Friday, March 26, 2010

The Mist: I'd Sacrifice the Kid Too.

Warning! This will contain a lot of spoilers. Almost all spoilers actually. So stay away if you do not wish to have things spoiled.

Last night before my highly anticipated nap, I finished Stephen King's The Mist. Typically I try to distant the time between viewing the movie and reading the book within a few months to avoid any unnecessary critique on tiny or big things left out of the film adaption. Lately my take on adaptions has changed which I'll talk more about a bit later- so I guess at this point it doesn't really matter. However while reading The Mist, I was so excited about the movie, of which I had heard great things about, that I timed it's Netflix arrival with my finishing of the story. I was so eager to see the horrible things in the book presented in film form and even more excited to see how this "changed" ending played out. Yes the ending was spoiled for me at some point but no, I did not wish to seek it out this time. Anyways, this is less of a review and more of a what's good, what's not. And I promise that I'm really trying to distance my liking or not liking away from the original story. If anything the story just helped me understand the themes played out in the movie and caused me to question certain choices made by the director.

One of the main things that I struggled with, was how the two different sides of the spectrum were handled-- science and religion. I didn't love the fact that we were force fed an explanation for the mist, but the concept also shoves to us the fact that the reasoning behind the mist is very science oriented. Even though we are given this fact and in extraneous detail, we are still shown things that make us question the validity of the Arrowhead Project causing the events. This wouldn't bother me if the reasoning was meant to be ambiguous but I really feel that it was not.

It felt like we were being told the real cause, shown Marcia Gay Harden's Mrs. Carmody and then told that crazy religious people are well, crazy and to be feared. YET- we get these strange instances of religion almost proving that it does have a hand in the events. That giant bug landing on Mrs. Carmody for example, that flies away after her rapid praying, whereas that other bug kills the cashier girl who only moments before was having sex in the storage room (before she was married? Gasp!). What are we suppose to take away from that? Is it just another sucker punch to the gut? Well, what about the realization that the woman from the beginning who put herself above the rest to go home and save her children- whom no one would "see home", was still alive and with her kids on the army bus being driven to safety? What about that choir of heavenly angels/ Lord of the Rings music at the end? It all seemed very confusing to me. Confusing in the sense that the movie felt like it was unsure of how we were suppose to react to it and that bothered me- it really did. It makes me wonder if we are suppose to think that perhaps Mrs. Carmody was in some stupid way right about everything. Bleck. Religion!

I've done a lot of combing of the inter webs to find out about the few major changes that were made and why Darabont chose to make them- and his answers really threw me for a serious loop. It's in many ways exactly like the movie not knowing if it's science based or religion based. I guess I'll just have to go ahead and talk about the ending because all of this stuff fits into that. The first major thing is this idea that one of Darabont's main drives was to make this movie extremely different from the influx of "torture porn" movies that were coming out at the time. If that is true then why completely change the ending to make it one of the bleakest, most hopeless endings of all time? Doesn't the ending basically fall under the same principles that torture porn movies do, and the idea of Nihilism? It just doesn't add up to me. And I'm sure he mostly means different in the sense that it's a step back to the days of good old classic monster movies- but another thing that Darabont said is also questionable in this respect.

He compared the townspeople in the store rallying together to survive, to the people who underwent Hurricane Katrina- where people rallied together to create hope. But as I said, the ending is a complete absence of hope! In King's original story, Drayton and those in the car make it to the Howard Johnson and he is able to hear one single word on the radio. He says it sounded like two very similar words. One was Hartford. The other was hope. It's like Darabont read that was and was like oh yeah hope- and then suddenly needed to change things up for the sake of stirring up controversy or making the movie different.

I'm all for a downbeat ending but in this case it just felt plain unnecessary. I would have been a little bit better if they had all just died in the car- but the fact that the rescue comes at such a bad time is too much of a sucker punch to withstand. Sure there is hope in the sense that things are under control and the world or just Maine I suppose, will be back to normal again--but why completely and utterly destroy our main character's well being so brutally? Drayton- who did nothing questionable, is torn apart with one simple view of an army tank. Why? If people dislike movies like Hostel and Saw that offer us feelings of emptiness and no true sense of redemption by the time the credits roll- why do we ignore the fact that this ending is almost worse- especially when it's suppose to be an entirely different kind of movie?

OK now that that's out of the way, I only had a few other things I wasn't crazy about. The acting. It felt strange at times. People keep referring to it as great but it felt oddly forced to me. Writing was fine, Thomas Jane and Marcia Gay Harden were great-especially Jane at the end there. But a lot of times it just felt completely unnatural to me. Like the actor's were reading all of their lines with a strange sense of unsureness. And sorry to say this but the kid sucked. There are good child actor's out there but sadly this kid is just not one of them. Another thing that bothered me was the music. Did anyone else hear that strange comedic like music that would play sometimes when the bugs were attacking? What was that all about? Preachy music at the end? Didn't love it. Once again made me feel like this WAS all about religion.

And a big one that I think a lot of people may have missed was Drayton's wife. She felt very pushed to the side. We don't even get a nice goodbye scene with her and husband and son. She seemed too young and boring though maybe that was why. But in any case she should be a major focus point and motivation for Drayton to leave the supermarket and maybe she is at the end but when we see her dead body- we feel no true emotion. It becomes almost impossible to feel that connection to her because that connection was never really made.

Alright enough negativity. I realize it sounds like I may have not liked this movie at all but on the contrary, I quite enjoyed it. One thing that I surprisingly loved were the creatures. I was only bothered by the CGI one time- the giant tentacle in the storage room. And other than the fact that the spiders had some goofy ass faces, I was a fan of the creatures. I especially enjoyed how we don't get to see them up close and personal- the big ones anyways. That last shot of the huge one on the road was especially memorable- Jurassic Park like even. They have this great other worldly quality about them yet still kind of seemed tampered with in a mutated sense. It was quite an interesting combination.

This is a good movie- not a great movie, but it's good and it's different. I can understand why people really enjoyed it, and I can understand why other's did not favor it at all. Other than the ending, almost every single thing that was in the story appears in the novella. Even little things which I loved. Lately I've come to terms with the idea that books, like remakes- aren't always meant to be an exact retelling. Rather they provide a nice story board- or foundation. So I'm not going to write off a movie for changing huge things, but in the case of the ending again I just felt it strangely unnecessary-especially with that wanting to move away from torture porn thing. The ending however WAS extremely emotional. I may have almost had a panic attack because I put myself in the car with them. I did. and I almost cried too. It was so unbelievably heavy. Maybe if there was a bullet left for Drayton I wouldn't have minded it as much. But really. The government showing up thing really just killed it for me. Other than that the scenes were exactly what I had pictured in my head, and how can you not absolutely love Ollie with that gun!? The gore was horrifying and grotesque- the pharmacy scene especially, which, was also the scene that stuck out the most to me in King's story so I'm ecstatic that I felt the same when seeing the movie.

All in all, a solid adaption- but more importantly a solid movie. Sure I have my problems with it but don't the best works get the most criticism? Maybe someone just told me that in a creative writing workshop to make me feel better. But regardless- a solid time with some truly, truly memorable moments. Plenty will agree and plenty will disagree but I stand by my critiques, and by my fondness for it as well.


deadlydolls said...

Great discussion of the film. Before I forget, if you have the two-disc version, it's totally worth it to watch the black-and-white version. The look is so striking and takes the film into this sort of timeless, but '50s doomsday horror that I really dug.

I can agree with a lot of your points. Having never read the novella, I just wasn't as bothered by the ending as some. It's effective, it's a punch, but as you bring up, it makes the film weirdly pro=Christian wackiness. My favorite line is the biker dude--who at one point was going to be played by King himself--who says about God "I believe in him too. I just don't think he's the asshole you make him out to be." It's a great line and statement about religion but unfortunately, the god of this film proves to be the biggest asshole ever.

And I too need to start disciplining myself to NOT watch a movie three days after finishing its literary source. It killed Blindness for me, which may indeed be a decent film.

Thomas Pluck said...

I came away with the same dislike for the unfocused preachiness and the bleak ending. It wasn't ambiguous, it felt unsure of what to believe in, and left us aimless. And the ending was a joke. He should have jumped under the tank, how could he live after what he did?

Andre said...

I read Blindness for my book club in the summer- and stayed far away from the movie but mostly because I just couldn't see how anyone could tackle those themes in a movie. Good book though. Well interesting maybe is a better word.

Good call on that line from the biker. I mostly just really loved when the old lady (I'm blanknig on her characters name but know she is indeed Bunny MacDougal from Sex and the City) beans Mrs Carmody on the head with the peas! Brilliant.

Thanks Tommy, I knew I couldn't have been the only one! And I agree I wanted some suicide action.Also funny was the way that the army guys looked at him in confusion. "Dude why is this guy freaking out so bad?" Oh maybe cuz he's standing next to a car in which everyone is shot in the head AND also he just went through a terrifying ordeal with giant bugs. Plus his life is basically over and a sham. Just a guess though.

Rabid Fox said...

Great review and take on the film adaptation. I like d1408 when it was released earlier that year, but when I saw The Mist I thought it was one of the better King adaptations to come along in years. Just a great monster movie for me. And I never griped about the ending, though a couple friends ripped it to shreds for that. Go figure.

Franco Macabro said...

I dont think the ending was unnecessary or confusing, because in reality, the films whole point is that religion and politics serve as a way to confuse people. Nobody really understands whats really going on, because its all a big mess.

So people come to their own conclusion on things and well, they can either be completely wrong, or completely right.

Ultimately, the films message is nobody knows the reality of things. The preacher lady swears everything has a spiritual meaning, that the creatures are demons or angels...and that god is punishing humanity, but it is shown clearly in the movie that this is not the case. It all has to do with science and mans experimentation with dimensional portals.

But the film has that ambiguity to it. Even the non believers can be wrong. Non believers tend to look at things just a little bit bleaker then other people because they do not have the psychological safety net that religion offers, so Im guessing this is why the non believers of the film end up killing themselves.

The bleakness of the world forces them to see things this way. They think nothing is going to get better, the world is messed up, lets end it quickly.

But what I really liked about the movie was that the main character ends up seeing....that no matter how bleak things might look at some point, we shouldnt see suicide as an option. Because a solution might be just around the corner. I mean, those soldiers looked like they were taking care of the creatures pretty swiftly.

So in essence, the movie says: religion sucks, its all an illusion, but dont loose hope, the world looks dark, but there just might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Things could change and get better, just be patient.

Andre said...

Thanks Film Connoisseur, great points! I did think those things about the film a bit but ultimately for me, the idea did not come off that way. The problem for me was that it didn't feel intentional? There's obviously no right or wrong here but yeah I'm giving my honest feeling on that one. I just think there has to be a better way to get that idea or theme across and it didn't work for me.

But you're very right and bring up a really interesting point about the suicide thing. It tantilizes my thinking cells! Thanks!

Franco Macabro said...

Its a really bleak movie, I agree, but hey, life can get pretty bleak and dark and depressing some times..

A part of the film that perfectly describes this "confusion" angle is the part where nobody wants to believe that these guys saw a tentacle in the basement. The neighbor is like "your crazy" and others are like "no we saw a freaking tentacle" and some other guy thinks they are lying...basically, everybody believes what they want to believe because they are not united. Nobody trusts nobody...

And ultimately, all the confusion about whats really going on in this crazy world is causing all the hatred, all the deaths, all the killings.

Thats what the film is commenting on, so naturally, the film is gonna be dark in nature!

Franco Macabro said...

This was my favorite horror movie of that year, thats why Im commenting so much on it cause when it first came out, I was raving about it. I still think its a great horror film. If only more horror films had great directors and writers behind them...

Andre Dumas said...

Hey no worries, who doesn't love lots of comments? Don't forget, I enjoyed the film too so no need to apologize : ) And again, I blame most of my argument on the fact that I finished the novella last night.. heh

Maxwell Horse said...

I know it's silly to post a comment years after this review was first posted, but I just wanted to clarify a point that might be lost on non King superfans.

The part when Marcia Gay Harden seemingly was spared by the big bug when she started "praying" I don't think in any way was meant as an endorsement that her brand of Christianity was "right." She wasn't just doing some generic praying, but rather used the specific phrase, "My life for you."

This is a phrase that King has used more than once in his books. (I think it's first spoken by the "trashcan man" in The Stand.) The repeat of this phrase is just one of the many "self references" King likes to use to give the impression that all the stories he's written take place in the same universe with a consistent mythology. But more germane to my point here, "My life for you" is always spoken by the lesser bad guys who are subservient to more powerful evil forces.

So by having Harden say that line, I think Darabont was doing two things--neither of which was an endorsement of her character. (1) He wanted to throw the King superfans a wink. (2) It implied that Mrs. Carmady was in fact allied with evil rather than good.

One difference of opinion with the review: I'm not sure I get the comparison with torture porn movies. I mean, I don't think a movie like Saw or Hostel are called torture porn because of "bleak endings." I think their moniker is pretty simple--they flat out show torture and graphic violence that the audience is supposed to get off on. (Any nihilism, in my opinion, is merely tangential, as lots of movies can be nihilistic without going "full monty" on sadism. Miracle Mile for instance.) Conversely, Mist's bleak ending was only implied, the action taking place off screen.