I. The Set-Up
Stephen King is a household name. I don’t care if you read the guy or not, you know roundabout who he is and what he does. Since publishing his first novel, Carrie in 1974, Stevie King has attained literary heights few authors ever have. Especially horror authors. Why? Who knows? Call it magic, call it luck, talent, grace, a blessing…there are literally thousands of writers who are just as good (if not better), and they languish away in purgatory…relatively speaking.
Whatever it is, King is huge. In a career spanning forty years, he’s released over fifty novels, made millions, and entertained countless readers across the world. In fact, one word describes Stephen King, and one word alone: Beloved.
One of King’s most celebrated works is The Stand, published in 1978. Unfolding over the course of roughly six months, The Stand follows the survivors of a manmade plague as they trek across a vast and empty America in search of safety and society. Eventually, two groups emerge: One in Boulder, Colorado, led by a 108-year-old black woman (Mother Abagail), a prophet of God, and one in Las Vegas, Nevada, headed by the sinister Antichrist-like Randal Flagg. Flagg’s main goal is the destruction of the Boulderites, while the crew in Boulder wants only to rebuild. In the end, the rements of humanity must make the ultimate stand (ahhh, I see what you did there, Steve…).
When The Stand was first published, it was a dizzying 815 pages. Despite its length, it found its way into the hearts and minds of the reading public, becoming King’s signature work.
As early as the mid-1980s, efforts were made to bring The Stand to the screen; at one point, Night of the Living Dead director George Romero was attached to direct. Meanwhile, in 1990, King released a “complete and uncut” version of The Stand, which reinserted several hundred pages he was forced to cut back in the seventies.
To make a long story short, The Stand was finally filmed as an ABC TV miniseries, which aired over four nights in May 1994 and featured an all-star cast. It received high ratings and praise.
End of story, right?
II. The Rant
They’re remaking The Stand.
Okay, it’s not really a remake, it’s a re-adaptation. Warner Bros. has commissioned an entirely new version of The Stand, which, since it will be following the novel rather than the miniseries, is not a remake. When there’s source material involved (such as a book), the word remake doesn’t apply (except in the case of 1998’s Psycho, but that’s a story for another day).
I’m thrilled. I love The Stand. I do. It’s my favorite novel ever, hands down. The new The Stand promises to be awesome, mainly because it’s to be adapted into four full-length feature films, kind of like The Lord of the Rings. To be honest, there really isn’t any other way to do it, in my opinion. The Stand is an epic novel, truly epic, and, to film it right, you have to allow the story time to unfold. A single three hour film (which was what Warner originally wanted) would, frankly, not only not do the story justice, it would turn it into a joke. It would be terrible.
One thing bothers me, though, and it really has nothing to do with the film at all. See, I’ve read extensively about The Stand readapt, and one thing I’ve noticed is that everyone, and I mean everyone, is orgasming over its proposed “R” rating. “Oh, yeah,” they said, rubbing their nipples through their shirts, “now they can really tell the story right!”
Everyone seems to agree that the miniseries was cheesy and poorly executed. Me? I loved it. It was about as faithful an adaptation as one could ever hope to see. Of course, there were things they left out (in some cases entire characters), but, hey, that’s the norm when Hollywood does a movie based on a book. The main complaint I see is that The Stand was somehow restricted by ABC’s standards and practices department. No excessive blood, no nudity, no hard profanity.
I didn’t see that as a problem.
The Stand is, at its heart, about good and evil, humanity and God. It’s not a gorefest. In fact, there are a lot of scenes in the novels where people sit around and talk, about government, faith, philosophy. There are a lot of scenes of people struggling to adapt to a world gone dead. There’s sex, there’s language, there’s violence, but those don’t affect the story, the meat and potatoes of the novel. Thinking back, I don’t recall a single “R” rated scene that couldn’t be filmed without being rated “R” onscreen. Not one.
The miniseries did just fine adapting The Stand without excessive blood and sex. I mean, as long as the major themes and the major scenes are faithful, why bitch?
To those in the know: Do you really wanna see Harold sticking it up Nadine’s ass? Do you wanna see…I dunno…the Judge’s face blasted to shit, blood, brain, and skull fragments all over? Is it really that important that we lose not one single “fuck” in translation? Come on. You know as well as I do that The Stand isn’t about blood, guts, and ass. It’s this kind of mindset, the “Oh, boy, rated R!” that leads filmmakers to focus on fake gore and breasts rather than story. I, for one, would rather a cheesy ‘90s miniseries that tells me a story than a 2015 or ’16 feature film so enamored with its freedom that it pauses every five minutes to mangle someone in full Technicolor.
I’m a big boy. I can handle guts and titties. But don’t you dare let that shit take precedence. If this turns into a clone of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, I’m out. Take that shit to the teenagers. I’ll just reread the novel.
The book’s always better anyway.