Dreamcatcher Script Review
“William Goldman (Misery and The Princess Bride) and Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill and co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back) begin their adaptation (dated 10/1/01, draft unknown) of Stephen King’s recent novel, Dreamcatcher, with a Bob Dylan quote:
'Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?'- 'Ballad of a Thin Man'
This quote, used in reference to one of the main characters, Gary Jones (known simply to his friends as Jonesy), seems to fit nicely with the plot of the work. King did not include the quote in his novel, but Kasdan and Goldman integrated it to give the script (and film) more of a footing in Americana, thus making the film more realistic. King began his novel with a chapter entitled 'First, the news', a collection of headlines recording alien activity in the past years. While it worked in the novel, to do the same thing in the film would be dry and un-entertaining. Kasdan and seasoned King adaptor Goldman knew this about the beginning and some of the meat of the story and turned an excellent screenplay. It’s makes what could be considered an absurd B movie into an engaging and frightening film.
The plot revolves mainly around friendships. The main friendship involved revolves around four men: Henry (Boogie Nights’s Thomas Jane) is a renowned psychiatrist who is battling with his own depression and suicidal tendencies, the aforementioned Jonesy (Band of Brothers’s Damien Lewis) is a college professor who suffers from a car accident in the prior to the friends’s hunting trip, Pete (GO’s Timothy Olyphant) a car salesman, and Beaver (Kevin Smith frequent Jason Lee), the everyman of the group. The four men once shared a friendship with a young retarded boy named Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg) who brought to them a strange telepathic bond. The second friendship is between two military officers, Col. Kurtz (Morgan Freeman), changed to Curtiss in a the film so it doesn’t confuse audiences with the psychotic Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now and his coming predecessor, Owen (Tom Sizemore). The two circles of friends are thrust together when an alien ship crash-lands in the woods that the four friends are hunting in and the government becomes involved.
This crash landing is the 'something' that Bob Dylan’s lyric refers to in context with the screenplay. During their hunting trip, Jonesy and Beaver find a hunter who has become impregnated with an alien nicknamed 'the shit weasel' for the way it extracts itself from the human body. It brutally murders Beaver and is stopped from killing Jonesy when a superior alien, Mr. Gray, makes his way into the scene. He performs an action reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and gains control of Jonesy’s body so he can eradicate the human race. Meanwhile, Henry and Pete are on their way to the store when they nearly collide with a comatose woman sitting in the middle of the road. Military helicopters fly over them on route to destroying the fallen alien craft informing them of quarantine. A war has begun between the aliens and the military and the four friends are caught in the middle.
When I read King’s novel, I really enjoyed it. When I heard that it was being made into a film and who was involved in it’s production I did not fear the result. I knew that in Goldman and Kasdan’s hands that this could be one of the great Stephen King adaptations. While about thirty of his books have been made into films, only a handful of them are actually worth watching. Aside from King’s own adaptation of his most famous work, The Stand, the other milestone in his adaptations is Misery. The film, which won Kathy Bates the Oscar for best actress in 1990, is one of the most chilling horror films ever produced. The reason for this is the way Goldman depicts King’s gore and violence. He leaves most of it up to the audience’s imagination, using Hitchcockian techniques and reaction shots to form the horror instead of graphic images.
Dreamcatcher, while it is more graphic than Misery, lacks most of the graphic scenes from the novel. Instead, Goldman puts the horror on the abilities of the actors to be scared and thus influence the audience with their performances. This also lends more realism to the story, making it more about people and reactions than events. Watching Goldman and Kasdan’s work and noting the incredible actors involved with this project I think one of the most terrifying and well produced Stephen King adaptations will be hitting theaters this spring.”
(Review submitted by Dr. Strangelove.)
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