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Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Shining — DVD Review

After reading The Shining, I couldn’t resist the urge to take another look at the film version of Stephen King’s novel. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to watch a film after having read the book it’s based on and judge the film on its own merits. Inevitably, watching the film becomes about seeing how the producers got across what’s in the book and comparing the two. In this case, King’s novel gets the nod over Stanley Kubrick’s so-called masterpiece.

Obviously, the basic story line is the same. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a job as the off-season caretaker of the Overlook hotel, and slowly succumbs to “cabin fever.” His wife (Wendy, played by Shelley Duvall), along with their young son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who foresaw disaster at the Overlook, are left to try to avoid his murderous rage.

While expecting Kubrick to get all of the novel’s background into the film would be silly, nailing down Danny’s ability to “shine” needed to be a priority. After all, it gave the book and film its title. Instead, the film leaves doubt as to whether Danny truly has premonitions or just an over active imagination. It was never even made clear that Danny had the ability to know what others were thinking, which would’ve taken next to nothing in the early scenes with the Overlook’s head chef, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers). In fact, I’m not convinced that if the film is viewed without having read the book that it’s ever clear Danny truly shines.

Another major problem was the lack of depth to Jack. The book offers a complex character, struggling to hold on to what was once a promising career, while trying to be the good husband and father he wished his father had been. He slowly slips into the grips of insanity. The movie simply offers a rather cold character from the outset who becomes more and more enraged. By the time there’s an effort made to show that he truly loved his son, he’s clearly “the bad guy” of the film.

It’s tough to discuss a movie’s ending without giving too much away, but Kubrick’s end did very little for me. Hedges that seemed to come alive in the book transformed into a maze that Danny fled to as his father chased him with an ax. Suffice it to say I just didn’t buy the ultimate outcome.

Let’s face it, if you’ve read the book you’re going to watch The Shining. With the background of the book, Kubrick’s version is just entertaining. For those who haven’t read King’s novel, I’m guessing it’s still something to watch for fun while looking for something better.

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