*** Official "DREAMCATCHER" Review Thread

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Alex Spindler, Mar 22, 2003.

  1. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

    Jan 23, 2000
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    I believe that this may go down as being the one movie that made the most "mistakes made in a Stephen King adaptation". This is not to say that it is the worst Stephen King movie (which I think is The Mangler), but rather the one that has collected and committed the most mistakes ever. I will note that I have yet to read the book, so I may have errors in my assumptions.

    As a movie, this is a total failure. The combination of supernatural and science fiction elements is about as poorly integrated as any other film I can think of. This isn't helped by the fact that they place so much of it nakedly on the screen. The adults' "abilities" are provided some foundation, but their explanation doesn't make sense within the foundation of the story. Without going into spoilers, they are given their abilities both to pose the greatest threat to the planet as well as to save it.

    The science fiction elements are poor as well. The aliens were initially interesting to some degree, but when it became clear their method of infection, I couldn't see how the Blue Boy group managed to keep them from overrunning the planet in a couple of hours. They are just too good, and the method of "containment" is laughable.

    From an acting standpoint, I could see the actors trying their best, but they're really hampered by the words they're asked to speak. Sizemore isn't given much at all to work with, but Morgan Freeman probably fares the best. Of the other actors, Damien Lewis (of Band of Brothers) has the most difficult job, and does well with what he is forced to do. The rest has some similar indignities, but not to the same degree.

    I think the main problem is the slavish dedication to the original text. This feels like a Stephen King TV-movie adaptation in every form, to the point where I was placing the commercial breaks mentally. There is little attempt at making it cinematic in terms of pacing, dialog, or plot. Instead, they throw the typical King dialog that works well in his style of novel but has no place coming out of an actor's mouth. The only actor who comes through with his dialog successfully (IMO of course) was Kathy Bates in Misery, which was largely because her character was so disconnected with society. But hearing words like "fuckaree" and "You crossed the Curtis line" from an actor is cringe worthy, even when they add some weight and character in the novels.

    From a story standpoint, this could stand some incredible paring down. They take the exact same "kitchen sink" approach to adaptation as a TV-miniseries would do. This led to interludes like staring down the bullies because of the threat that one of the guys would "run away" or taking "Duddits" from his mother. The principal meat of the story is the dual friendship bond and the alien/conspiracy elements, but far too much time is thrown at back story, "memory warehouses", and bizarre machinations of the Blue Boy group and the military.

    Now, that said, I did find some intriguing elements in the story. They remained committed to the "memory warehouse" concept, and I really began to enjoy it. Although it didn't help the story one bit, it was interesting to see. Additionally, the early moments of the film had some memorable items such as the stampede of animals and the confrontation in the bathroom, which had some very nice suspense and reactions from Lewis and Jason Lee (aside from the asinine toothpick stuff).

    Special effects wise, this is TV-movie in every way, with shoddy CGI and very unconvincing aliens. I get the impression that they can shape shift because of some dialog, but this isn't really covered at all.

    Put together, this film is pretty well guilty of using all of Kings dialog, externalize a lot of the character's thoughts, keeping what feels like tons of unimportant and counterproductive story elements, maintaining every bit of back story even when it doesn't help the story. It lays the aliens out for the world to see, ruining any payoff at the end.

    All in all, a real disaster of a film. All of which is the greater shame because of the talent that is on screen.
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Dreamcatcher". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.

  3. Joshua_Y

    Joshua_Y Screenwriter

    Dec 19, 2002
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    I saw it yesterday and really really enjoyed it...everything felt like King...the acting was excellent...as was the FX and make-up...excellent story!

  4. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

    Feb 8, 2001
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    Dreamcatcher - [​IMG]½

    My initial reaction was that I liked it quite a lot. It's excellent dumb entertainment, and quite enjoyable in that respect. For the life of me though, I can't think of the last King book I read that was mere dumb entertainment. As I reflected more and more on the film, other than its nice entertainment value, it is utterly empty and bland. It seriously lacks--or gives us tantalizing hints of--the compelling humanity I tend to find in King's stories; be they fantastic or not.

    I love the first half, up until the point that we actually see the Shit Weasal. The scene just after the first helicopters sweep by, up until we see the shit weasal was an incredible bit of suspenseful filmmaking laced with dread. But the film then moves from creepy thriller to cheap monster movie (and includes elements of conspiracy theory and military drama). The result is an extremely strong opening, but a film that gets bogged down in too much--it never finds its focus again.

    I blame this entirely on William Goldman, the screenwriter. He committed one of the worst offenses against modern literature when he translated Low Men in Yellow Coats to equate My Girl for the big screen because his changes made the story more 'filmic'. Talking to a companion (a King fan) afterwards who hated Dreamcatcher (especially since it was entertaining, but lacked anything else; problems the book did not have), I mentioned my theory that all the problems of the Hearts in Atlantis movie were that Goldman took a dark, incredible, delicate, wrenching, and unique coming-of-age story and sucked every compelling aspect from the story leaving us with effectively My girl. She immediately replied that this is the exact same problem with Dreamcatcher (only they left us with Tremors sans any fun).

    The more I think about the film, the more problems I have with it. From the ending (which deviates from the book RE Duddits) which I found terribly WRONG for the story and from a storytelling perspective, to the subplots that interfered with the circle of friends--the heart of the film. Like Hearts in Atlantis there is one hell of a lot of potential for a GREAT movie here, but it's all lost in the mediocre (or less than mediocre) adaptation. Take, for instance, how perfectly executed the interaction of Jonesie and Mr Gray is, and the way Jonesie watches himself. This was absolutely pitch perfect; a great composite of direction and editing that resulted in what is probably the best dynamic in the film. Or the opening scenes of the film--all four friends display their paranormal abilities--these scenes were an incredibly effective hook, and are what kept me believing in the film for so long. The interaction at the cabin between the friends, the memory warehouse and the flashbacks are all best parts of the film.

    So where does it fall apart? The subplots: the military, conspiracy theories, save the innocent, save the world, and non-sensical prescience. Had the military been kept on the very periphary, as an operator just as mysterious as any possible alien presence, how much better would the film had been in terms of suspense? If we had been kept in the dark as to what was going on, instead of clearly establishing everything upfront it would have made a better film. It would have been less faithful to the King book to not show the shit weasals, but I think it would have been more close to the spirit of the book. Likewise the focus should have been more on the four friends, their story, and Dudditts' story. Make it so they're not trying to save the world, but save each other, Henry should be trying to save his friend from Mr. Gray as well as his own life first; in an situation, that's all I would expect anyone to think of. Films like Signs show they are more emotionally resonate when they're about real people just trying to survive rather than real people who suddenly have to save the world. The film also strongly suggested that something happened to Duddits in the past, having Duddits still be alive and around seemed to violate an implicit contract between the audience and the story; instead of being a compelling figure, Dudditts was nothing more than an estremely cheap Deux-ex-Machina.

    I could go on, but the more I think and write about the film, the more frustrated I get; and I haven't even read the book!

    This film was three stars when I exited the theater, but I revised my opinion to 2.5 stars as my companions and I began discussing the film's weaknesses; later after posting here, thinking more about this film and discussing it with my girlfriend, I knocked it down to two stars; now this morning after typing this and focusing quite a lot on the film, it's revised down again to 1.5 stars, a rating which will stand. It's definitely entertaining (and only so for those who haven't read or enjoyed the book), but empty of anything else.

  5. Darcy Hunter

    Darcy Hunter Stunt Coordinator

    May 11, 1999
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    Very disappointed. That's all I felt as I left the theater. I had high hopes when I first heard they were going to make this almost a year ago, and considering all the talent involved, I had no reason to worry. If this movie was an out-right failure I probably wouldn't feel compelled to write this, but it had so much going for it despite the goofy story, and yet it failed on so many levels.

    I agree with Adam, in that the best parts of the story revolve around the four friends, and their shared past. This aspect of the story had me riveted, from the powers they all possess, to the flashbacks involving Duddits, and the interaction of the four main actors. I wanted to see the story play out through their eyes, and it does... right up until the shit-weasel makes it's first appearance, then the movie just veers off into so many directions that i was just left numb and board.

    I've read many of King's books, and what usually is missing from film versions of his horror writing are the strong character interactions; the way that these characters can lead us and ground us in reality, no matter how outrageous or horrifying the situations they find themselves in. Dreamcatcher does offer a few glimpses of this during the early scenes: things like the Scooby Doo references, Jonesy's "memory warehouse", and the scene during their first night at the cabin. Once the military angle is thrown in, it all goes to hell. Which is too bad, because the movie looks good and has some good moments (the bathroom scene), but it gets bogged down trying to tell all the stories from the book, and that ending (!!).

    I'm with Adam, in that I would've rather seen a film about these events from the four main characters perspective. Keep much of the other plot points in the background, or a mystery, and it could've been a fun, creepy film.
  6. Jason Whyte

    Jason Whyte Screenwriter

    Jun 3, 1999
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    To call Dreamcatcher a disaster would be too vague to get the point across. There are already too many bad films out there this year. (I saw "The Guru" and "Boat Trip" on the same day, so I can assure you that they're still out there.} Something like this film, to pummel the depths of absurdity and stunning awfulness -- normally reserved for movies starring Christophe(r) Lambert and the Spice Girls -- must take attention, since it's from a major studio and a talented director who has impressed me before.

    That man is Lawrence Kasdan. Grand Canyon is a gem, and one of my favorite films. I loved Mumford and The Big Chill, and was only a slight fan of Body Heat and The Accidental Tourist. Kasdan can surely make a good movie. And William Goldman (who also wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) can certainly write something intriguing.

    A good cast is even here. Two wonderful stars from Band of Brothers, Damian Lewis and Donnie Wahlberg, are here. There's also the likable Jason Lee, the tough character actor Tom Sizemore, and the somewhat reliables Timothy Olyphant and Thomas Jane. Finishing it off is Morgan Freeman.

    And yet, everything comes crashing down, reel after reel, and I had a hard time figuring what was worse: the abomonation of the screenplay that made about as much sense as the latest works of Godard, or the summation of all the talent into a misguided, flat, uninspired piece of cinematic wasteland? In short, I ask everyone involved: WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED???

    Forget explaining the story or who these people are. The film jumps around from subplot to subplot, foreshadow to foreshadow, action to action scene, and yet has time to establish characters in completely absurd ways. Take the Morgan Freeman character. Here's a General Bad Guy who brandishes an old-school pistol that he claims was given to him by John Wayne, practices his narrow minded beliefs ("And these are Americans. The idea of slaughtering americans....just turns my blood cold!") and will easily shoot the hand off of a soldier who messes up his orders.

    There's a multitude of problems with the visual effects. It feels slammed in from another movie (the reject alien spacecraft from "Independence Day", perhaps?) and goes far beyond the point of redudancy, especially when a snaky-looking alien can harvest eggs over a short period of time, but be even shorter during a climatic battle, where its spawn is born in minutes, and insantly knows to move ever- so-slowly to a Boston watermain. (Hey, Jason Seaver! Look out! And assuming their main water supply is like this at all, I'd consider you contact your water department and tell them to beef up their security.)

    Someone on the set knew something was wrong. Whoever edited, scored and made release prints out of this knew something was amiss (I'm sure this part is true; Warner released an exuberant 10 minute "AniMatrix" short to the start of the feature that was more entertaining and original than this film's 134.) This may be another mild hit that will make money in its first few weekends, get an exuberant DVD three months down the road, yet it will live in my mind, irritatingly, as a brutal mistake for everyone involved and an absolute disgrace to American Cinema.

    Additional note: Somehow, out of all of this, the film gets two unintentional laughs out of coy references to the Lethal Weapon movies, first by having Freeman saying "I'm getting to old for this shit", then another character plowing his car right into a closed garage. If this film was a comedy, I might have laughed a bit louder.

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