Thoughts on “Christine”

A long time ago, when I was a kid, I read a few Stephen King novels either as part of or as what started me having a minor interest in horror (I always preferred science fiction and fantasy, though).  “Salem’s Lot” gave me nightmares, but I also read “Christine” and enjoyed it.  I have never actually watched the movie though — at least, not as far as I can recall — and so was wondering how this movie would stack up to what I remembered from the book.

The basis premise here is that high school loser Arnie gets obsessed with buying and fixing up an old car called “Christine” that seems to have a mind of its own.  As things progressed, Arnie only gets more and more obsessed with the car, and people who try to hurt him or the car start dying, killed by the car which seems to be driving around and doing that on her own, which prompts his best friend Dennis and Arnie’s girlfriend Leigh to try to kill the car and potentially save Arnie from it.

Now, as I’ve commented before the issue with adapting Stephen King works is that the plot isn’t what drives them, but instead the internal thoughts and ideas and relationships of and among the characters.  It’s really difficult to adapt that, especially in something that isn’t a miniseries (and “The Stand”, despite having the length for that, didn’t manage to really succeed at that either).  This really hits this movie hard, because the relationships that are necessary to make this really work aren’t present.  We get that Dennis and Arnie are friends and that Dennis stands up for Arnie, but there isn’t time in the movie to show that relationship breaking down so that Dennis is willing to at least risk Arnie dying as he tries to kill “Christine”.  We also don’t get to see Arnie and Leigh ever interacting as a real, happy and normal couple and so don’t have any reason to think that she is that much in love with him and never get to see him changing from the guy she liked to the guy obsessed with Christine, which I recall we did get in the book.

Another thing that this impacts is the ending.  I recall the ending feeling epic, as it was a much more tense and lengthy battle between Dennis in a truck or machine or something vs the self-repairing Christine, where his damaged leg actually caused him issues in trying to make it all work.  But more importantly it was the culmination of all the relationships and notes.  If I recall correctly, Arnie calls the two of them “shitters” at one point, which wasn’t an insult that he had used before the car — suggesting that he was adopting the personality traits of the previous owner — and shows that he’s completely lost and cannot be saved (actually, I can’t remember if in the book he died in the final scene, but I suspect he did).  Here, the scene is short, Leigh is the one most generally in danger, and there are only a few short scenes with the loader battling Christine, and Arnie’s insult is rather pathetic by comparison.  Again, for what should have been an utterly epic scene and a culmination of all that had gone on before, it’s a rather anti-climactic climax.

Which made me ponder something about these adaptations (and possibly why they are often so poorly received).  Given the extra things that King puts in his works, it would often seem like someone who had read the books is going to be disappointed when the movie doesn’t — or in most cases can’t — include them.  So the movie is going to seem shallow and disappointing because of that, and so isn’t going to appeal to fans of King’s works.  But I wondered if for people who hadn’t read the work if there would feel like there was something missing and that there was something more to all of these things that they and/or the movie is missing somehow.  This, then, would mean that it would be difficult to find an audience for these things, as fans of the original work will be disappointed at what was left out but would understand how those things fed into the overall plot and characterization, while someone who hadn’t read the original work wouldn’t be disappointed in what the adaptation would leave out but wouldn’t get why the elements that were left were important or meaningful.  I don’t think it should come as much of a surprise that the longer ones (“Rose Red”, “The Stand”, “It”) are the ones that were better received, because they had more time to bring in more elements that might in general seem to be asides or irrelevant but that in a King work actually establish important things that add to the overall feel of the work and the characters and plot elements.

Given that, this is another movie that I could watch again but probably won’t watch again anytime soon.  It manages to kill a couple of hours and my having even a hazy context from having read the book makes it better than some others, but even my constantly comparing it to what I remembered from the book disappointed me enough that I don’t feel inclined to watch it again or look on it fondly.

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One Response to “Thoughts on “Christine””

  1. Thoughts on “The Dead Zone” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] after I pondered in my discussion of “Christine” how I’d feel about a Stephen King adaptation that followed the work but that I hadn’t […]

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