For better and for worse, Stephen King is one of the most popular, if not the most popular author from whom to produce adaptations. Quite a few of them are great, a lot of them are bad, and you and I might disagree as to how we feel about them. The 2003 adaptation of Dreamcatcher had a decent amount of promise given the source material’s content and ideas, not to mention stars like Morgan Freeman attached to perform. For either worse, or perhaps even dumb fun depending on how you receive it, it squanders all of that promise, delivering what must be one of the worst Stephen King adaptations.
Before covering all of the negatives, we might as well speak about the stronger areas and elements that could’ve been easily improved upon. In all fairness to how ridiculous this movie becomes, there are some moments when it’s able to make an eerie atmosphere. For example, the master shots of the wintry forest as a car drives through are effectively able to set the mood, though perhaps knowing the film is a Stephen King adaptation is more than enough to plant those ideas, already. The creature design is pretty freaky, too, wrangling at least a little creepiness out of scenes that don’t inspire much fear, which is all of them. The CGI accompanying them isn’t always that bad, either.
One frustratingly underused facet from the source material, however, was its psychological factor. With its four protagonists sharing a sixth sense, there are a few sequences where we’re made privy to how the years have changed these four men, as well as their still incomplete understanding of their powers. Instead of using present events to examine how these challenging circumstances test these characters, the narrative uses one-note flashbacks that do nothing to further character development and only play like filler. Additionally, with direction that seems satisfied to reducing its source material to formulaic creature feature fodder, there is unfortunately no need for any sort of arc – or even slightly compelling protagonists, for that matter.
With a two-hour plus runtime, it’s clear that director/writer Lawrence Kasdan and co-writer William Goldman were intent on creating a thorough adaptation that emphasizes the importance of every detail. Unfortunately, very little of the supposed significance is made prominent or even halfway explained, and the illogical plotting hurts the film’s already erratic pacing. Scenes jump from one to the next without logical transition, and we’re merely left with meaning to extract enjoyment from performances that are memorable in the worst way and dialogue that confuses explicit realism for sheer annoyance.
The actors involved are actually quite disappointing. Damian Lewis of Homeland fame, Thomas Jane, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Lee and the ever-fabulous Morgan Freeman all co-star in this production, and yet none of them have the wherewithal to make the material given even somewhat passable. Either they were actually under the impression that they were supposed to take such writing seriously, or they knew the material they were dealing with and chose not to care. Considering the preposterous plot developments our two writers are willing to accept as moments of sci-fi intelligence and cleverness.
Dreamcatcher is a film that falls under several pretensions – the idea that it’s scary, taking full advantage of the source material, or even somewhat suspenseful or clever. Which is at least a little depressing considering it plays like a better SyFy original movie. Up until 2003, Kasdan co-wrote two of the original Star Wars trilogy, including Raiders of the Lost Ark. Meanwhile, Goldman had written celebrated screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men. Given the crew behind and in front of the camera, you force yourself questioning where everything went wrong, but by the end frame, you realize that question is ultimately pointless.