'Doctor Sleep' Film Review
A review of Mike Flanagan's follow-up film to Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining,' entitled 'Doctor Sleep.' (NOTE: The following review was originally written and posted by me on Letterboxd.)
Mike Flanagan takes on the job of adapting Stephen King’s novel, titled Doctor Sleep, but there is a catch: Flanagan’s film exists in the same universe as Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of King’s The Shining. As soon as I was cognizant of this information, my feelings toward it were already conflicted. I was not going to criticize the film without having seen it, however—but, now that I have, I feel that it is appropriate for me to proceed with what I am going to say.
The visuals in Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep are, admittedly, spectacular. From the beginning, the film is pleasant to look at, even if I did not enjoy what I was watching in the theater. Danny’s supernatural abilities are the most vital fragment of his character, and for the very few scenes that they are evinced, they are mesmerizing to watch, thanks to the art of special effects. On the contrary, much more time could have been spent exploring the development of his powers, and the other complexities of Danny as a character in general; it seemed to me like the film wants to make him the focal point more than any other character, but he is given the least importance by far, conveyed through a wooden performance from Ewan McGregor. It is hard to become attached to Danny when the storylines of other characters are being shoved down the audience’s throat, and it is nearly impossible to fixate on him at all. For being the titular character, what Doctor Sleep ultimately brings to the table is minimized by being constantly diverted between different characters—and, when he does have time on-screen, nothing about Danny or the actor portraying him stands out in any way.
I wanted to save this part for last because it is what made me start to feel the two and a half hour length: Just when I thought it could not get any worse, the film ruins any originality it ever had in a matter of seconds by reenacting scenes from Kubrick’s 1980 film, with new actors. The second half is when the Overlook Hotel comes into play, which is necessary for what takes place, and it would have gotten away with expanding upon Kubrick’s vision of the setting and characters if it had not blatantly plagiarized his scenes. Flanagan stated in a recent interview that he wanted to “honor what Kubrick did, and to approach this like an authentic sequel to the film he made,” yet he copies iconic scenes and quotes from Kubrick’s adaptation, and even appropriates footage from it? I do not really see how Flanagan is doing Kubrick—or King, for that matter—any justice with this. It would not be such a major issue, had he not said himself that his intent was to merge King and Kubrick while deviating from the possibility of being counterfeit.
All in all, Doctor Sleep is a bore that brings nothing worthwhile in its overly-long runtime if you are a fan of King’s novel and/or Kubrick’s film adaptation of it. The only substance it truly offers is its mesmerizing visuals, but once you look past that, there is nothing meaningful or resonant there. So, please do yourself a favor and just rewatch The Shining if you want to relive Kubrick's craft.