Stu Redman -
Frannie Goldsmith -
Nick Andros -
Mother Abigail Freemantle -
Randall Flagg -
Nadine Cross -
Laura San Giacomo
Larry Underwood -
Harold Lauder -
Lloyd Henreid -
Trashcan Man -
OTHER STEPHEN KING SHOWS
Salem's Lot '79
Salem's Lot '04
Nightmares and Dreamscapes
OTHER HORROR SHOWS
An alarm sounds at a military installation. Before the gates can lock down, one man escapes with his wife and daughter. Hours later all three are dead and the world is facing the threat of a sickness nicknamed Captain Tripps. It's nasty and it's almost 1005 fatal. Almost.
Stu Redman, an ordinary man, survives. The military are desperate to find out what keeps him alive when everyone else is dying. The outbreak can't be contained and soon it's clear that the whole human race might be under threat. Then the dreams start, the dreams of a man with dark in his mind and a woman who lives by a cornfield and wants Stu to come to her.
This is the way that the world ends, not with a bang, but with a runny nose. That's flippant, of course, with the very real threat of such disease outbreaks with us all the time now, but this first episode of THE STAND fails to bring home the true horror of what such an outbreak would be like. That's partly down to the fact that there's a limit to what you can show on TV and a bleedout disease isn't anywhere near being inside that limit.
Another problem is the fact that this is an introduction to a plot into which many of the characters have yet to feature in any big way. Stu Redman is the central character to date and Gary Sinise is as dependable as ever, but the other characters that we get are sketched in. Rob Lowe's Nick Andros is deaf, but in every other way a saint. Larry Underwood is a man on the brink of pop superstardom, but a sleaze nonetheless and Frannie's just a kid with problems. We don't really get to know any of them enough to care at this point, but the standard of the dialogue that they're given and the performances to date don't suggest that matters are going to improve when we do.
It's interesting to note that the best performance here comes from Ed Harris despite his extremely limited screen time. His unravelling military commander haunted by the images of the dead researchers displayed on his TV monitors and his subsequent inability to contain the sickness is an object lesson in how to make more of a part than is ever there.
The dream sequences are another problem. They might have been aiming for 'surreal', but what they get is 'extremely unconvincing soundstage'. This undermines what little believability that there was in the first place.
THE STAND is one of Stephen King's largest books (in terms of sheer volume size anyway) and the story feels like it's only just getting going, but there isn't that much incentive to come back and find out where it's going to.Top
The clans are gathering. The dark man, Randall Flagg, is gathering together his foot soldiers of evil including a mass killer and a lunatic pyromaniac. Mother Abigail's group are making their own way to her homestead and then on to Boulder, the place where they will make their stand against the darkness.
In this episode, we meet a few new people, some of those we already know get together on the road to meet Mother Abigail and that's it. The scriptwriter Stephen King has been too faithful to the book author Stephen King, leaving in virtually every incident from the book where some more objective pruning would have done the world of good. The crazy woman that Nick meets with his new best friend could have been excised without losing anything to the plot and the scenes with Abigail talking to herself about the task that God has set for her would also not have been missed.
The cast is also swelling and it's hard to tell who is a principal and who are merely secondary as everyone seems to be getting an equal amount of screen time. Nothing new is learned about the characters that we have met, but Laura San Giacomo's brittle Nadine, caught in the grip of the dark man, is the stand out of this episode. Matt Frewer's Trashcan man is so over the top insane that you really can't believe in a single one of his twitches.
That said, there are moments that are well handled, well one moment anyway. The trip through a tunnel filled with the rotting corpses of a dead city is truly the stuff of nightmares and it is handled well enough to leave a lasting memory.
Sadly, not much else will.Top
In Boulder, the forces of light are trying to sort things out, get the lights working, bury the bodies. In Las Vegas, the forces of Flagg are crucifying people. Harold Lauder, smarting over losing Frannie to Stu takes up with Nadine Cross and plans to take his revenge. Meanwhile, Mother Abagail has some plans.
Author Stephen King takes a small role in this episode. He writes better than he acts, though you wouldn't know it from the plotting of this episode. Seemingly the whole episode is the good guys having barbecues and talking about what they have to do next. Politics is often dull and this is no exception. What is vital and fascinating detail on the printed page is tedious and unnecessary on screen.
The only real movement comes from Harold and Nadine coming together and planning the act of betrayal towards the end of the episode. Even that, however, fails to ultimately convince because Harold's fall from grace is poorly handled. What, he loses the girl he never really had so he decides to blow everyone up? In the book, the change was more gradual and more believable, but here it is rushed, despite there being time for so many other things that neither move things forward nor entertain.
It takes a good deal longer to read the book than watch the mini-series, but with this episode it really doesn't feel like it.Top
The four men that Mother Abagail sent to walk to Las Vegas and face up to Flagg and his hordes with no weapons, no food and no plan cross America. Harold and Nadine are also heading west, but Harold is destined not to get there and Nadine will wish she hadn't. The spies that the Boulder Free Zone sent in to get information aren't doing too well either and the Trashcan man blows up Flagg's bombers, but decides to get him a nuclear weapon instead.
For all the lack of action in
It's impossible to understand the mind of God, but it's almost as impossible to understand the mind of Stephen King. Why did everyone go to Boulder if God's plan was simply to send the four men to Las Vegas? Why does he need them there anyway? It can't be so that the forces of darkness can see their fortitude in the face of death, to witness their stand because none of them are going to be left alive. It can't be for the men to witness the power of God taking his wrath to the evil ones either because they aren't around to speak of it either. The big finale is full of symbolism, but very muddy for all that. Too many whys are left dangling.
Another question is what the hell is John Landis doing in this? Stephen King's performance doesn't exactly light up events, but at least he's got an excuse. Landis is just a distraction.
Then there's a long, long postscript as Stu fights to get back to Frannie once it's all over bar the shouting. This is so languid and drawn out that it turns a disappointing climax into an anticlimax. All along, THE STAND has been a less than satisfying adaptation of King's novel. There have been moments where it has lifted itself, but mainly it has failed to impress.Top
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