Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekend Assignment: Everyone's a Critic

Karen dispenses the weekend assignments at Outpost Mavarin...

Weekend Assignment #215: Review a film. Any film. Got something interesting to say about Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery (1903)? I'd love to read it. Metropolis (1927)? Why not? A Night in Casablanca (1946)? Fine. The Seventh Seal (1957)? Er, okay! Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)? You'll get away with it. Speed Racer (2008)? Go for it. From Hollywood to Ballywood to Hong Kong, from Kubrick to Kurasawa, it's all on the W.A. marquee. But there's one catch: the film should not be on your personal list of favorites; nor should it be a film you despise.

I guess I'll take on the most recent movie I've seen...

Stephen King's The Mist

Director Frank Darabont has never heard the old adage "Quit while you're ahead." After almost flawless turns of adapting a Stephen King novella (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) and novel (The Green Mile) to the big screen, Darabont returns to King's material again, this time with mixed results.

The Mist (the novella) is vintage King with ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances, full of heart-stopping action and suspense. It's a far cry from the more peaceful, more thought-provoking material Darabont has worked with before, but Darabont handles it beautifully, keeping us on the edge of our seats throughout most of the movie.

A recurring theme in some of King's work is that we (the human race) aren't too far removed from the beasts and that once the lights go out and the phones don't work, we'll swiftly devolve back to our primitive state, especially when a heightened state of fear is involved. Stephen King's The Mist begins with the lights and the phones already off.

After a big storm, people start noticing a strange mist where it shouldn't be. Artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) goes to town with his son and his neighbor to pick up some supplies and gets caught at the local supermarket when the titular mist suddenly rolls in and engulfs the town. A townie comes running into the store, screaming about "something in the mist." Suddenly, almost everyone is content to remain in the store. Strange creatures appear from out of the mist and pick off the occasional hapless minor character. Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), the town crackpot who gets her worldview from the Bible and Weekly World News, begins preaching about the end of the world and very shortly has attracted a devoted following, the majority of the 30 or 40 people trapped in the store.

One of the major flaws of the movie is how quickly sane, sensible people begin gravitating to such an obvious fruitcake. Eventually Drayton and a small band of his followers must decide whether to stay or go, whether to face the monsters in the mist or stay there with the monsters their neighbors have become.

King, in his novella, comes to an inconclusive conclusion. You don't know how the story turns out, but the protagonists are out of the market and on the road trying to find where the mist ends. It's not conclusive, but it's a good ending for the havoc and mayhem that has come before. Darabont, not knowing when to quit, keeps going with the story. He shows us some amazing scenes and monsters, but doesn't stop until he ends up with one of the worst endings in horror movie history, possibly rivaling the 2001 remake of the Planet of the Apes for stupidest, most unsatisfying movie ending of all time.

Extra Credit: Is there a film due out this summer that you plan to go see? If so, what is it?

I really haven't followed movies much lately. I'm not sure what is due to come out. I guess I'm most eager to see if they screwed up the Iron Man trailer by adapting it into a full-length motion picture.


Mike said...

I was planning on renting The Mist just because of Frank Darabont was directing it. He has done a fine job on the other King works. Like you said, quit while you are ahead.

fdtate said...

I hope I haven't talked you out of renting it. It's a good horror movie. Just don't expect anything very deep and don't think too hard about what you're watching. I was very disappointed in the ending, but it was a fun ride getting there.

Karen Funk Blocher said...

Good review, even though it's definitely not my kind of movie. I love your Iron Man quip!

Kiva said...

I'm not a horror fan, but I'm going to pass your review on to my cousin who loves Stephen King.