Wednesday, April 26, 2017

We Who WILL Watch: The Mist (2017)

Aaron: Well, the roll-out of exciting Stephen King news continues, with the release earlier this week of a full trailer for Spike's serialized adaptation of King's 1980 novella, The Mist, and it looks like there might be a bit to talk about in there.

For years The Mist topped the list of most wanted King adaptations, the one title that would pop up again and again when I had conversations with people about Stephen King movies. It seemed like such an obvious choice that it's a little bizarre to think that 27 years passed between the novella's publication date and the eventual Frank Darabont adaptation. Perhaps Hollywood just needed to get wise to what the rest of King's constant readers had known for years, that The Mist is a gut-punch of a story with a multitude of monsters fans would love to see on screen, and great potential for filmed interpretations. And now here we are, a mere decade later, with a new version of The Mist heading to our televisions.

Take a look at the full trailer below, then keep scrolling to read our initial thoughts...

Right off the bat, I can admit that my enthusiasm for this project is not nearly as high as some of the other upcoming projects. The idea of doing The Mist as a television series is actually a pretty great one, because the novella is open-ended enough to allow for not only continuation, but a wide variety of stories set within its world. The trailer seems to suggest a few major changes to the novella, most notably the idea that the mist seems to have a malevolent presence beyond just the monsters that hide in it. In fact, looking at the trailer more closely, are we sure there even will be monsters in it? Everything we see implies that the only monsters are human. There's a quick shot that at first looks like a monster bursting through a car's windshield, but look carefully and you'll see it's actually a moose someone crashes into while driving. I'm not opposed to anything I see in the trailer, but I also see nothing in it that really excites me in the way the It trailer did. I also have nothing by which to judge the behind-the-camera talent, as the show was developed by Christian Thorpe, who seems to have had a healthy career in Danish television, but whose work I have not heard of previously.

The show seems to have an interesting look, the cool grey-blue of the mist and the warmer yellow tones of what could either be flashbacks or merely just interior shots. The series seems to be changing a lot, and inventing a lot of new characters, which is a necessity when adapting such a short story into an ongoing series. I know some people are going to be upset by the changes, that's just the nature of these things. Myself, I'm a fan of diverging from the source material. If a movie or TV show is too faithful, I start to wonder what the point of it was, because I could always just read the book again if I wanted the exact same story. 

Rik: And yet, we often gripe if an adaptation adds too many new characters and ignores the original ones, or veers away too, too far from the source material, or (and this seems to be the worst offender for many people) doesn't include their very favorite scenes or dialogue in the final product (even if those "very favorite scenes or dialogue" were extraneous to the actual plot of the story or were throwaway lines meant to fill space). Damned if you do, damned if you don't. 

I agree with you that I don't mind veering from the original, but the approach has to feel organic to me, like it could have been included in the original product if the author had seen fit to turn that direction with the characters. Just creating new characters and locations for the sake of creating new characters and locations makes me wonder why they purchased the rights to such a property in the first place. Why not just create an entire new story (apart from the obvious marketing possibilities of using a name brand like Stephen King)?

I am going to say that I am as excited for the new series for The Mist as I am the new It adaptation or the upcoming Castle Rock series. That is, it is still too early to tell much of anything from a mere trailer that isn't roughly the length of the one for that stupid looking movie about the lonely teen boy who lives on Mars coming back to Earth to get busy with a girl (though in a completely wholesome way, of course). You know, the sort of trailer that lays out the entire story to you in strictly chronological fashion, with every beat of the script hit along the way. Here, with The Mist trailer, we don't get that, thankfully, as it is but a taste of what potentially lies within the show. As a result, I am going to withhold judgment on the characters that may be in the new series (honestly, I last read the novella over 25 years ago, and don't really remember anyone in it either, just the mist itself). 

I am also going to not comment on the look of things either, because scenes in trailers are often shown in altered or (more often) incomplete form from the finished product, whether due to effects shots or post-production not being completed, or cut scenes or scrapped footage being added to flesh out the trailer a bit, or filters being overlaid on the product as well. Trailers are often the very worst way to judge a finished film or series because of all these factors. 

The main question for any trailer is this: Did it pique my interest in the property, even a tad? Yes, a tad. I really enjoyed the Darabont version of the story (reminding you yet again that I had not read the story recently even then), and for all I didn't remember about the original work, it really didn't matter because the film was constantly engaging, frightening, and thrilling by turns. That is really what you want from such a film, whether it is adapted from a popular novella or not, and I got that result. Does it look like I will get it from The Mist series? Too soon to tell. I would rather get a couple of episodes into the series, and then maybe we should have a discussion about where we think it will take us from that point. 

Until then, It... Castle Rock... The Mist... even The Dark Tower adaptation... I am eagerly awaiting them all equally, but they will each have to do some heavy lifting to win me over ultimately.

Aaron: I think we're in general agreement about this: intrigued but withholding judgment until we actually get to see the show. I will reiterate that I'm less excited for this than I am the other upcoming projects. Castle Rock is exciting for its mystery and J.J. Abrams pedigree; the show at this point could be anything, and it comes from someone with a proven track record in this arena. It is exciting because, not to jump ahead too far, the source novel is one of my all-time favorites. The Dark Tower is interesting because it seemed like such an impossibility for so long that I'm curious to see how they'll tackle the sprawling series of novels (and, if you have read the books and have read any news about the movies, some really exciting and intriguing changes have already been teased). The Dark Tower series eventually ties in to almost everything Stephen King has written, and one of the aspects I'm wondering about is how they'll handle that. With the various novels of Stephen King licensed to various competing studios, will The Dark Tower films be allowed to cross over into the world of The Stand (which is pretty integral to the plot for awhile)? The Mist, on the other hand, just doesn't inspire the same curiosity. Perhaps it's Stephen King overload in 2017 (perish the thought!), perhaps it's the fact that some of the changes in the trailer (the implication that the mist itself is sentient) don't fill me with wonder, or perhaps it's just that the movie is so recent and was itself such a solid adaptation. 

But let's not kid ourselves here, I will no doubt be watching this once the series premieres on Spike on June 22nd. Or, to be honest, once it makes its way to Hulu or some other streaming service.

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