Stephen King’s X-Men
Good god, but Doctor Sleep was awful! Reminding people of Kubrick’s The Shining was a bad idea, then doing an awful recreation of locations and characters was fatal. The Stephen King novel had cinematic possibilities, although it suffered from having to follow up The Shining. It probably would have worked as well, if not better, had it been about a wholly new character instead of Danny Torrance. But King chose to revisit his alcohol demons and follow Danny and his battle with the bottle as he 12 steps his way back from the brink and to find a useful purpose for his shine.
Now here is where things get tricky. The novel of Doctor Sleep is a sequel to the novel The Shining which as we all know is a different beast from Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film not the least of which is the Overlook Hotel gets blown up in the climax of the novel, yet survives in the film. Also the Grady girls, blood elevator, and hedge maze are all elements added by Kubrick. Director and screenwriter Mike Flanagan wants to have it both ways and attempts to tie his film to both the book and the movie. What you wind up with is a weird recreated recap of Kubrick’s film as a prologue. Not film clips mind you but recreations. It is awkward but mostly benign. They also bring back Dick Halloran as a ghost a la The Sixth Sense which efficiently covers up the discrepancy between book and movie. Again these scenes don’t work well, but are excusable, even if the replacement actors for Shelley Duval and Scatman Crothers are mostly cringe. The strategy really just keeps reminding the audience that they are watching a sequel that is in every way inferior to the original. There is even a thuddingly awful bit of fan service when Dan goes for a meeting/job interview with a doctor he met at an AA meeting, and the damned office is Stuart Ullman’s office where Jack Nicholson had his job interview and I suppose it is supposed to be a wow moment, but all it really does is pull you out of the movie. Like the director is elbowing you while asking do you get it?
The movie proper unfolds and is mostly middling and forgettable, until the third act. What was a story about a man coming to grips with his addiction and his past while also coming to grips with middle age and a wasted life, then suddenly remembers it is a major studio film and must cash in that intellectual property equity so the whole affair becomes a cross between an X-Men movie and a Shining-themed haunted house at Universal Studios. There is a cross country battle between the bad shining vampires and the dynamic duo of Dan Torrance and his plucky 12 year old super shining sidekick Abra complete with car crashes, shoot outs, and the baddie trying to tempt the more powerful girl to the dark side. It really becomes Stephen King’s X-Men, but like one of the really crappy X-Men movies. Like Dark Phoenix or Origin: Wolverine bad.
By the time they arrive at the Overlook Hotel you really don’t care anymore and when all your favorite scary bits from Kubrick’s movie make their cameos you just feel dirty, but when the movie recasts Jack fucking Nicholson with Henry Thomas (yes the kid from E.T.) as Jack Torrance in bartender’s uniform trying to force Danny to fall off the wagon be evil too it just crosses the line. Fan service is killing creativity in movies. Not only is Doctor Sleep crippled by it, it is made even more insulting that it is done so poorly. The recreations of the Overlook hotel and icons like the Grady girls and the putrid old woman in the bathtub (who makes like five separate appearances in this monstrosity) are done so poorly it just feels like cosplay and was sadly done better in the brain bleedingly inept Ready Player One.
When the credits mercifully rolled and I saw Akiva Goldsman’s name appear as an executive producer I realized that explained everything.
Follow me on Twitter @stroke_midnight and at letterboxd (freebento)