King Unadapted Works: Desired Remakes

Introduction



One of the most fallacious complaints in film fandom is the “we don’t need a remake of such and such.” When you look at such statements with merciless logic you realize we don’t technically need any movies. Modern man survived in excess of 1,800 years without them. Another piece of that logic is that a remake or sequel can somehow expunge the immutable. There’s an inherent inclination in humanity to embrace the current and the new, which I believe is why nostalgia exists, in part, because those old enough to remember different times want to embrace part of their experience.

Older films should be seen and studied but the societal emphasis on classicism is as archaic as classics themselves. Those with long cultural memories, longer than their time on Earth even, will always be a niche.

One way in which remakes can be of service is to update the imperfect, flawed, and terrible films of the past. This can be especially useful in adaptations, in which fans of the written work are over-sensitive or when the adaptation is truly painful. Here are the five Stephen King properties that could most benefit from a new take:

Apt Pupil

king_apt_pupil

When I wrote a post about seeing the movie before reading the book I wrote this of Apt Pupil:

This story as written is outstanding. Yes, the cast remained the same but the story delves into the psychology of the situation in ways the film scarcely attempts. You should read it.

The Nazi/kid stand-off never gets the payoff here that it does in Singer’s take on X-Men. That’s a great motif that this movie hinges on, and it is kind of flat. As is the whole aside from Ian McKellan.

Not to mention that this particular film has with it two associations that make it distracting. The first being Bryan Singer’s first on-set controversy and the second being one in hindsight as its star, Brad Benfro, would die of a heroin overdose about 10 years later.
Gramma

Mercy (2014, Universal)

When I heard that Gramma was going to be adapted into a feature length film, I wrote a whole post about it and performed a rare re-read. The cast was well in place and it had potential, but, as is too often the case when the premise was expanded and externalized things got a bit stupid towards the end, as evidenced by my review.

When taking those factors into consideration, it’s not a wonder I want there to be another go at this story, even though I find it unlikely that it’ll happen.

The Langoliers

The Langoliers (1995)

When I wrote a post about seeing the movie before reading the book I wrote this of The Langoliers:

Augmented by having seen it first in part because I love the mini-series up until the very end. It’s like King says, the story just falls into place so smoothly and that translates on to the page and the mini-series is great until one of the worst third act blunders, and effects shots ever.

It’s a lot to remake a whole mini-series for one shot but it’s literally all the movie is leading up to, and even by standards of when it was made the shot, was crap. Sure, Bronson Pinchot won’t really be replaced but the whole of the cast and the story may be upgraded by a fresh take and a shorter running time.

Christine

christine-013

I had the honor of meeting John Carpenter at Monster-Mania when he went and I took this picture with him:


His Q & A panel was humorous, insightful, inspirational, and as appears to be the case with Carpenter when speaking very forthcoming. He confirmed what I suspected in my gut when I saw Christine. He was assigned the script, not quite knowing what it was, was disappointed it was about an evil car, but he took it because it was a job and he needed work. He never really liked the movie. And neither did I, not by a long shot. There wasn’t a hint of subtlety in Keith Gordon’s Arnie and the car as accurate and gorgeous as it was didn’t work on screen as it did in the book. A book wherein I was beside myself as I found it brilliant and captivating even while feeling the premise ludicrous, and it is until you read it. All the talent in the world won’t translate that intangible to the screen if you’re not chomping at the bit to transform that tale and it never saw an adaptation like that.

Desperation

desperation_3

As mentioned in my Bachman books post, I’d love to see Desperation remade only for the fact that I’d love to see it and The Regulators come out as a tandem in a similar fashion to the books. As for the version of Desperation that exists I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Ron Perlman in the film, and I liked how humorous it was, though it read as more terrifying to me. The only true disservice in the writing of the screenplay is in its treatment of David Carver and his religious inclination.

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Review: Mercy

Mercy was a film that I had on my radar for quite some time. It was a film announced a while ago. It was one of a rash of projects that Joel Courtney got involved with on the heels of his outstanding performance in J.J. Abrams’ Spielbergian Super 8. Combine that with the fact that it is a Stephen King adaptation, the signing of Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead), the involvement of Blumhouse and Universal and there were plenty of reasons to look forward to this film. Eventually though, without and fanfare (as there usually isn’t), this film kind of vanished from consciousness as all involved moved on to the next job.

Then with just as little fanfare the film plopped up available as a digital first download on Amazon ahead of its DVD release.

Mercy mainly concerns a young boy, George (Chandler Riggs), who with his grandmother (Shirley Knight) bedridden starts to wonder about and discover her true nature and family secrets buried in their past.

The difficulty of divorcing one’s fanboy self from an objective film-viewer is epitomized by the fact that this film could have harvested an intriguing internalized tale from the prose, but instead it perhaps over-externalized it. One of the pitfalls it faces is also expanding a short and building out characters because it only does so part of the way. More dimensions are added to characters but it only goes part of the way. Mark Duplass, plays an uncle, he comes to George (Riggs) to disavow him of his notions because he idealizes her. However, this has to be assumed. He’s barely introduced when he makes this leap, and knowing how jaded he is, why not try and talk to Buddy instead (Courtney)?

The aforementioned facets of the film nits; smaller quibbles. There are things that occur that in some ways make you wonder about the production, and in general questionable decisions. The very first scene in the film cuts awkwardly. Riggs and Courtney overall do fine jobs, but in the early scenes they seem a bit ill at ease in their roles, Courtney especially; as they get caught up then the stakes go up. Unfortunately, CG plays a hug role in the latter third and it doesn’t really work that well at all.

I think to convey it best to King fans I can frame it this way: the CG-heavy climactic portions of this film remind me of a 21st Century Langoliers, only this film isn’t anywhere near as compelling as The Langoliers is before being heinously under-served by the effects work.

Up until then the film is passable, and there are things worth watching it for, Shirley Knight is another. In a film whose running time is less than 80 minutes it tries to spread the tale between too many inconsequential supporting characters, and doesn’t move as quick as it should.


When Mercy is available on rental platforms it’s worth it if you’re curious enough, but in this case sadly the whole is far less than the sum of the parts.

5/10

The Flip Side: Seeing the Movie Then Reading the Book

Asa Butterfield in Hugo (Paramount)

Recently I re-posted a series of articles I wrote on The Site That Shall Not Be Named (no it’s not the Dark Lord’s site) about how to divorce oneself from the source material when you’re watching an adaptation of a beloved book, comic, TV Show or what have you. If you want to read that series start here, otherwise bear with me.

In that series I really tackled a problem many face but mainly it pertained to books and their readers the most. To be more specific people who happened to have read the book prior to watching the film, which is a tough transition.

However, a twitter friend of mine and blogger in his own right, recently posted this intriguing entry:

People who follow me at all know I read a lot.

I read books now more than ever, used to read more newspapers and magazines.

But, I hear all the time, I want to see say “Hunger Games” but I need to read the book/books first. I personally prefer seeing the movie first.

Books are a totally different format, richer, longer, have subtext, a medium of words. Film is a medium of images and sounds, and quite a bit shorter at around 90-120 minutes. The average screenplay is 95-125 pages long, the average book is around 300 pages. It’s simply different.

For me a good example of this is Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”. Although the book the “Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick is very cinematic, and the look is in the movie, Scorsese adds scenes, depth of character and a few other things I don’t see in the book. I did see “Hugo” before reading the book, and think if I read the book first I would have used my image of the book to cloud the movie and not loved the movie for what it did well but get trapped in comparisons.

An example of a book I did read first which clouded my judgment of the movie is “Jurassic Park.” I quite enjoyed Micheal Crichton’s novel, and I missed several scenes (especially the river scene) that were in the book in the movie. Although Spielberg does a good job with it, I find actually the monster movie “The Lost World” to be more fun. I think this is partially because my view of the book hurts the movie.

Another example for me from a recent movie is “The Hunger Games.” My wife has read through this series twice already, and I am still around 20% in the first book. I quite enjoyed the movie, and wonder if my judgment of the book would have clouded how I see the film.

Basically movies and books are entirely different mediums. If you try to make the movie just like the book you get boring movies like Chris Columbus’s Harry Potter 1 and 2, which although good and nowhere near as rich to me as Cuaron’s version that shares the vision of the book but doesn’t feel the need to get everything in Harry Potter 3 (still the best of the series to me.
What do you think?

The general points up there I agree with almost without exception. I wanted to quote the post mainly for context and also as shorthand to expound on my observations on this opposite phenomena I didn’t examine.

I completely agree with the assertion that one musn’t read the book before seeing the movie. The book is not Cliff’s Notes to the film. The film has to sink or swim on its own merits. With regards to The Hunger Games, I liked it but I knew innately that there was backstory and subtext from the book only being hinted at on screen, however, it didn’t ruin the film for me.

With regards to subtext allow me to make a minor semantical point: yes, many films are surface only but when you study them you learn to read them (I’m not being poetical, we say that) and seek the subtext. Some films are what they are; vapid or brilliant there’s not much else going on, those are few. There will be more forthcoming dialogue simply because the examples are ones I so closely relate to but I will transition, believe me.

Another thing that even I didn’t really examine in the prior series is that there really isn’t a direct correlation between pages in a book and a screenplay. One can make it, and I have, for a mathematical argument but truly the literal conversion of book to film can have so many more variables. A good example would be Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust. I stuck with it and finished it and liked, despite it being the most challenging read of my life. Such is the stream of consciousness and transition from reality to memory to fancy to dream that it makes it a very involving and exhaustive experience. Were you to take certain pages out of the book and transcribe them to screenplay form you could have so many changes of time and location that one novel page could be three to four screenplay pages. Again, if you’re a completist and being literal. A good film of the book would have some of those montages implied in the writing but not all of them.

Certain writing styles do imply montage as Eisenstein talks most about in the book of his I’m in the midst of and what can be done in a paragraph of prose may take a page or more in a screenplay depending on how you decide to exploit it cinematically. This is just further food for thought when thinking about taking something that’s purely text and turning it into visuals.

With regards to the example of Hugo above it’s amazing that we both reached virtually the same conclusion about the film having inverted reading schedules. I took The Invention of Hugo Cabret out of the library and devoured it because it was a quick read, liking the story much better than the presentation thereof and then though I knew Scorsese and Logan made certain changes I felt they enhanced the film and made it the best of 2011.

Sam Niell in Jurassic Park (Universal Pictures)

With regards to the Jurassic Park films, I actually tried to read the book and I failed to complete it despite needing to write a book report on it. That did not diminish my desire to see it or affect my view of it. I absolutely adored every second of it. Being a budding cinephile and a kid who at more than one point wanted to be a paleontologist it was, and will remain, one of the most exhilarating movie-watching experiences of my life. It’s magical. On the other hand, I didn’t try and read The Lost World, I disliked it a lot. How much? This much. I was pleased to learn in my Spielberg class that part of the reasoning behind his doing The Lost World was that Universal had been begging him for a sequel since 1982 and he would not hear of it being E.T.

Michael Gambon and Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros.)

As for the Harry Potter films: I love them and I love the books. My love for both is separate but equal, to re-appropriate an old phrase. I always read them before I saw them but with the few production delays they had the gap between reading and viewing grew as the films moved on. My favorite is The Half-Blood Prince, it’s the apex of the story cinematically and in the books I feel so much of what was built in the series lead to that point. The Prisoner of Azkaban is great but like many of the films they stumble at the goal line, metaphorically speaking but that one just loses the ball entirely with the very last image and piece of voice over. Only part of the issue with the first two films is Columbus. The other part is that the books steadily grew in size through the course of the series. Slavishness to the novel was easy, and maybe a requisite to establish the franchise at the beginning. As the books grew slavishness became more difficult to accomplish, nearly impossible, thus the films truly came into their own as a separate but equal enterprise.

So having said all that in the interest of piggybacking and elaborating on points I previously made; What about seeing the movie first and then reading? I am very intrigued by the idea but I do not have much practice with it. I have a few candidates in mind to try it with but let’s see what case studies I have (Yes, we are quite literally discovering it together, hence why I wanted to write this post).

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (Warner Bros.)

The Shining

I decided to pick up a Stephen King book because I saw The Shining. I was just into High School and it was the first time I enjoyed being scared. I was averse to horror before then. I learned from King and went on to read many that he read. However, the film and the book are very different beasts. I had no problem with having a cast in my head, King even acknowledges that in a foreword or afterword of one of his books, but like I said it was different. I didn’t dislike it. I don’t disagree with King’s comments about Kubrick either, yet I still enjoy Kubrick’s riff on the story more than the book or the mini-series. Do I skew to the movie for having seen it first? Yes. However, then there’s The Hunger Games. I tried to read it as a library book. Hardly started. I then saw the movie still knowing next to nothing and would likely enjoy the book more.

Pet Sematary

Miko Hughes holding a copy of Pet Sematary

Here’s one where if you make me pick which one I like I’ll kick, scream and refuse. I love them both so, so much.

Storm of the Century

Colm Feore in Storm of the Century (ABC)

Ha, I’m such a cheater because this is a screenplay but regardless I may be in a minority but I really enjoyed it in both incarnations.

Hellraiser/The Hellbound Heart

Doug Bradley in Hellraiser (New World Pictures)

Clive Barker brings such imagination and originality to everything he does it’s hard to be disappointed but it is a somewhat different interpretation of the vision than the one he put on screen I find. Similarly, he’s working on a comics series of Hellraiser now, which is incredibly good.

The Exorcist

Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller in The Exorcist (Warner Bros.)

With all apologies due William Peter Blatty the movie rips the book to shreds quality-wise. However, the reading experience was just fine.

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption/The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption (Columbia Pictures)

It wasn’t a tainted reading experience in any way and it’s evidence of why Frank Darabont is Stephen King’s best adapter.

The Body/Stand by Me

Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman in Stand by Me (Columbia Pictures)

In a similar way to Stephen King’s reaction to Darabont’s The Mist he also loved this one because of a crucial change Rob Reiner made for the better. Reading it was fine, watching it more lively. In this case it might’ve tainted it in my mind from having seen it so much.

Apt Pupil

This story as written is outstanding. Yes, the cast remained the same but the story delves into the psychology of the situation in ways the film scarcely attempts. You should read it.

The Langoliers

The Langoliers (ABC)

Augmented by having seen it first in part because I love the mini-series up until the very end. It’s like King says, the story just falls into place so smoothly and that translates on to the page and the mini-series is great until one of the worst third act blunders, and effects shots ever.

Misery

Kathy Bates and James Caan in Misery (Columbia Pictures)

How can having Kathy Bates in your head not make it better?

Cycle of the Werewolf/Silver Bullet

The Cycle of the Werewolf (Signet/Berni Wrightson)

It’s a totally different beast entirely. It’s a short little book with Berni Wrightson working his magic illustrating it, giving you new images to focus on.

Creepshow

Creepshow (Berni Wrightson/Signet)

Quite frankly with the premise of Creepshow being tales in the style of old EC Comics how can it not be a good comic book, seriously?

Burning Secret

Burning Secret (Vestron Pictures)

I’m surprised I had forgotten this one. This tale is quite literally the perfect example of this list. I saw this film by chance on Netflix. I was rather intrigued by it and was curious to read the book. The book was rather short and a quick read. The adaptation is great because it develops cinematic subtext without using any of the inner-monologue inherent in the prose. What this does is create an air of mystery and a questioning of motives, at least to an extent, which never happens in the book. The strength of the book is that you get explicit detail about the thought processes of each character. In short, you get slightly different but very well-realized renditions of the tale. In each version the medium is exploited brilliantly.

These are likely the only examples I can be completely certain of. Having thought on them: Yes, the argument does have merit. It can be better and more enjoyable to watch and then read. This might mean that The Hunger Games and A Song of Fire and Ice are in my future.