The Shining – Stephen King’s Book vs Stanley Kubrick’s Movie

The shiningThe-Shining-1980Stephen King is undeniably one of the most consistent and imaginative fiction writers of all time. The Shining, like many of his books (Carrie, Under the Dome, Cujo, Children of the Corn, Pet Sematary, Misery, It), has been adapted into movies and has earned him the nickname ‘The Horror King’.

There must have been some miscommunications when The Shining was made because the movie is significantly different from the book. If the titles were different, they could pass for two entirely different stories.

In the movie the main character, Jack Torrence was portrayed as a one-dimensional insane man whereas in the novel he is a recovering alcoholic and aspiring writer. Jack loses his job and has no choice but to take a job as a Caretaker at the Overlook hotel and there he gradually goes insane.

The admiration that Jack’s son, Danny has for him was not addressed at all in the movie as well as his constant struggle to stay sober. Important aspects like these make Jack Torrence from the novel an entirely different character than the Jack Torrence from the movie. In the novel, he also regains his sanity and saves his family but he dies crazy in the movie.

Wendy Torrence, Jack’s wife, was a crying banshee in the movie. She was a lot more than that in the book. Also, Danny’s ability to ‘shine’ was very understated in the movie whereas it is the core of the book.

Stephen King has publicly expressed his dislike for the movie adaptation. I have always wondered why he felt it did not do his book justice. After reading the novel, I understand why he felt the way he did. He might have been insulted because Stanley Kubrick changed his story but used its name and the STEPHEN KING notoriety.

Although the movie did not match the book, Jack Nicholson’s performance was legendary; maybe one of the best ‘crazy’ portrayals ever on film. However, this is a clear case of the book being better than the movie. King’s style can be quite alluring to a reader who enjoys the artistry and skill of ‘show, don’t tell’.

I guess the lesson here for a writer or any artist for that matter is: before you give someone the rights to replicate your work make sure you are in agreement with how it would be replicated.

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