So, in case you are one of the very few people who haven’t heard, an eight-episode mini series based on the novel 11.22.63, by the insanely popular author Stephen King, started its run this past Monday. I watched it, and I have some thoughts about it. Warning: there be spoilers here. And I also make a lot of comparisons to the book.
11.22.63 is a fairly interesting book. While it does have some creepy elements to it, it isn’t really a horror novel (so it’s a bit out of King’s typical purview). If I were to assign a genre to it, I would call it science fiction. Why not? It does involve time travel, after all. While I don’t think it’s necessarily his greatest work (I thought it dragged in places), I still generally enjoyed it, and thought that it had an interesting premise.
The book is basically about a high school teacher named Jake Epping (played in the series by James Franco). Jake finds out, from a friend Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) that there is a portal in the diner Al owns that leads to September 9, 1958, at exactly 11:58 am, every time someone goes through it. Since said friend is currently dying of lung cancer, he enlists Jake’s aid in doing what he was unable to: stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (hence the title).
The series follows the same basic premise, but seems to either be cutting out certain events entirely, or at least rearranging them. One example that kind of bugged me involves a character named Harry Dunning. One Halloween, when Dunning was a child, his father murdered his mother, sister, and brother with a sledgehammer, and badly wounds Harry, causing brain damage. One of the major things that Jake decides to do upon going through “the rabbit hole” is to try and prevent this from happening. He actually does this (for the first time, as the timeline resets every time someone leaves and goes back) fairly early into the book; seeing the effects is actually one of the things that helps him decide to take up Al’s goal. In the series, Jake comes to this decision at the end of the first episode, after the house where he was staying in Dallas burns down.
There’s also that that they change the date the portal transports people to October 21, 1960, shaving off about 2 years from the novel’s story. I do understand why: a TV show is going to be differently paced than a novel, and shaving off some of that time tightens it up a bit.
The episode, while certainly very well filmed and well acted, also seemed like it dragged on a bit longer than it needed to. Clocking in at 1 hour 20 minutes, it’s fairly long for a TV episode, and, like the book, there are also moments that seem to drag. At the same time, however, it kind of feels like Jake accepts Al’s request a little too easily. It kind of feels like they tried to rush through this part to get to the period piece, and that because of that, I feel we don’t get to know these characters as well as we should before the wheels start turning.
Of course, this is still only the first episode, so the plot will most likely start to pick up as the series progresses.