Perhaps it’s simply appropriate that the latest big budget effort to depict the end of the world is, well, more than a little dull? After all, we’ve had a pretty apocalyptic year and that’s been marked, the odd storming of the Capitol aside, by widespread malaise as we all (well, those of us who could) sheltered in place, took a run at making bread, and got our heads around Zoom. Not with a bang, but with a whimper, as the poet once said.
But no: numb disengagement is rarely a design goal in filmmaking, so we have to assume that the showrunners of The Stand, Benjamin Cavell and Josh Boone (whose much-delayed but pretty decent The New Mutants took a critical drubbing last year) kind of dropped the ball on this one. We can’t blame the source material; Stephen King’s 1978 brick of book (revised and expanded in 1990) is a mystical epic about the final battle between good and evil in a post-pandemic America.
It’s one of his most popular and acclaimed works and has already spawned a pretty decent, albeit somewhat dated, adaptation in the from of Mick Garris’ 1994 TV miniseries. You’d think, given we’re in the ‘golden age’ of prestige TV and standards now allow something like Hannibal on network television, that King’s gruesome fancies would be given free rein. Plus you’d think that given we ourselves are in the grip of a global pandemic, that a new riff on The Stand would be a slam dunk.
And you’d be wrong.