We All Shine On

Since I made it so glaringly obvious last time that I dislike Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining, I thought I’d address it here. It’s a topic on which many people are torn and much has been written, but I feel it is time to add my voice to that of the masses.

I made it a point to read the book before watching the film. I usually do that anyway, to avoid predisposing myself to seeing characters a certain way or expecting certain things to happen. I like to read a book the way it was intended — that is, left up to the readers’ imaginations and presented the way the author envisioned it. I also feel that this leaves me able to view the film from the point of view of someone who has read the book. After all, that is the target demographic, and one would assume that the director, screenwriter, and possibly the primary actors are familiar with the source material. At any rate, I went into the movie knowing the book and the divisive opinions  on the film itself. I don’t know that even after all of this I was prepared for what I encountered.

The problem is that Stanley Kubrick, as most people know, was very much interested in sensationalism. Gratuitous sex and violence are very much his MO, and while there’s not really much opportunity for the former in The Shining, he does his best to get the latter in there. And, ok, the original does have violence, but, for instance, the scene where the elevator opens and unleashes a torrent of blood? Kubrick thought that would be cool. As a reader and fan of the book, I disagree. Compounding this issue is the fact that much of the subplot surrounding Jack Torrance’s break with reality is lost in translation, making him just seem crazy. Fitting, I suppose, since Jack Nicholson is batshit insane, but still a disappointment, as it was one of the best parts of the book.

However my biggest issue is that Kubrick completely changed the ending — to the point where it became unrecognizable. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he had planned to create a sequel movie, something horrid like “The Shining II: Johnny’s Back!” Because, let’s face it, the ending of the book made such a sequel impossible — which is why King’s official sequel is going to be about Danny Torrance after he has grown up, and not some contrived rehash of the original. In addition, the original ending was perfect; it tied together all the threads of the story and left things wrapped up nice and neat. The fact that King is writing a sequel is actually a bizarre and rare occurrence, as he generally leaves his books as single entities — the Dark Tower series notwithstanding.

Ultimately what it boils down to is this: as a reader, I was disappointed with the film adaptation, especially since it’s considered one of the greatest films of all time. Honestly I thought it was a little cheesy, melodramatic, and a desperate cry for attention by a man who wants everyone to look upon him with adulation and awe. Kubrick may have impressed a lot of people, but he didn’t impress me. He also didn’t impress King, who has said that he did not like Kubrick or the movie, and actually didn’t even want his name associated with the film. It’s no surprise that King made a far superior mini-series adaptation later on, which he wrote the screenplay for — and has a hilarious cameo in. It’s a lot longer than the original movie, but it’s worth every minute, since it’s about 10x better as well. If you want a screen adaptation of The Shining that’s actually any good, you should look at that one, rather than Kubrick’s waste of time.

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