Sep 8, 2020

The First Peek At A Long Journey

The Stand: Teaser Trailer
CBS All Access (2020)
The first trailer for The Stand was released to the public not long ago. I don't usually watch these because I like to go into a show or movie completely fresh, but over the past quarter century, I've come to know this story backwards and forwards and I'm anxious to see how they bring it to life this time around.

The video is only 30 seconds long, but it packs in a lot of clues for what we're about to see on December 17th.

The beginning of the trailer shows Frannie Goldsmith having the dream where she walks out of the cornfield in Hemingford Home, Nebraska.

I know this is a dream scene, so I can't say for sure if this is the way that Whoopi will look when the first group of travelers reaches Nebraska, but she has an awfully full and vibrant head of hair for a 108 year old woman.  Ruby Dee was made to look like she actually might be a centenarian (despite the fact that they made her two years younger in the original mini-series for some odd reason).  Whoppi is a phenomenal actress, so I'll go ahead and assume that god wouldn't dare ask her to lead the children of America into Colorado without her trademark dreads.

This is the first screen where I got a good look at Frannie, and I think Odessa Young is spot on.  She was written to be a pretty 20 year old college student.  My fear was that when Hollywood would try to sex her up to a ridiculous degree as they're known to do when they get their hands on a script adaptation of a novel.  However, I think they got her look just right.

This was the most revealing shot of the trailer to me.  Based on the background and the group of four in this scene, I believe that we're looking at the four brave souls who went west to take their stand against Randall Flagg in Las Vegas.  Specifically, it appears to me that they're in the Utah badlands looking up at the small mountain they have to climb to get back onto the highway.

Here's where it gets interesting: the group of four that make this journey are Stu Redman, Larry Underwood, Glen Bateman and Ralph Brentner.  Based on the publicity photos that have already come out, that appears to be Greg Kinnear as Glen on the far left and Jovan Adepo as Larry on the far right.  Standing next to Larry is our hero from Arnette, James Marsden as Stu.  However, their fourth companion in the cowboy hat doesn't look too much like an overweight, middle-aged man from Oklahoma City.

IMDB doesn't have a character named Ralph Brentner listed in the cast & crew for the 2020 mini-series; however, the Wikipedia entry for the show includes a listing for Irene Bedard playing a character named Ray Brentner.  Irene is a Native American actress who starred in a very successful independent film called Smoke Signals in the late 90's.  To repeat what I said earlier about the casting of Larry Underwood, I am not opposed to changes to a character's race, gender and/or age in a remake on the surface - as long as it's not done in a way that breaks continuity with the overall story.  For example, casting Idris Elba as Roland in The Dark Tower was ridiculous because a major plot point in the series involves his struggles with a young black woman from the 60's named Odetta Holmes (aka: Detta Walker) who mistrusts Roland in large part because he is a "honky mahfah".  Little did I know at the time that this was the least of the problems with The Dark Tower film, which was a complete train wreck that barely resembled the books at all.

Anyway, I think it's an interesting interpretation to turn Ralph Brenter from a good-hearted Okie hayseed to a middle-aged Native American woman named Ray Brentner.  In an odd way, it pays tribute to the original mini-series, which swapped the gender of radio personality Ray Flowers from male to female (played by the incredible Kathy Bates).  There's no reason that the Ralph character has to be male from a story perspective, and truth be told, the cast probably could have used a bit more diversity, as I'm sure Mr. King would agree.

Speaking of Larry Underwood, here he is with his back turned to the camera in a post-plague New York City alongside Rita Blakemoor.  I'll repeat what I said earlier - when I read the book, I always pictured Rita as being significantly older and less put together than Heather Graham, but she's a fantastic actress and I'm sure she'll rock it.

The thing that caught my eye in this part of the trailer isn't either of the actors, but the background.  This scene is meant to take place in the first days of post-Captain Trips New York City.  It should look like a post-riot wasteland, complete with burnt out buildings, smashed windows and bodies of flu victims everywhere.  From the looks of this screenshot, the city is almost pristine, apart from a small pile of garbage and one car that's double parked, neither of which would be cause for a second glance on any random day in the city.  In fact, this image of NYC looks more clean and orderly than it was the last time I was there prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.  I really hope they didn't skimp on the production costs.

I'm guessing that this scene is showing Stu Redman making his escape from the plague center in Stovington, Vermont.  I get that they're going for the atmosphere of a power outage and dim emergency lighting that's kept up by backup generators, but if I hadn't read the book, this photo would make me think that Stu was captured by a spaceship.

Here, we have Larry Underwood sitting in a room that appears to have an intravenous drip bag in the background.  That would place this scene in the final days of the Captain Trips pandemic with Larry and his mother.  It didn't occur to me until seeing this picture, but it appears they're giving Larry a goatee from the start of the series.  This contrasts with the book and the mini-series, which present Larry as a clean shaven, fresh faced rock star on the rise whose beard grows as he is shocked into maturity by a post-plague world.

Again, the background of this shot is taking up most of my attention.  If you've never read the book, try to imagine a hospital in New York City that is completely overrun.  In other words, picture what a hospital looked like in the busiest day of the Covid-19 pandemic and multiply that by 1,000, because Captain Trips has spread to the entire population, and it kills 100% of those who become infected within days.  I know you can't tell much from a single screenshot, but the room appears to be largely empty and clean as a whistle.  The hospitals in The Stand were overrun with people who are packed in like sardines and in a state of panic.  The concept of social distancing never comes up, because by the time the general public is aware of what's going on, the superflu is literally everywhere.

If it was just one screenshot, I'd probably dismiss these thoughts as minor nit picks, and perhaps that's just what they are.  Maybe they're holding back the truly shocking images of an apocalyptic plague that literally brings an end to human civilization.  However, it's a trend I've noticed in more than one image.  I suppose time will tell.

Yes!  That is the Harold Lauder from the book!  That is the young man whose insecurities, fueled by his "ledger" have driven him to madness.  I've always thought that the original mini-series makes Harold a bit too sympathetic in the beginning and not quite sympathetic enough at about three quarters of the way through the story, when he comes frustratingly close to a moment of clarity that leads him to almost abandon his senseless desire for vengeance and to find a better way.  I'm encouraged by how he will be portrayed in the new mini-series.

I don't know if it's the piano, the mustache or the lighting, but I'm getting Little Richard vibes from this picture of Nick Andros.  Seeing Henry Zaga in this light almost makes me wish he could swap roles with Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood, because he definitely could fill the role of a rock star with this look.  However, the real story here is the eye patch.  This leads me to believe that the Nick Andros of the new mini-series will be a bit closer to the book than he was in the original mini-series.  Poor Nick is in for a rough time in Shoyo, Arkansas.

Call him the Dark Man.  Call him the Walking Dude. Call him the Man In Black who fled through the desert while The Gunslinger followed.  Call him whatever name you know him by, because it all comes out the same.  He is Randall Flagg, and he is eternal.

There's not enough in the trailer to know how Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd will bring life to the most diabolical villain in the Stephen King universe.  The concern I have is that there's supposed to be a charismatic charm to the Dark Man that isn't coming across in the little bit that I've seen so far.  Randall Flagg is evil, no doubt about that, but he doesn't only inspire evil followers.  The book makes it very clear that men, women, and even children fall under his spell and make the trip to Las Vegas, and that they're not really different from the folks who make the journey to Boulder to meet Mother Abigail.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan would have been the perfect choice to play Randall Flagg.  A lot of the same elements that make Negan tick are mirrored in the Dark Man.  Watch any episode of The Walking Dead that features Negan in charge of The Saviors and you'll see what I mean.  He's violent and dangerous, but there's also a cold logic there, and a loyalty to those who are loyal to him.  Above that, he inspires loyalty from others because his lies are dipped in just enough truth to make his followers proud to be part of what he is building.

There isn't even close to enough material here to see if this will come across as strongly in the mini-series as it does in The Stand, The Dark Tower or anything other place where Flagg pops up, so we'll have to wait and see.

I'm beginning to wonder if Julie Lawry has been given a bigger role in this version of The Stand.  She's a minor character in both the book and the original mini-series.  She pops up in Kansas for a few pages while Nick and Tom make their way across the country to Hemingford Home, and then you don't see her again until almost the end of the story where her appearance is slightly more than a cameo.  She's important enough to not leave on the cutting room floor, but if you had to, it wouldn't take too much creativity to work around her absence.  The fact that her character is one of the roughly dozen or so that the producers have included in the trailer is puzzling.

If the last photo had me puzzled, this one has me flat out confused.  I have no idea who the hell this is supposed to be, but she looks pretty pissed off.  She's holding something that's either a bedazzled microphone or maybe a lever of some kind, and it appears that she's in a room with a chandelier and a giant panting on the wall.

According to IMDB, there's an actress named Fiona Dourif listed in the cast as playing The Rat Woman.  I'm really bad with faces, but this could be her.  If it is, this is both a race and gender swap from the original mini-series.  The Rat Man was played by Rick Aviles, a black Puerto Rican actor who is best known as the mugger in Ghost in which he co-starred with Whoopi Goldberg.

Speaking of Whoopi, here she is as Mother Abagail staring down a majestic looking white wolf, which I believe is either being possessed by Randall Flagg or is Flagg himself.

I think that this is going to be one hell of a series.  It's got pretty big shoes to fill to live up to the book, but this is the most interested I've been in a television series in a very long time.  I'm looking forward to seeing if they include any Dark Tower easter eggs along the way.  I'm even more interested by the fact that Stephen King has written an all new ending to the last chapter that is different from the novel.  I don't know if that new ending begins before or after the final confrontation with Randall Flagg, but either way, I can't wait to find out.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang, but a whimper
                                                           - T.S. Eliot