This is one of the few King books that I haven’t read, so as far as reviewing goes, I can’t really compare it to the source material. On the other hand, it may work out better as I will be able to judge the movie on its own merits alone.
The film opens at a funeral as a man receives a baseball glove. He recites some narration and broods. I kept thinking throughout this sequence that they were trying to recreate The Shawshank Redemption, with the voice over and the wistful music. It was trying to take the same elements and mix them, only it doesn’t work as well here.
We then flashback to when the man, named Bobby, was a boy. He’s played by Anton Yelchin, who you may recognize as the actor who played Chekov in the recent Star Trek reboot as well as Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation. Even at a young age, he turns in an impressive performance. It’s here where the movie gets its legs and actually becomes pretty decent.
Bobby’s a very likable character, he wants things like any other kid, but he clearly means well and you can tell that all and all he’s a good kid. He’s the backbone of this film and given how easy it is to empathize with him, it works quite well.
Ted Brautigan is played by Anthony Hopkins, who still has a great screen presence even when he is phoning it in, which I’m sad to say he was here to a degree. It’s still good, I mean, it’s Anthony Hopkins, but it’s not too different from any of the other roles he’s played. I did enjoy seeing him psych out the bully by reading his mind and threatening to expose his secret. It was a little Hannibal-esque, I thought so anyway. I know that role gets cited so frequently with him, but it’s true.
Bobby’s romance with Carol was a mixed bag. She didn’t have a whole lot of screen time, but what little she did have was well done. The kiss was odd, the first one was anyway. I mean, she didn’t do anything. Literally, she just stood there like nothing was happening. What’s even weirder is that later in the movie, Bobby’s mother leaves to go on a business trip and when discussing a babysitter, says that he can’t stay at Carol’s for “obvious reasons”…he’s eleven! For crying out loud, two days ago he was still afraid of cooties. I’m pretty sure you have nothing to worry about for at least a couple of years.
King fans will know that the original story was a tie-in to King’s Dark Tower series. There’s little to none of that present in the film. Ted’s still psychic, and is being pursued by “low men”, who he describes as men of low morals, but beyond that, nada. There was a nice nod to Four Past Midnight with Brautigan mentioning library cops though. The movie works on it’s own, but it would’ve been interesting to see how it would’ve panned out if they had kept the ties into the series. Truthfully, I don’t think it would’ve been that big of a problem. They instead chose to go more for a movie similar in tone to the aforementioned Shawshank Redemption or Green Mile. That’s fine, but a line or two, even if it is just a wink to the fans would’ve been nice. When Brautigan zones out, he could’ve thrown in some line about other worlds or how all things serve the beam. Fans would squee while people unfamiliar with the work would shrug it off as dementia.
Still, if you’re that adamant, you can pretend that the low men really are minions of the Crimson King. It’s implied that they’re government agents trying recruit psychics to fight the commies, but it’s never stated as a fact. They stick to the shadows and go mostly unseen so it wouldn’t be too difficult to fill in the gaps for yourself.
This movie’s good, but not great. It tries, I’ll give it that. It swung for the fences and really tries to be a King based cinematic masterpiece. It’s very character driven, the script is strong for the most part, and the acting is quite good. It is especially impressive given the weight put on the child actors. Again, I cite Yelchin as an example of the strong acting in this movie. He even won an award for it. This movie hits more than it misses, so while it never crosses that line into “great”, I do recommend checking it out.