There was a longstanding feud between Stephen King and acclaimed film director Stanley Kubrick after “The Shining” was released in 1980 because the famous author who wrote the novel was furious with the liberties Kubrick took with his original source material.
The tension between the two boils down to a specific character trait of Jack Torrance; King wrote him as a troubled character who emphatically loves his family and wants to do the right thing, but Kubrick showed his slow burn into madness and the demented side of the character.
And although it wasn’t intentional on behalf of director Mike Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep,” the film does the exact opposite of celebrating Kubrick’s “The Shining.”
What likely happened behind closed doors at Warner Bros. with all things considered; the studio would only adapt Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” so long as they also paid homage to the beloved version of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” even though the author famously despised it.
Obviously, King obliged and then they sought out up-and-coming horror director, Mike Flanagan, known for “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Hush,” to write and direct the highly anticipated adaptation.
It follows the story of Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) who has trouble using “The Shining” and ultimately becomes an alcoholic much like his murderous father. But the main antagonistic force is a cult known as The True Knot, lead by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who preys on those with the shining in order to keep them immortal. And when the most powerful girl the cult has ever come across, Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), is discovered, Danny Torrance must protect her at all costs from this monstrous cult.
Ultimately, this film feels like a cover version of your favorite song played with a slightly different flair – it comes nowhere close to the original version.
Kubrick’s pace is so masterfully intentional in “The Shining,” specifically about Jack Torrance’s descent into madness because that’s what makes the climax so terrifying and explosive.
“Doctor Sleep” was the complete opposite. But to be fair, Flanagan was tasked with trying to find a weird happy medium between the two. In that context, it didn’t work very well.
It was like watching two different films at the same time.
But that wasn’t even the worst part. The film actually features actors to impersonate the roles of Jack, Wendy and Danny Torrance, and Chef Hallorann played by Scatman Crothers.
The beginning of “Doctor Sleep” takes place shortly after the incident at the Overlook Hotel and we meet these characters re-enacted by basically impressionists. To put it bluntly, they weren’t half-bad at all but it was also incredibly distracting. It felt disingenuous to the original cast and Kubrick’s masterpiece.
When we flash forward into the future your first thought is “Oh, thankfully they didn’t try to impersonate Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance” because that would’ve been a disaster.”
The third act takes place at the Overlook Hotel and, well, you can probably guess what they did with Jack Torrance. It wasn’t intentionally trying to ruin Kubrick’s version but it unintentionally did nevertheless. Flanagan’s version answered too many questions left ambiguous by Kubrick’s.
With all of the aforementioned said, it wasn’t a bad film at all, but it tries too hard to pay homage to Kubrick’s that it does the exact opposite.