Book Vs. Movie : The Shining

Author: Stephen King
Film Director : Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson

I read the book and watched the movie over the weekend (in that order) (and long overdue, I’m aware).

In isolation, the book & the movie are very good pieces of work, I mean the movie is a friggin cult classic. It, however, is a deliberately poor adaptation of the book and I guess I can understand why King hated it as much as he did. From the onset of the movie, it’s obvious that Kubrick, the director, wanted to take the movie in a very different direction from the novel when we are shown the meeting between The Overlook’s manager Stuart Ullman & our protagonist, Jack Torrence.

Characters: In the novel, Jack is a struggling alcoholic, flawed in ways more than one, but very loving of his wife and son. And he was likeable and we could understand his struggles. In the movie, Jack (one of the more memorable characters played by Jack ‘badass’ Nicholson) clearly has some loose screws right from the beginning and I couldn’t like him at all.

Frederick Clarke got it spot on when suggested in Cinefantastique magazine: “Instead of playing a normal man who becomes insane, Nicholson portrays a crazy man attempting to remain sane.”

“Whatchu just say about me?!” Sorry Jack.. [God, this GIF gives me a headache]

What about the other characters? In the novel, Danny is written as quite attached to his dad and loves him dearly, but in the movie, the kid seems scared & cautious of him in every scene. And Wendy, oh my god, Wendy – while reading the book, the picture I had of Wendy was a strong-willed yet sensitive woman who was not afraid to challenge Jack and the Wendy I got in the movie was a blubbering mess. Why would a director change a character so much?

My favorite parts: The scene where Jack ‘drinks’ at the bar after being falsely accused by Wendy of strangling Danny and he has this whole ‘conversation’ with the bartender, Lloyd, was fantastic and kept true to the novel.  You can see the craziness unraveling and you go ‘Uh-ookay’. And of course, the iconic scene of Jack breaking down the bathroom door with Wendy trapped inside -“Here’s Johnny!” – is forever etched in my mind and was filmed exactly how I pictured it when I was reading the novel (except of course Jack held a mallet rather than an axe and there was no “Here’s Johnny” but some improvs just make a sequence so much better). But you know what, when I was reading the book I couldn’t wait to reach the pivotal scene where Wendy plunges the knife into Jack’s back and you witness the final descent from human to monster – I was really disappointed that wasn’t in the movie. I would have rather watched that than have the director spend valuable movie minutes of father and son in a run & chase sequence in a hedge maze that wasn’t even in the book to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the movie, very much so, but we ARE talking Book Vs. Movie here.

The biggest thing that peeved me about the movie – Jack’s redemption, or lack thereof. In the novel, encouraged by Danny, the human in Jack resurfaces for the briefest moment giving Danny time to escape and Jack dies tragically, and we’re reminded that Jack loved his son and wife dearly. But in the movie, he dies a monster going after his son! My biggest issue is that Jack Torrence was so much more complex of a character than the movie made him out to be. And I can see why Kubrick would go in that direction – crazier the man, better the entertainment.

SM Special Mentions

I was honestly so confused as to who these kids were, until I don’t know, the 100th time I saw them.
I was also confused by why the director would change something so menial like a Room No.(in the novel, it’s Room 217 but in the movie it’s Room 237) but turns out that was at the request of the hotel they filmed in – the owners didn’t want guests being too spooked to stay in 217 – well, I DON’T BLAME THEM.
Dang it, Kubrick!

And finally, Dick Halloran – what a waste of a character. Now how is he going to hand young Danny the lockbox to lock up his future monsters in Doctor Sleep, with umm..Kubrick killing him off?


7 thoughts on “Book Vs. Movie : The Shining

  1. The original movie** was probably sculpted to amplify the necessary elements for conveying terror in a set amount of time. Transitioning from hundreds of pages of text/exposition to film might be a bit of a mind-bender. In the book, you spend more time observing characters and settings. In the film, I would imagine, people want dialogue and action. I also suspect (without reading the book), if there WAS extensive dialogue and/or action in the book, it had to be scaled down.

    So, Jack is scary from the start to get people on edge before he goes over the edge. If he started out nice, the hotel situation would have been more like a common possession story; maybe they wanted this movie to stand out. To further exemplify edginess, they substituted an axe for a croquet mallet. The kid and wife are bothered by his behavior from the start to get the audience to sympathize. In all, it’s a bubbling cauldron of dread rising to the brim of terror before boiling over and cooling off (abruptly). [If the hedge maze wasn’t in the book…I’d say the film makers were just killing film/time, then. That sounds silly. Then again, how else do you explain a crazy man slowly freezing to death? They had to slow him down somehow. And, my guess is destroying the mansion was beyond the budget.]

    **I say original movie because there was a TV version that came out in 1997 and was different from the Kubrick one with a slightly more intelligent and spooky ending. It shows that redemption of Jack you missed in the Nicholson film, and the croquet mallet. It stars Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay. If you haven’t seen that version, you should seek it out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry about the very ‘early’ reply. Right after the post, I delved into Doctor Sleep and then I took a break from Stephen King & the genre to refresh my mind and now I’m back!
      I actually did hear about the TV series, and I intend to watch it one of these days although I don’t hear all too good opinions about it.
      I agree Jack’s shown as scary from the start to get people on the edge and make the story more interesting and appealing on the eyes, but in order to fit the time constraints a movie has, there’s always a fine line between condensation of a plot and changing the very nature & tone of the plot from what the original writer intended it to be, and so for me I guess, that will always be a disappointment, regardless of how well the movie was made.
      I’ll be doing more Book Vs Movie posts soon, and I’ll be interested to see what you think of some of the other books/movies I’ll be covering. Cheers!


      1. How long was the break from the genre? [All I hear when I see the word “genre” is that British guy on the plane with Tina Fey in the credit card commercial. “Can I pick the genre?” he says distinctly.]

        I found mixed opinions, pretty much the same balance with the original Nicholson movie. The fans are divided. Each version has its shortcomings.

        And, oddly enough, the points I made about why the movie was the way it was…were listed on the site I ended up visiting. The changes were made for effect and time/money efficiency.

        The harshest aspect of all of it is how the film/series makers had to work with King. He had to button his lip and potentially take back what he complained about with the first movie to get the TV mini-series made. That’s a tough pill to swallow just to divide fans further.

        Alright; let’s see what else you come up with. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well..long enough to read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and watch the movie adaption.. and then some.
          You know what, I actually hadn’t seen that commercial and googled ‘tina fey credit card airplane commercial’ to watch the man you talked about, in action. Yeah, thanks for that. Now I can’t say genre without hearing him either.


  2. Interesting review, so many years later. I read the book years after the movie release, and wasn’t surprised that some of King’s story was omitted. Growling ambulatory topiary animals were a bit much, and the pathetic guy in the dog costume was unnecessary to the plot (although he made a brief cameo in the movie).

    Next assignment? Read Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. About the guy in the dog/bear suit, even though he chose not to give any background info on the scene, I actually liked Kubricks version – I thought it gave a very eerie touch to the events unfolding with the Hotel taking over and everything – as opposed to the book where you had this dog suit guy prancing around in front of Danny which was very weird.
      And thanks for the book suggestion; I’ve actually been meaning to read that one. Will check it out!

      Liked by 1 person

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