I’m cheating here a little, since this was originally aired on… I think ABC as a week-long miniseries. But, I feel like it fits the definitions of a movie rather than a television show, so deal with it. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only Stephen King novel that I’ve ever enjoyed, even at like 1400 pages. I also think this was one of a number of really good adaptations of his work for television. For those of you who enjoy this, there are some rumors floating around the ‘net that this is going to be made into a feature film… but I can’t figure out how.
It takes a lot of time to convey this message. The film (fortunately) removed a lot of the detail work that Mr. King left in his novel: I one time counted the pages devoted to the aftermath involving characters that weren’t involved in the actual development of story. Don’t judge. You try being stuck in coach on a flight between New York and Johannesburg, 27 straight hours with one very brief stop in the Cape Verde Islands. As I recall, there were over 100. All that’s been streamlined out, but even then, the first three hours are set up, with the primary characters meeting and rebuilding in the wake of the super-flu holocaust.
This has a lot of actors who were famous in the 90s (which sort of dates the production), but there was one pretty amazing stand out. For me, that was Rob Lowe. The man’s had a rocky career, but he plays a deaf mute without losing a translation on the performance. I don’t want to say you could follow every thought running through his mind, but the impact of his role was very close to that. I think he only has two spoken lines (said in dream) in the entire movie and you never, ever lose track of his character. It’s not just because Nick is a major player, because even in a group, you’re always aware of what he’s silently doing. This may have been the best role of his career, and it was for a TV miniseries. I know it got him the job when they did a miniseries for Salem’s Lot.
Whenever I watch this movie (or read the book) I wonder how accurate a portrayal of human behavior this was. In my life time, I’ve seen looting in response to natural disasters, which is seen here. But I’ve never seen a rampage like we see in New York… well, I guess it is New York, so anything’s possible. I also have wondered about whether, and to what extent, our government is involved in biological warfare research… and whether something like this is even possible. Not the whole Randall Flagg, hand of God thing, but the spread of a disease like this. It’s not that often I run across a movie that makes me think, so I give them props for that.
I had a few problems with the course of the film, most of them being inconsistencies with what might be explained as reasonable human behavior. It’s the middle of a plague which is killing 99% of mankind, and yet the highways are cram packed with people who all died at approximately the same, some of whom seemed to go so fast they were involved in other, regular tasks when they fell. Maybe it’s because I’ve never lived through a plague, but I would think most people would have died in their sick beds, not in the driveways of wedding chapels, or fleeing cities.
All in all, I think this a great (if long) film. I’m looking forward to the theater release if and when it happens. If you haven’t seen this, check it out, but watch it in segments… or on a day (like today) where you’re feeling under the weather and not likely to be doing anything productive.