The Stand review: Stephen King’s sprawling adaptation collapses under its own weight – tv

The position
Creators – Josh Boone, Benjamin Cavell
Cast – James Marsden, Amber Heard, Jovan Adepo, Alexander Skarsgard, Whoopi Goldberg, Greg Kinnear

It’s hard to gauge the quality of a show based on just four episodes – it’s like trying to understand a song after hearing only one verse or a book based on a couple of chapters. But only four episodes of The Stand have been provided for this review, and that’s what we’ll have to work with.

On most occasions, this isn’t even a problem. Often the studios, for one reason or another, hold back from providing entire seasons to the press. Sometimes, especially if it’s a weekly drop, it’s because subsequent episodes are still shooting or are in post-production. Other times, it’s because they know they have a clunker on their hands and that revealing the whole thing could paint a negative picture.

Watch the trailer for The Stand here

The Stand completed filming before the industry went bust earlier this year, so option A is probably out of the question. Which leaves me wondering if we’ll see a drop in quality as the nine-episode season unfolds. From where we are currently, it is difficult to predict how things will turn out.

And that’s because, despite four hours of running, the plot doesn’t seem to be progressing that much: it’s stuck, deliberately, in first gear. Of course, there’s a huge amount of groundwork to do before the story can really begin: dozens of characters to introduce and a rich mythology to explain. But creators Josh Boone and Ben Cavell take an unconventional approach to tackling Stephen King’s gigantic original novel.

I haven’t read it, but the show is said to restructure the narrative into a non-linear format, which is a shame, as it adds to that annoying feeling of being late for a movie. Instead of luring you with half-information and partial revelations, the show has a strangely alienating effect. It’s the opposite of what director Andy Muschietti did with the It movies, when he took the non-linear book and blunted it into a simple couple of movies.

Like It, The Stand may seem frighteningly real, especially considering its post-pandemic premise, but also mystifyingly fantastic. It’s a hard tonal tightrope to walk, and while director Josh Boone does a solid job in the first episode, subsequent chapters, which use the same model, give you the impression that you’re going in circles. For example, Amber Heard’s character is only first seen in episode three, and if I hadn’t checked out Wikipedia, I never would have known that Ezra Miller is also on the show – he’s nowhere to be seen in the show. first four episodes.

The Stand takes the Lost approach to navigate its sprawling universe: it names certain characters as the “heroes” of entire episodes, while the parallel storylines involving the rest of the crew unfold on the side.

Whoopi Goldberg in a still from The Stand.

So while you’re learning about the incel Harold Lauder and the one-sided love he has for his old babysitter Frannie Goldsmith, the show also takes you months into the future, where in a post-apocalyptic society of survivors, Harold found himself. a job disposing of corpses and Frannie awaits the birth of her baby, from another man. Meanwhile, Whoopi Goldberg does his best to avoid stereotypes in his portrayal of the magical Mother Abagail – the woman who summons the pandemic survivors in Boulder, Colorado – and Alexander Skarsgard appears as the diabolical Randall Flagg, who is putting together the his apostles. What a curiosity for another Skarsgard brother to be the best thing about a King adaptation.

It should be an old-fashioned strand of good versus evil and humanity’s propensity for self-destruction and survival. But – and there is a big but – The Stand can never live up to the very high expectations you might have from such a high pedigree show. One of the main reasons for this is that he insists on being very serious about his (certainly) biblical story. Consider the scene in which Academy Award winner JK Simmons appears in a cameo and plays WB Yeats while opera music plays in the background. This happens without a hint of irony.

Read also: It movie review: one of the best horror movies of the year. You will be haunted for days

Acolyte kings might rightfully be shocked by the changes Boone and Cavell introduced, and casual viewers might find themselves wondering what it is all about. There is reason to keep watching, though. The show will end with a coda, designed by King himself, who imagines what happened to the characters after the book ended. The booth will air weekly in India on Voot Select.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar