the world’s) population. The lucky few who are immune to the virus form the basis of the large ensemble cast. Most strikingly, is Stu Redmond extremely well portrayed by veteran actor Gary Sinise. During the opening half of the first of the four episodes of the series (each an hour and a half long), I noticed certain differences from the the brief section of the novel I had read, mainly in terms of character backgrounds. They were understandably simplified, with King fleshing them out to such an exhaustive degree in the novel that simply wouldn’t have been possible in a short TV series.
Having experienced only the very beginning of the disaster in the novel, I was expecting a fairly straightforward tale of humanity struggling to survive against overwhelming odds, albeit, a well told one. As a result, I was quite surprised to learn of a supernatural element in the story, although in retrospect I should have expected this, it being a King work. Initially, I felt slightly betrayed by this twist because of my expectations and assumptions of what the series was about. But over time, King’s decision to implement this extra ingredient in the universe of his fiction is well justified and the series as a whole, benefits hugely from it.
Acting is solid from the majority of the cast, Gary Since, as mentioned earlier, providing the standout performance. Worth mentioning is Rob Lowe’s heartwarmingly convincing portrayal of a deaf man and the unique challenges he faces. I’m not entirely sure how much of the dialogue was rewritten or ripped directly from the novel. It wouldn’t surprise me if the latter was true to a degree, as it does come across as slightly hammy on occasion, a consequence of it being used outside of its intended form of media. The 1994 show holds up well by today’s standards. CGI is used very sparingly lessening it’s slightly jaded look and the production values are generally high.
It’s extremely hard to find much wrong with The Stand. It portrays a broken world desperately attempting to repair itself whilst simultaneously dealing with the universal theme of good vs evil in the guise of an extremely engaging supernatural thread. Both are handled with skill and finesse, resulting in an immensely enjoyable journey through a dark and twisted landscape.