Monday 23 March 2009

In the Shadows Of Shawshank: Rising From The Mist

So, I finally got around to seeing 'The Mist'. I wanted to see it when it was on the big screen but due to a variety of factors I never did. I've been looking forward to it for a very long time. Why? Because It's Frank Darabont. But I've also been concerned about it. Why? Because It's Frank Darabont.

As a Director, Frank Darabont made one very big mistake - that mistake was making 'The Shawshank Redemption'. The problem with doing so is that he Wrote & Directed what is, quite possibly, the greatest film of all time - the type of film that he will forever be judged against. The impossibility of this situation is that no film will ever come close. Except, one film did. While many worried that it was going to be too similar to Shawshank, Darabont returned to action five years later with the wonderful 'The Green Mile' - a film that would probably be deemed as one of the finest movies of all time if Shawshank hadn't come before it.

As a Director - having those as your last two films is going to put you under a lot of pressure. You can't go from making two masterpieces to Directing mediocre Eddie Murphy flicks. Luckily, Darabont didn't do that. He followed 'The Green Mile' quite promptly with the low-key but enjoyable 'The Majestic' - a film that was charming enough to please his fans but certainly not as big an achievement as his previous efforts.

Some years passed. Now, I'm not sure about everyone else - but I had certainly been strongly anticipating whatever was to come next from Frank Darabont. When it was announced that he was adapting another Stephen King novel I was over the moon. But 'The Mist' was unlike anything Darabont had tried before. It's a genre piece. In fact, very Stephen King-like (which Shawshank and The Green Mile really weren't).

Tonight, I finally got around to watching it.

What it would be like to watch this film objectively, I don't know. I couldn't help but be aware that Darabont was at the helm. So I was disappointed right from the beginning - when Thomas Jane and his family's acting was rather wooden, which was unexpected as there is NOT A SINGLE moment that isn't authentic and true in 'The Shawshank Redemption'. That alone is strange - how can a Director get absolutely flawless, groundbreakingly natural performances in one film, but then below-average performances in another?

'The Mist' is mildly entertaining throughout - but there's no tension, at least not in the manner that Darabont no doubt intended. It tries for a similar mood to 'Signs' (M. Night. Shyamalan) or 'War Of The Worlds' (Steven Spielberg) but falls way short. It's not helped by really poor CGI. The Monsters are embarrassingly unrealistic.

The characters are not believable, often diving headfirst into cliché - and many of the events seem entirely unrealistic. Of course, John Coffey's magical powers in 'The Green Mile' were not realistic for a second -- but as an audience we BELIEVED IN THEM ENTIRELY because of the journey Darabont led us on. Unfortunately, 'The Mist' was merely a genre piece - and one without a scare, without surprise and without notable characters.

For any other filmmaker an average film every now and then is to be expected. But seeing one from the man who up until now dealt only in masterpieces, it's almost a little heartbreaking to see. According to IMDB, Darabont has no films in pre-production (not counting films he's Producing) - I can't help but wonder what is next for him. I do hope he Directs again, and I hope even more that it's a masterpiece.

Care to share?

1 comment:

  1. You know, I've had Shawshank Redemption on VHS for a long, long time...and I've never watched it.

    I finlly watched it last weekend.