Way back in 1978 Stephen King published one of his most successful and highly rated novels, The Stand. It is also Stephen King’s longest book at over 1,100 pages. This was subsequently made into a 4 parts TV mini series by ABC in 1994 with a big cast and budget. I had some vague memory of the series and in fact rewatched it again recently while this new series was running as a comparison.
The new series from CBS All Access takes on the story about a pandemic that wiped out most of civilization, in a new light given the Corvid-19 pandemic that the world is experiencing today. The story has some people surviving the virus due to their body immunity and somehow gets divided into two fractions, one representing the good and God loving/fearing crowd, while the other representing the bad and devil worshipping crowd. Like its predecessor, the new series boasts of a stellar cast. It has 9 episodes which recently concluded when the finale was aired on February 12th 2021.
So the big question is .., is this new adaptation any good? Sorry to tell you that for me, it was a “yes” and a “no”. I felt that the series took a wrong approach with its opening two episodes. This new series set the stage of how the apocalypse started while introducing the many key characters, in a very confusing manner that involved multiple timelines and poor editing. I would say that these first episodes were messy and probably would have turned away many potential viewers out of frustration. For those we endured and stayed on, things get better and the story progressed in a normal linear and far more coherent manner. All the confusion were cleared up and we began to invest more into the major characters as they enter into the more dangerous and interesting territory of the plot. I liked the performance particularly from Alexander Skarsgard (Eric Northman of True Blood) as the menacing Randall Flagg who represents the Dark forces from hell. Others familiar faces include James Marsden (Cyclops from the X-Men), Amber Heard, Greg Kinnear and Whoopi Goldberg.
If I were to compare this with the 1994 TV series, I would say that that series took the straight forward linear approach which worked much better when introducing the story and characters. However, with the advancement of today’s technology, the new series have the edge in terms of its cinematography, sound and special effects, all of which adds value to the impact and sense of involvement to the story as it progresses. Both series’ ensemble cast were good and competent and both seem to follow the story faithfully. Perhaps the biggest difference is how the two series concluded. It seems Stephen King had a new ending written for the series. In my opinion, the epilogue felt unnecessary and it made the final episode felt like an anti-climax and padding to the series. The story and grand climax had in fact already been covered in episode 8.
The Stand is a mixed bag for me. In summary, I hated the opening episodes but really got more involved with the characters in the later episodes. I loved the Las Vegas sequence and thought the climatic ending in Vegas was spectacularly filmed. And finally, I was not a fan of the extended ending.