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The date is set for the release of CBS All Access redux miniseries of Stephen King’s The Stand. December 17th! Mark your calendars and set your streaming device of choice. This journey into King’s 800-plus page opus is going to run 10 full television hours, so make sure the chair is comfy and your Coors is cold.
Created by Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars, The New Mutants), who has worked on this adaptation since 2014, The Stand seems to following the classic formula for transmogrifying King’s works into cinematic goodness: skip the squishy and sometimes tedious middle of the novel; expertly cast your favorite 10-12 characters, ignoring the rest; and change important elements to elicit strong responses from the King aficionados to drum up word of mouth interest. Nothing else seems to matter much in the recent flood of activity around America’s Greatest Novelist. The fan base is so rabid, the story and characters created by King are so perfect, that every movie and miniseries based of King’s work is destined for at least brief stardom simply because the story foundation and audience are tremendous.
Without spoiling anything, the plot of The Stand is fairly easy to outline: a superflu, called ‘tubeneck’ or ‘Captain Trips’ has decimated the world’s population. The remaining less-than-one percent of folks left alive begin to band together to try and eek out some sort of livable situation with what remains. Since it’s about humanity and it’s Stephen King, they quickly form into two factions and begin a war for the soul of what’s left in the world. Good vs Evil, Light vs Dark.
Simple enough, but what makes this novel so incredible is the journey we take with the characters to the inevitable conclusion. Each has to suffer, rise above their specific trials, and fight for what they believe to be the answer for saving humanity. Each character explores motivations for choosing sides, agonizes over which direction to go, and eventually is pushed or pulled by a set of circumstances far from their control- love, loss, dreams, coming of age. It’s all in there, and each character scratches out their post-apocalyptic life like puppets on the strings of the deities.
Except for the dim-witted, but unquestionably moral, Tom Cullen. He wanders around the desolate landscape seeking companionship, unaware of his coming destiny. M-O-O-N, that spells companionship. By the grace of some unforeseen force, Tom Cullen is found by a kind and gentle Stu Redman, who steers him to the path of goodness and light, and the stage is set for the ultimate showdown against Randall Flagg, the Walkin Dude, The Wizard. You might remember him from 2017’s The Dark Tower, in which he’s played by Matthew McConaughey. The Walkin Dude leaves his footprints all over the Stephen King universe, and he’s the central villain in The Stand.
Casting will play a very large role in telling the story of King’s The Stand, and the relatively unknown Brad Willam Henke (Split, Orange Is the New Black) plays Tom Cullen. I am very excited to see this character come back to life on the screen. He has some big shoes to fill, as Bill Fagerbakke from the TV show Coach crushed this role in the original 1994 The Stand series. Stu Redman is played by James Marsden (Cyclops in X-Men), and Randall Flagg will be brought to life by Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood, HBO).
Whoopi Goldberg plays the omnipotent and loving leader of the side of good, Mother Abigail, and that’s about as perfect as it gets. Enough said.
The Stand’s newly released air date of December 17th has the internet on fire. Folks have been waiting for news of this, and for good reason. An argument can be made that this is the work of literary art that vaulted King from a good horror author to a bonafide master of the craft. If, and that’s a big IF, creators and writers Josh Boone and Benjamin Cavell (Justified, Homeland) can grasp even a fraction of what this work represents and bring it on home to the screen, the accolades and excitement will grow to a deafening volume. The formula is there, the pieces are in place, now all we have to do is wait until December 17th to see it and judge for ourselves.
The Stand also stars Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood, Amber Heard as Nadine Cross, and Owen Teague as Harold Lauder.
You can follow Katz on Twitter @AaronKatzmarek
Images courtesy of CBS & Netflix