When it comes to talking about movies with my friends and acquaintances on the internet, I have a recurring problem. I tend to let them sway my movie choices a bit too much! There was a time when I thrived on forging new ground, the whole ‘We Watch Crap So You Don’t Have To’ bit. Digging in and watching movies to make my own opinion and perhaps using that experience to inform others. Over time, it just became easier to listen to my friends. Many times, I’d make my way back to a movie I skipped and 99% of the time, they were right. The movie was crap. Every great once in awhile, I’ll find a movie that everybody swore off that I happen to find to be an amazing bit of genre film! Such is the case with Stephen King’s “Dreamcatcher”.
Oh yes, I went there.
With some time to kill and no clear agenda on my plate I found myself digging through Netflix Instant Watch as I’m often wont to do. I happened across the entry for “Dreamcatcher” and it nagged at me. I’d always wondered what the plot was since I had never read the original story. Just knowing that something in that movie drove thousands to hate it and trash it on the internet gnawed at the back of my mind. Plus, I’ve always been a King fan and I felt bad for not having read it. I was a strong movie watcher. I’ve survived hours of trash that made other’s eyes cross pain just from reading the plot synopsis! Sure I could handle a little Stephen King joint! Besides, the cast looked strong; Thomas Jane? He’s a cool dude; I like his flicks a lot. Jason Lee? Hilarious generally, it would be nice to see a little change of pace for him! Timothy Olyphant? He’s been pretty great since “Deadwood”. I didn’t really know that Damian Lewis guy but that didn’t phase me much. I mean, the movie has Morgan Freeman in it. Morgan Freeman is the shit. The decision made, I hit play and settled back expecting to the worst; it was a mere twenty minutes before I found myself on the edge of my seat and enjoying one hell of a fun sci-fi/horror B-Movie!
My reasons for enjoying “Dreamcatcher” will be polarizing for some. Many people tend to scoff at the reasoning of “sometimes I like to just shut my brain off and watch a dumb movie”. But you know what? Screw those people. It’s really not their place to tell me how I should or should not enjoy my movies. With “Dreamcatcher”, there is a heavy element of dumb movie business going on, mostly in the form of cheesiness. The monsters are bad CGI, sure. Morgan Freeman’s performance is over the top and fairly cliché. That’s all okay. All of these elements are delivered poorly for a purpose; to recapture the spirit of the old sci-fi monster movies of yore! In this case, it really is a movie where you can shut your brain off and just enjoy a movie. There’s no deep thinking or over analyzing needed!
There are some basic elements at play that make this an enjoyable flick. First; the camaraderie of our main cast. Jane, Lee, Olyphant and Lewis all play well off of each other drawing us in to their ‘old buddy’ air of comfort. As a viewer, it’s easy to relate to. We’ve all got friends like that. We all wish we could run off for a week with the guys so to speak. Then they spice things up a bit with some mystery. Their somber toasts to Duddits, leaving us wondering what happened to the boy. Flashbacks give us a taste; he was a challenged boy they adopted into their fold to take care of and to protect. So we know they are caring people, good people despite some basic character faults. Then they change things up even more by introducing Tom Sizemore and Morgan Freeman into the mix. “Dreamcatcher” takes on a sense of excitement as the idea of a government cover up sinks in. All of it takes we the viewers on a nice little jaunt that slowly ramps up the tension until all of a sudden we’re in a full out action packed monster movie that’s pretty damn fun!
Now, I’m not a blind movie watcher. “Dreamcatcher” has some faults. There are plot holes of course; I can’t say that they ever did tell us why our group of friends fell out of touch with Duddits. In fact most scenes involving Duddits, played well by Donnie Whalberg to my surprise, are glossed over and given little weight. There are some questionable performances here too. Tom Sizemore is a bit of a waste. His character is a bit far out of his comfort zone making it feel forced and unneeded. None of these problems take from the enjoyable bit of character development that opened the movie nor do they spoil the excitement that comes once the government lunacy cranks up. The movie still manages to be engrossing and entertaining for its full 136 minute runtime, right up until the ending.
Now for the ending. From what I’ve been told via twitter, the ending of “Dreamcatcher” is where much of the hate arises. Written as a standalone novel by Stephen King in 2001, I’m told that the ending in the big screen rendition has been changed from the original written version, some would say drastically. There is a different take on the true nature of Duddits with a slightly different outcome. As a person who’s never read the book, (NOTE: I’m going to correct that soon, I promise) these changes have no effect on me whatsoever. The ending that I was given in the movie seemed perfectly fine. Though predictable, the finale was a nice bit of monster movie homage. The twist wasn’t shocking but still made the ending feel effective since we were able to connect on an emotional level with everyone involved. Might my opinion change once I read the literary ending? Sure, it’s possible. I’d like to think that I’ll be able to view it as a nice conclusion in addition to the movie’s version.
Your agreement on this “Dreamcatcher” write up will lean heavily on whether or not you’ve read the novel I think. I myself enjoyed the movie as is, immensely! Had I read the novel first, I may have soured some on the changes to the ending. I was pretty honked off over the changes in the end of “The Mist” after all. I’m also a firm believer that books can’t always be translated faithfully to the big screen. On its own, “Dreamcatcher” is a great throw back to the 50’s where the monsters were big and rubbery and the government was its own oppressive beast! With the movie now being available on Netflix Instant Watch, there’s no reason not to watch it!
With all my praise, I have one fair sized complaint; I don’t understand where the dreamcatcher motif comes in! I saw Duddits making the charm and talking how each section represented each member of the group. With the title of the movie and all, you’d think the connection would be a little more significant! Is it something I’ve missed from the novel? We’ll have to find out! In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!