A good Stephen King adaptation is something of a myth. The only person who has been able to do it, multiple times, successfully, is Frank Darabont, twice. The novella is already decent, but putting it on screen is a daunting task. Being faithful to the source material while giving it a personal touch can screw up the whole formula of a good adaptation, (*cough* Assassin’s Creed *cough*) but thankfully Frank delivers an emotionally frightening movie with a conclusion to discuss.
Spoiler alert: Game of Thrones Season 3 and mild spoilers for the movie.
The Coming of The Mist
The Mist follows a group of people stuck in a supermarket as a mist takes over the town, and probably the world. At the center of this is David Drayton. As the people are stuck in the market, the movie becomes a drama. The first-person narration of the novella limited our view of the surroundings to a single character; but the whole cast is brilliantly utilized in the movie, which drives the emotional tone of the plot. The conversations are so humane it will lead you to believe that everything will be all right, for a single moment; we as the audience know the reality, but hope never dies.
Frank Darabont changed the original ending; from mystical to outright shocking. People have a varied opinion on the ending: some like it, and others hate it. The most accurate comparison I could do is to the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones (The movie isn’t a massacre).
The Red Wedding didn’t just kill Robb Stark, but it butchered the main plot of season 3 – Starks vs. Lannisters. The Mist has a little similarity. Everything that has happened before the ending seems useless, but that’s the point— you don’t know what’s coming. The characters have a single goal— get out of this situation, which occupies our attention. We root for them without realizing the bigger picture. Our wish is to see them out of this turmoil, and when it ends, it’s a shock to see everything take a 360-degree turn. It’s the emotional journey of the characters which led them here at this precise point, breaking our hearts.
The novella’s ending was left for speculation; it’s vague and leaves a huge room to fill in, and you can start a conversation where everyone forms their own version of the events that might happen; the movie’s ending is more direct, you can easily imagine the future, there’s only one (even King loves it). The significance of both the conclusions is different which can cause conflict if you gravitate towards either one because you wouldn’t like the other ending as much.
Characters and Acting
Even if you watch the movie without reading the novella, you’ll have the same reaction to these characters. David’s neighbor, Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), has the similar % of douche bagginess (Maximum impact of 100%) in both versions. The characters aren’t built from scratch, and there are tiny details to guide you along. Before the storm, we see David drawing a painting surrounded by his other works. In a single shot, we establish that David is a painter (with a subtle nod to King’s other works) and the movie plays out. The characters aren’t thrust forward; their discovery requires attention to the surrounding, their actions, and conversational tone; that’s great filmmaking.
The emotional tone suffers due to mediocre acting, mainly from the lead actor, Thomas Jane. He fails to convey a proper amount of emotional intensity for his character. He cares about his kid, (what kind of parent doesn’t?) but how much? He’s always leaving him with almost strangers as he goes on errands. The novella put us inside David’s mind, and we had a first-hand experience of his emotions, the actor Thomas fails to bring them out. His breakthrough comes just at the end, and he nails the final scene.
Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) is the highlight. Her presence is unnerving, and her intentions are terrifying, she carries the movie with an enthusiasm which was required of her. She steals every single scene; her dialog is on point, her tone just the right one. If it hadn’t been for Marcia ‘s terrific acting, it wouldn’t be as good.
The Rock on the Road
It’s surprising that both, the novella and the movie, have the same problem – picture perfect characters. I didn’t enjoy David Drayton being left unhurt, not even a scratch. And the movie has the same problem. The characters it kills die in a brutal way, but the ones it wishes to stay look more beautiful than I do on my best days. How is that even possible? If there’s some medicine to maintain your beauty in a time of crisis, I would like to know it. Even their dresses are intact. David changes his shirt once (and I appreciate the gesture).
Something to Look for:
Creature design. Oh man. The creatures are ugly when you see them your natural instinct would be to burn them or bash their deformed bodies. From flies to spiders to whatever it was by the end; the animations are great and as close to the ones described in the novella.
Direction. Frank Darabont (also the developer of The Walking Dead first season) is marvelous; you must know that from his other works. The stand-out work here is the action sequences. It’s hard to keep track of everything happening, and seeing how he’s mostly a drama director; he constructs brilliant shots. Everything is clear, even when the shots are quick, you’re always aware of the situation, and the tension never leaves the scene.
Worth Sitting Through?
The Mist is a faithful adaptation without being cheezy. The acting could have been better and emotions more intense, but what we have is a good horror movie. The moment to moment drama may bore some people, but the ending is somehow worth it. So yes, you can sit on your ass for 2 hours and 6 minutes without getting up. Maybe Frank Darabont is the only person (alive) who can make a good Stephen King adaptation (I am well aware of The Shining, thank you very much).
You know, I find it hard to believe that they were able to turn it into a TV show; there just doesn’t seem to be enough content for TV and the pilot of The Mist (2017) was mediocre at best and the subsequent episodes haven’t been good. Well, Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best.