Re-watching The Stand: 16 years after

When we were kids, we used to vacation with our cousins and one of our bonding routines involved watching several movies on VHS. Yes, this was the time when video rentals was still a booming business and during the summer of 1996, we watched two great movies that up until this day I still remember — Kevin Bacon’s Murder in the First and Stephen King’s The Stand.

A week ago, as my friend and I were discussing Stephen King books turned into movies, I happened to mention The Stand, and how I was trying to find a video for the four part miniseries. As it turned out, my friend had them on video and shared it with me so that I may revisit Mother Abagail, Randall Flagg, the Trashcan Man, Tom Cullen (the original Cullen before the Twilight craze) and Nick Andros once more.

I should say that watching the film anew, I had mixed feelings. Of course, its safe to say that the special effects that went into the movie is inferior compared to the CGI of today but that’s already a given.

Firstly, I felt that Molly Ringwald should not have gotten the part of Frannie Goldsmith because she was not able to detach herself from the persona of many petulant teens she portrayed in the 80s. Instead of being a mature independent woman, she seemed clingy and undecisive for the most part, and too dependent on Stu for her own good, not quite leader material.

As a film interpretation to one of the most epic novels of good vs evil, I felt that the miniseries was able to translate most of the book elements on screen. I loved the casting for Nick Andos (Rob Lowe), the deaf mute leader of the Free Zone, and his best bud, Tom Cullen, a retarded but kind hearted farm boy that Nick picked up while on his way to Nebraska. I was glad to find out that Bill Fagerbakke, the actor who played Tom, is now the voice of Spongebob Squarepants’ buddy Patrick Starr.

I also liked the casting for Glenn and Larry. Glen is a lovable old coot, while Larry was one of the most evolved characters of the series from being an aimless pretty boy coasting on his one hit record to a standup guy who refuses to kowtow to the whims of the devil. On the other hand, I thought the actor who played Ralph was more of a secondary lead type of guy and didn’t quite communicate the strength of a Free Zone leader, even until the end. I think the Stu Redman (Gary Sinise) in the book was a stronger character, unfortunately, but that might have been because of the on-screen Frannie influence.

I thought that the miniseries could have minimized the monologues in the beginning and sped things up a bit. As an hour and a half per episode was a bit too long, it could have benefitted from some extra editing. The western type scoring didn’t help much to uplift the mood either.

Much of the grittiness of the literature was downplayed for television purposes but it still got the message across.  That, and the fact that Stephen King was featured in a bit role as one of the townsfolk, was quite awesome.

All in all, The Stand still stands as a great miniseries. I’m just not as awed now as when I first saw it. But we mostly feel the same way about movies that we saw decades ago. So its no biggie. Really.

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