I started reading Stephen King’s serial novel The Green Mile earlier this week and I’ve discovered that it’s truly one of those rare instances where both a book written by Stephen King and a movie based off the same work are equally good. Normally, I can finish off 400 pages of pulp in a single afternoon, but I’ve been taking this one more slowly, never reading more than a few chapters each night before I finally conk out. I guess the breakneck reading schedule I set up for myself the previous semester, reading a good monograph a week or more in order to finish my Master’s Degree on time, might have slightly burned out my reading fuse. No complaints; It’s quite lovely being able to sit down and read a book at total leisure and then not have to write about it immediately afterwards. It’s also suits the contents of the book, considering that The Green Mile is one of those few Stephen King stories that doesn’t drive a mile-a-minute across the pages from start to finish (pick up any Bachman novel and you’ll immediately feel the difference).
For a King book, it truly feels like there’s something personal going on in there between the pages, which makes it all the more remarkable that the film adaptation managed to preserve some of the thematic tension revolving around loss, aging and places lost in time.
Generally speaking, seeing “based off a work of Stephen King” in the opening credits means it’s time to change channel or, if you are watching Netflix, start drinking profusely. Silver Bullet was the perfect example of what crap on a screen looks like.
Kubrick’s The Shining does somewhat stand as a counter argument. The movie was excellent, but not necessarily because it had anything to do with a Stephen King story (it didn’t); it was excellent because Kubrick contributed his dark madness to it. The movie could have been about an orange lying in the grass and Kubrick would have somehow managed to turn it into an engrossing masterpiece.
Realistically, the problem isn’t with King’s books, or even with the film crews, but it’s the differences between the mediums and the ways in which each medium tells a story. In a book, you can jump in and out of a character’s mind in a matter of words and this is something that Stephen King plays around with to no end. When half the action is going on in a person’s mind, it becomes difficult to translate it from paper and one’s imagination to film and the visual medium. Unless you want to end up watching a really experimental piece of cinema, you will either be left with a short film, a boring film or one that’s filled with all kinds of nonsense that simply wasn’t in the book. Though, you could do always pull a Dreamcatcher and show what it was like to run around and hide from a demented telepathic alien inside a person’s mind. Nice and straightforward.