The Stephen King Classic That Still Needs Its Best Adaptation

By Charlene Badasie | Published

Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic dark fantasy novel The Stand was first published in 1978. The book was adapted for television twice: a four-part miniseries in 1994 and a nine-episode series in 2020. The first offering was met with relatively warm reviews, with a 70 percent critics rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, while the 2020 version holds a dismal 53 percent score. However, I believe that the source material deserves a new adaptation that does justice to the story.

Biological Warfare Plagues Earth In The Stand

Stephen King’s novel version of The Stand begins in the Mojave Desert, where a secret Department of Defense lab has created a deadly strain of influenza to use as a biological weapon. Due to a breach of protocol by a security guard, the virus makes its way into the world, resulting in a global pandemic. The virus, dubbed “Captain Trips,” wipes out most of humanity, leaving survivors to navigate a societal collapse and rising incidents of violence.

Readers of Stephen King’s The Stand are eventually introduced to Stuart Redman, who is immune to the virus. However, he is forcibly held at a lab in Covington, Vermont, where scientists hope to create a cure for his immunity. When most of the staff dies, Redman escapes and meets sociology professor Glen Bateman and his dog Kojak. The pair later runs into pregnant college student Frannie Goldsmith, teenager Harold Lauder, and pop singer Larry Underwood.

Attempts To Rebuild Society

Ezra Miller The Stand

As things progress, the story reveals that the unconventional group has independent visions of an elderly woman named Abigail Freemantle living in Hemingford Home, Nebraska. Better known as Mother Abigail, the woman guides the group to Boulder, Colorado, through their dreams. When Stuart and his crew arrive at their destination, they are greeted by like-minded folks working to build a new society called the Free Zone. As time goes by in Stephen King’s The Stand, the community attempts to restore electricity.

Randall Flagg

Little do they know that the supernaturally gifted Dark Man, whose real name is Randall Flagg, is working to create his own corrupt society in Las Vegas. The people see Flagg as a God happily submit to his fascist dictatorship. Those who fail to comply are dubbed undesirable and are crucified. He recruits serial killer Lloyd Henreid from prison and makes him his right-hand man. Together with their violent community, the pair prepares to attack the Free Zone.

Stephen King Admits It’s A Tough Adaptation To Pull Off

Stephen King Netflix

While Stephen King’s The Stand weaves together several threads to tell a cohesive story in the novel, the existing television adaptations struggle to capture the essence of the narrative. But one can’t really blame the creators for the shortcomings, as even Stephen King once admitted that the book was difficult to write due to the number of characters and their individual storylines.

The 2020 Series Strayed Too Far From The Stand’s Horror Roots

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Despite Stephen King’s association with horror, the adaptations of The Stand have somewhat strayed from this genre, which likely contributed to their mediocrity. Although the 2020 series featured an impressive cast, which included James Marsden, Odessa Young, Owen Teague, Alexander Skarsgard, Whoopi Goldberg, and Amber Heard, it still struggled to remain rooted in the horror genre, often drifting into drama and romance.

Although a case could be made that the 2020 version of The Stand didn’t want to rely too heavily on the source material and, therefore, made necessary changes for brevity or tension, finding the right balance is a slippery slope.

Only Two Great King Adaptations

shawshank redemption

I think the only successful Stephen King adaptations have been Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption. And despite the commercial success of the last two IT movies, as someone who has read the book, the film (in my opinion) version was a complete disaster.

The Best Adaptation Of The Stand Won’t Be Possible Without Stephen King’s Help

Stephen King worst movie

While I am no filmmaker, a successful adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand can be created by ensuring the story’s core themes and characters remain intact. Avoiding unnecessary subplots or dialogue that pulls too much focus from the main plot would also be a good idea. The best way to create a successful adaptation would be to get the author to pen the screenplay, but I highly doubt he would agree to that as it would mean watering down his incredible stories.