TV Review: The Stand (Part Four: The Stand)

Posted: April 26, 2010 in Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Part One: The Plague
Part Two: The Dreams
Part Three: The Betrayal

Final Round!

The Stand (1994 ABC Dir. Mick Garris)

Wait, we’ve gone how long without blood or monsters? Well, here’s both, with some cleavage for bonus.

Everyone back? All ready to watch the exciting conclusion? Okay. We pick up with Harold and Nadine riding their motorcycles through what we are assured is Utah, but I have no idea if it is or not. It probably is, they shot a lot of the movie in and around Salt Lake City. Not two minutes out of the gate and a stunt man has to fly off a motorcycle and crash into the ground so we’ll think Harold crashed his bike and fell off a cliff. We don’t salute stunt men enough. They do a tough job, for not a lot of pay, and sometimes get seriously hurt or even killed just so you can sit at home and see exciting things on the television. Go hug a stunt person, will you? Anyway, Harold crashes his bike and Stu suddenly finds he has a psychic connection to Harold. He feels Harold’s crash through the force, and then levitates some rocks before getting back on the road to face Lord Vader again.

Wendy! I can fly! I just hope I can keep it up.

Judge Ferris wanders through a town and gets himself shot to pieces by Sam Raimi himself. Yup, the director of Spider-Man 3 and The Quick and the Dead is in this movie as well. And he shoots Judge Farris in the head, spilling the sand which fills it. So, Lloyd and company grab Dayna Jurgens who’s been sleeping with him and send her to Flagg. The one thing we learn in this scene is that Flagg can’t see who the third spy is, all he sees in the moon, which tips Dayna and the rest of us off to who the third spy is. That is, if we’d forgotten about Tom you understand. To avoid being interrogated any futher and risk giving up Tom’s name, Dayna kills herself on a jagged piece of glass. Of course, that comes to nothing because Julie Lawry recognizes Tom from before and runs off to report, making the whole thing kind of pointless.

Nobody talks about The Quick and The Dead like that while I’m around!

We are then treated to something that’ll really annoy anyone with a blue rinse. Right after a commercial for Depends, we come back to find Harold, still bloody and pained. He grabs a notebook and scrawls out a note, then pulled a revolver from his bag and in an unprecedented scene of TV violence, shoots himself in the head on camera. Blood, brains and bone fragment smack into the camera right in the lens. Just kidding. Actually all we see is him drawing out the gun and then we cut to Stu who suddenly tilts his head and complains he can taste gun oil. He then comments that he heard a thousand voices cry out in terror, and then nothing.

How many times do you get to just have a shot like this? Rarely, but I decided to do it this time. I R rebel.

So then we see that Trashcan Man has another hallucination about kids teasing him, the voices keep tormenting him. It could be a funny scene, but again Frewer saves it. What hurts it is the kid in his hallucination is clearly supposed to be from the 50’s, but he’s got modern braces on his teeth. It’s the little things I notice, and the little things that throw me. It could have been any kid, why one with braces? Why would Trashcan Man remember his tormenter with braces? As a result of the teasing he snaps and blows up the hanger and everyone in it. He rides away screaming his apologies and demands he couldn’t help it. It’s probably one of the best scenes Frewer has as Trash, and one of the better performances in his career.

If you push hard enough, you’ll get a fart joke out of this cap.

Sadly, things don’t turn out quite so well for Nadine, who realizes at the last moment that Flagg isn’t what she wants at all. While it’s not explicit, and they cut far enough away that you can’t really see anything, it’s clear that Flagg rapes her. This breaks Nadine and sends her to a place she never comes back from. Lloyd is pretty disturbed by all of this when he sees it. It’s pretty clear to him that things are going wrong and they go even more wrong when Lloyd finally gets around to telling Flagg about Julie spotting Tom. Randy throws a tantrum, and then comes back all smiles and happy faces like nothing happened. After Lloyd leaves, so does Nadine. The difference being that Lloyd took the door and Nadine hops off the ledge of the building. This ends the abuse of Nadine at the hands of everyone she’s ever met. After this, we learn that lots of people are leaving Nevada, trying to escape Flagg. Then we get a scene were yet another great director, John Landis this time, has a little cameo. Mostly the scene is another example of people being displeased with Flagg, and a reminder that Tom is on his way back to Boulder.

Are you a hooker or not? It isn’t going to suck itself, you know.

We now rejoin the good guys, walking through the wilderness. While climbing down into a dry river bed and up the other side, Stu takes a tumble and breaks his leg. This magically transfers the “person who talks sense and thus must be ignored” vibe from Fran over to Larry. Larry demands they need to take Stu out of the river bed, take him to someplace to hold up, but he’s voted down right away. One assumes that Larry will now have to wear a skirt for the rest of the movie. They leave him anyway, because God says so, which gives me another mark against God. At least Kojak the dog stays with Stu and takes care of him. I guess God didn’t decide Flagg needs a golden retriever to stand against him. Or, possibly, considering what’s about to happen to everyone else in about half an hour, even Stephen King couldn’t nuke a dog. Oh, yeah, spoiler, Vegas gets nuked in the end. However, if you haven’t worked out how The Stand ends after 14 years of it being a movie and thirty-two years of it being a book, then I have no sympathy for you. If you don’t want to be spoiled for ancient reading material, don’t read reviews on the internet. Oh, and it turns out Mordred kills Arthur in Book XXI of Le Morte d’Arthur, just so I can spoil a 500 year old classic for you.


So anyway, the three remaining walkers get to Vegas. As soon as they arrive, they get taken into custody and thrown in jail. Soon as they get to jail, Glen goads Flagg into getting Lloyd to shoot him. Stu manages to climb to the top of the dry riverbed, where Deus Ex Machina Brigade* member, Tom Cullen is there waiting for him. The two of them sit on the broken remains of the highway, waiting for whatever it is that’s supposed to happen. In fact, the brigade is having a busy night tonight, as fellow member Trashcan Man is about to parachute in… but I’m getting a head of myself.
*Brigade Motto: It happens because we say it happens.

Heeheehee, fire!

See, the Vegas group takes Larry and Ralph to the center of town and string them up on some sort of horseshoe or something. The heroes dealt with, Flagg and Lloyd come out like Mick and Keith to the cheers of the crowd. There are some quick speeches, a few catcalls, someone tries to talk sanity, and then suddenly the greatest hero the Deus Ex Machina Brigade ever had arrives. As Trashcan Man rolls in on an ATV with an nuclear warhead on a trailer. He gets there just in the nick of time, almost dead from radiation sickness, and announces that he has brought the A-Bomb with him. And then things stop going right for anyone in this movie. The uh… the hand God detonates the bomb. Yeah, The ultimate member of the Deus Ex Machina Brigade shows up in the form of a badly CGI’d hand and blows up the bomb, killing everyone. I can’t begin to tell you how lame it is, how much it doesn’t work. Fortunately, the city and the hand are quickly destroyed and the moment is forgotten.

Yeah, Hand of God.

Stu and Tom see the destruction of Vegas from a long way off, but Tom has trouble taking care of Stu who is dying of flu. However, now that they’ve started parachuting in, the Deus Ex Machina Brigade comes in full force. Tom has a dream where Nick tells him how to help Stu get better. Then the elves show up and give our heroes weapons, the alien space bats turn tail, and the blue fairy comes down and turns Tom into a real boy. Okay, only some of that happens, you pick which two are really in there. The last bit of the story has Stephen King’s character welcoming Stu and Tom home. This despite the fact that he plays Teddy Weizak, who is killed in the book when Harold does the big firework at the meeting. The last bit of danger I the story is that Fran’s baby was born early and has the flu. It doesn’t come off very well as a piece of drama because almost as soon as we hear that the baby had flu, we hear that the danger has passed. It’s supposed to let you know that things aren’t going to be “All Right Now®” but this works better in the book. The movie ends on too much of a made for TV moment where we are shown a montage of all the characters we remember from the show who’ve died. Of course, the movie also uses the floating head of Mother Abagail (age 106, still bakes her own bread) talking to the baby. The last shot of the movie is the baby, which gives you that feeling that actually, it will be “All Right Now®” and we’ll all have a Merry Christmas after all. It’s not that I spit on happy endings per say, but the book had such a powerful pessimism and understanding of humanity and this sort of sticks a dagger in that. It defangs the whole thing and makes it feel a little false at the end.

Look, my folks don’t know. Just say we were traveling companions.

The end doesn’t quite work as well as it could, but I still like The Stand as a whole. There are some scenes that are better than others and the last night isn’t nearly as strong as the first two nights. Still, it’s a good movie, and you will have a good time if you decide to watch it. The only things that must be remembered is that it’s still a made for TV movie and it contains a lot of the restrictions of a network TV production. It has some things that are problems, but there are also advantages as well. In the end, the only way it could be made was as a TV miniseries. It might be able to be remade, but I think it would have to be on cable somewhere because the only reason to remake it would be to make it more explicit. I’m not even sure that extra explicitness would be a good thing, because that would make nudity and gore the star of the show. Besides, it would have to be heavily re-written to acknowledge the power of Twitter and Facebook, at least in the first night. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I started this review, and 1994 was just about the last time the book could be turned into a movie as it stood. There were too many cell phones and too much e-mail after that. Now we’ve got social media sites, the first night couldn’t work the way it did in ’78 when King first wrote this. No, for now, this is one of the better examples of the miniseries and maybe we should just keep it as it is.

The End.

Official Score For This Episode:
13 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.
Official Score For the whole Movie:
26 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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