WTF Hollywood??? Make ‘The Stand’ into a trilogy!!!
I would characterize my literary relationship with Stephen King as somewhere on the level of Romeo and Juliet, although not quite as tame. Saying he’s my favorite author is akin to saying Roland Deschain took awhile to get to the Dark Tower. I can distinctly remember reading my first Stephen King novel, The Tommyknockers, when I was thirteen years old. Before long I’d devoured ‘Salem’s Lot, Carrie, and The Dead Zone. Thus began a tawdry literary love affair that’s lasted almost twenty-three years. Now if you threatened me with exile to room 237 at the Overlook Hotel if I didn’t tell you my favorite King novel, I’d be dancing with the rotting woman in the bathtub. The truth is it’s a tie between IT and The Stand. (And when I refer to the latter I mean the extended edition that came out in 1990. The abridged version is for pussies.) I’ve read each novel easily ten times and when Mr. King finally goes to that big pet cemetary in the sky, I think those are the two novels he’ll be most remembered for. In fact I consider both to be true works of literature. Anyone who disagrees feel free to stop by my house and I’ll lay a gypsy curse on you Thinner style.
Now like many of you, I recall the TV movies with fondness. While they may not hold up well in the years since (in fact nowadays people would probably consider them corny), they possess a certain nostalgia among thirty-year olds that can’t be denied. And is there really any question that Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise The Clown was anything short of brilliant? When I heard that the talented director Cary Fukunaga (HBO’s “True Detective”) was directing a film version of IT, I was overjoyed because the man’s a genius and I’m sure he’ll gather considerable talent. And let’s be honest, IT‘s intense subject matter will work best on the big screen . I am slightly disappointed that the producers are splitting the film into two parts (should have been three) but at least it makes some logical sense as there are two stories being told thirty years apart.
Like its counterpart IT, The Stand film adaptation has languished in development Hell for several years. At one point Ben Affleck was attached to direct and star, however he decided to do some movie about a bat or something. Then there was writer David Kajganich’s script which had a MAJOR change to the ending involving Stu Redman having magic, an army of people from Boulder attacking Las Vegas, and an “Akira-like” battle on the Vegas strip. WOW. I’d rather have Mr. Zsasz remove my eyeballs with a spork. Seriously this ending is akin to the meeting Kevin Smith had with a famed Hollywood producer about directing a Superman film. The producer wanted Superman not to fly, not have the traditional suit, and fight a giant spider.
Finally the project fell to Josh Boone of The Fault in Our Stars fame. I am slightly hesitant since his only other screen credit was another romantic film, Stuck In Love, but Marc Webb also did 500 Days of Summer before The Amazing Spider-man, so I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Then I found out he’s planning on making The Stand into one three-hour movie.
The Stand is a novel over 1,000 pages long and the four-part mini-series couldn’t even cover all the content! It makes zero sense to shoot The Stand as a solo film. Consider these three elements of the novel that will receive the short shrift:
1. Stylish Minor Characters
Critics have often called The Stand the 20th century version of War And Peace, and not without good reasons, one of which being the plethora of characters in the book. Obviously the core group of characters will be there, people like Fran Goldsmith, Larry Underwood, Randall Flagg, and Stu Redman. But what about other minor but intriguing characters? What about Judge Farris? Or Rita Blakemore? Or Trashcan Man’s short-live psychotic companion The Kid? For that matter what about the Trashcan Man at all? Will there be enough room to include him in the story? Yes he plays a key role in the conclusion of the novel, but who knows what might be cut in a 180 minute time frame? How many characters will Boone toss aside like a snot filled Kleenex in a three-hour film? How worse off will the audience be for it?
2. Awesome Scenes
One of the most powerful scenes in the entire novel involves a desperate shoot out between Stu, Fran, Harold, Glen, and a traveling harem run by a group of rapists and criminals. Two of the novel’s pivotal female characters, Susan Stern and Dayna Jurgens are introduced, and the scene provides great context for their future character development. Another chapter dives into the complete anarchy of civilization as the Superflu erodes society: college students are attacked by the National Guard, a radio talk-show host exercising his right to free speech is shot by agents of the government, and even a sadistic group of criminals hijack a television station and broadcast live executions. And I can’t forget about my favorite passage from The Stand where King describes how the germ transfers from host to host across state lines, hospitals, and roadside diners. It’s quite simply one of the most well written passages I’ve ever read in literature. All of these fantastic scenes, along with plenty of others, are bound to be cut from the film.
I hesitate to call The Stand a sacred cow of the populace because that’s a bit melodramatic, but in this context I think it’s an apt description. Whether it’s Star Wars, Batman, or Harry Potter, there are just some things that need a delicate touch. The reality in the geek community is that some people harbor feelings towards Luke Skywalker and Peter Parker similar to a Mother and the love of her child. Extreme? Yes. However, the point is to remain cognizant of the personal attachment many of us feel about The Stand. It’s our baby. And if you mess with our kid in a displeasing manner, be prepared for the angry Momma and Papa Bear tweets.
All of this is a just a roundabout way of saying I believe Hollywood is approaching The Stand in a completely illogical matter. Trust me when I say that this novel has just as passionate of a following as The Lord of the Rings. To misquote Field of Dreams, “If you make three movies they will come.” I think if Hollywood can take Tolkien’s 300 page book The Hobbit and turn it into three bloated movies, they can take a dynamic novel like The Stand and make it into three quality films.