Directed By: Mick Garris
Written By: Stephen King
I had never seen this movie before sitting down to review Stanley Kubrick’s version of the film. Stephen King was so disappointed with the famous rendition that he bashed the film for years before signing himself to silence for the opportunity to make his own version. In this incredibly long version of the story you can easily see why he disliked Kubrick’s version. However, while operating on a TV budget and with a much less skilled man behind camera this movie still manages to be exciting while staying very true to the source material.
Stephen King’s problem with Stanley Kubrick’s version was that Jack seemed kind of crazy the whole time and there was no build up to it. He also really disliked Shelley Duvall in the role of Wendy. With both of those things he made right with his own version. He made a six hour television special that could focus more on Jack’s alcoholism and his slow descent into madness. With Wendy he cast an actress, Rebecca De Mornay, that fit the part more truthfully to the source material. Shelley Duvall was the exact opposite of Wendy as she was written to be curvy and blonde. Kubrick wanted a more vulnerable and on edge Wendy, which is exactly what he got with Duvall but all King saw was a character robbed of all the strength he wrote her with.
Jack’s struggle with alcoholism was a big part of the book as King was writing it during his own trouble coming to grips with the problem. In this movie we see much more of it while Jack slowly gets influenced to madness by the hotel. King didn’t like Jack Nicholson’s performance because he seemed to have always been crazy. Stephen Weber brought a different personality to the role and you can actually believe in him as a loving and caring father. You never had that with Nicholson and that was a big part of the character. He was supposed to be an unlikely man to lose his mind and that is clearly conveyed with this movie.
I really like this version of the film but I really don’t like Courtland Mead in the role of Danny Torrence. It’s not his fault he’s just a kid but he was a poor substitute for Danny Lloyd. Mead just doesn’t convey the strength of character we saw from Lloyd in Kubrick’s version. I’m also a big fan of that finger thing he did, which was his own and absent from this rendition of the character. It may not have been something done in the book but it was quite creepy and brought something to the Kubrick version.
I have read The Shining and while it was never a book I was in love with I do appreciate a more truthful adaptation. It’s typically hailed as one of King’s greatest books and I have always disagreed. I’d take The Dark Tower, The Stand, Under the Dome, or 11/22/63 over it any day of the week. This book was too much about alcoholism if you ask me and I’ve always found it to be a bummer. I will vouch for the sequel to the book, Doctor Sleep. I actually liked that book a bit better than the first although it too was a bit too much about alcoholism.
This will never be the version of The Shining you turn to when you’re looking for scares during the Halloween season, but if you are a fan of Stephen King and his book you should definitely see this one. So, while I think this movie is pretty cool I am by no means recommending it for Halloween. It was a three night TV special back in 1997 so it runs about six hours long. It’s a very thorough version but it simply takes too long to watch.