Thursday, December 15, 2011
photo: Cover of Bag of Bones, from its Wikipedia page
Some quick thoughts after having seen Stephen King's Bag of Bones (or, Stephen King's Bag of Bones) on A&E last night, while I'm presently reading it (and had read it when it first came out):
--First, let's start off by saying that the movie was really bad, okay? Especially as compared to the book, which, in some spots, is among his best. I just finished the part now where he had the fever and the triple dream of being with Jo, Mattie and Sara Tidwell at the same time. The feelings, the descriptions, the skeletons and corpses described, especially those in NYC with his agent...good, perhaps great, stuff, that nothing in the movie matched. I know that books are better than movies for just this reason--because of the details, the images you can produce on paper that you can't produce on film (especially on a commercial channel like A&E)--but the huge difference in quality and image go beyond the normal book to movie difference here.
--Pierce Brosnan looked just plain creepy when he smiled, didn't he? Didn't his smile look more like a carnival clown's grimace? He didn't do it for me in this role.
--The movie didn't, or couldn't, go into the vagaries of small-town life or the internal thoughts and fears of Mike Noonan--both things that make up 90% of the book.
--When I first finished the book, I remember thinking, "That's Stephen King doing Peter Straub." High praise.
--Stephen King's internal dialogue is perhaps the best in the business. His vocal dialogue is, of course, excellent as well. The movie took large helpings of dialogue straight from the book. I'm talking verbatim. Stanley Kubrick famously did the same with The Shining.
--Despite the violence and gore (excessive by my prudish standards for a commercial channel like A&E), the movie was not scary at all. The book is. The movie did do a good job, though, of the gory creepy. (I'm still seeing the ugly woman's jaw-dropping dying silent scream after getting stabbed in the neck.) But a pruny and green and grimy dead thing looks like a pruny and green and grimy dead thing, and there's only so many times you can see that before it's not scary anymore. Stanley Kubrick didn't understand this for The Shining, either; nor did the makers of The Shining miniseries.
--The ending of the movie, I'll say again, was effective, but way too violent for A&E. He even told the little girl to look away before he stabbed the woman in the neck with the thin scissors, before the gouts of dark blood sputtered out. But the little girl had not looked away, as the viewer wouldn't, either.
--The beginning of the movie--not in the book--has Mike at a book signing. A fan comes up and says "I'm your number one fan." Before I could say, "Annie Wilkes," or "Misery," to someone I was watching it with, Mike's wife leans over and says "Have fun with Annie Wilkes." This overt nod to Stephen King didn't work for me, and, loathe as I am to say it, newer (and younger) Stephen King fans won't know who Annie Wilkes is.
--The pickup truck blowing-up scene was an almost-hilarious sendup of every car-hits-something, however slowly, and blows up scene ever made for a parody. When your film is an unintentional parody, that is not a good thing.
--I have to assume that if a Stephen King film isn't released in the theatres, then it isn't going to be good. If the producers thought it would be great, they would've released it theatrically, where the big bucks are. And who doesn't think of big bucks when they think of Stephen King?
--Some of the movie's dialogue (not taken from the book) and scenes were simply not realistic. Some of them laughably so. For example, the man in the senior facility at the end hadn't told a soul his dirty little secret for over 50 years, but it takes just 50 seconds for Mike to get it out of him. The book does not contain one scene, or one piece of dialogue, like that. Not one. Garris just doesn't understand the genre. The scene in the book, where Mike stands on the stairs in the dark, and communicates with one or more ghosts as they knock on the boards below his feet (once for yes, two for no), was eerily effective and could've easily been done in the film.
--The book, simply enough, was in the hands of a master. And the movie wasn't. Surprising, I think, as Mick Garris co-wrote, produced and directed it. Hasn't he done good things before? I've heard the name. Be right back...
--Of course! He directed The Sleepwalkers; The Stand; and the aforementioned Shining miniseries. He wrote *batteries not included, which was very good, but the aforementioned tv fare, which was not. And his The Fly II was simply awful, but a guilty pleasure if you like gory flicks. He directed Psycho IV, which I actually liked. I haven't seen Hocus Pocus, but it's very popular and well-received.
--Whoever sang the songs Sara Tidwell sang did a very good job. The song repeated throughout was well-done, jazzy, memorable and creepy, all at the same time. The woman who played Sara Tidwell did a great job in an odd role. (If she also sang the music, I doubly applaud her.) Melissa George did a very good job, too, in a brief and thankless role.
--I hate it when the name-selling appears as part of the title, like Stephen King's Bag of Bones, as the movie is actually called. I assure you, that mess was more Mick Garris' Bag of Bones. John Carpenter does this for his movies, too. Woody Allen doesn't. Hate that. The piece either stands on its own merit, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, don't make it. If it does, you don't need the name to sell it.
--Someone mentioned earlier that the writer must okay all material made from his written works. He can't, and he doesn't. Once you sell the copyrights, you're all done with it. The moviemakers could include you in on things, but they don't have to, no matter how big a deal you are. I think it's telling that Stephen King didn't make a cameo appearance in this film, as is his trademark. Then again, he didn't in Shawshank Redemption, or The Shining, either, so never mind.
--That cabin in the woods was more like a mansion in the woods.
--Read the book and save your DVR space for something else, like American Pickers.