Doctor Sleep (2019): Film Review
For the commonplace movie viewer, opinions on Mike Flanagan's extensive sequel are going to vary heavily based on one key aspect: whether viewers see it as a stand-alone genre-bending film or a mere bloated and albeit unnecessary sequel to The Shining. Sure, the film is both of these things, but it seems to work much better when Flanagan is focused simply on making an entertaining movie and not trying to replicate the mastery that Kubrick achieved in his making of his 1980 powerhouse hit Stephen King adaption. Sure, Doctor Sleep is a weird movie, and has an absolutely bonkers premise going for it, but its not a bad movie, until it tries a little too hard to be a great one.
The film tells the story of Danny Torrance, the young boy from the original Shining film, all grown up. As he continues to battle his demons from the Overlook hotel, along with the new demons of alcoholism and depression, he begins to form a connection with Abra, a young girl who has the ability to "shine" just like he does. At the same time as this sub-plot is forming, Abra is being hunted by a group of people who feed on the "steam" of the people who can shine. As Abra's power increases, group leader Rose begins to threaten the stability of Abra and Danny's world, leading to an epic game of cat-and-mouse between the gang and Abra and Danny.
Firstly, Doctor Sleep is a long movie, there is no denying it. It clocks in at 152 minutes (you can feel it too) and is even longer than the original Shining. For the first hour, an hour dedicated to both catching the audience up from the events of the first movie and introducing them to the gang of "steam"-eaters and their motivations and reasoning behind their actions. The first hour moves by at an uncomfortably slow pace, but once the stage is set - it is simply all action from there. The film is not bad in any means, but at certain times, the plot becomes so absurd and random that for a second, you have to question how a movie like this, especially a movie succeeding one of the greatest films of all times, even exists. And that's where the biggest problem of the movie comes into play. No matter how amazing Flanagan does with the directing, which simply blew my mind away at some shots, or how well Ewan McGregor portrays an adult who is simply scared of the world they live in, the movie will never be able to set itself to the expectations that have been set upon it. And the crew behind the movie knows that as well, which is why at certain points in the movie, the film feels like a fresh new take on an acclaimed and action-packed King novel, while at others, it feels like a forced ploy to keep itself relevant while using scenes and ideas from The Shining as bait. I can't tell if I like Doctor Sleep. I know that I enjoyed it, but was a little bored by it at multiple points. I know that I think Flanagan did a great job directing, but it felt like he was trying a little too hard to match Kubrick's artistic abilities. I just can't tell if Doctor Sleep is a movie I will remember ten years from now, or a movie that will fade into the background mere months after the first viewing. In total, the film is fine, but one thing is for sure: it works much better when it treats itself and stands as an independent experience instead of an ode to its classic predecessor from 1980. That's just facts.