The television adaptation of Stephen King’s The Langoliers, a novella published as one of four in the King collection, Four Past Midnight, truly leaves something to be desired, making the audience wonder exactly what it was that inspired filmmakers to make this particular work into a made-for-tv movie and, moreover, what when horribly wrong in the translation.
The first thing that one is likely to notice from The Langoliers is that the cast contains no one of repute. Beyond the vague feeling of “hey, that’s that guy from that movie that one time, where they went to that place and did that thing,” the cast is utterly unrecognizable. If their performances in this film are anything to go by, it’s easy to see why none of them have made a remarkable dent in Hollywood.
The dialogue is written well enough, but it’s carried off with such a lack of conviction that the lines sound like they’re coming from a high school drama performance and not an actual film. The cast may well take their cues from an equally unimpressive director (Tom Holland, known best for his work in… well, absolutely nothing at all of note), who seems to have very little actual direction over this movie.
It feels upon watching as thought Stephen King gave birth to an idea which slowly evolved into an entity of its own, and this little blob of literary goo tried very hard to make itself into a film without the aid of anyone who actually understood cinema. A bizarre concept, certainly, but we are talking about Stephen King, and it’s difficult to get more bizarre than that.
Because it is standard King faire, this film is all about the quirky alternate-world into which a group of travelers have unwittingly stumbled after falling asleep on a plane trip. In this world, they are on the lookout for the Langoliers, a group of time-eating monsters that are strangely remniscient of “The Nothing” from The Neverending Story. As the characters wander around an airport throughout the vast majority of the movie, they search for clues as to what has happened to them.
The audience, on the other hand, would do best to be on the lookout for the countless continuity errors resulting less from a low budget than from sheer laziness on the part of the filmmakers. On countless occasions when a character is talking about how the world is completely devoid of people other than their own group, the viewers can see cars driving by or people passing in airport terminals.
We’ve all had those pictures that we take while on vacation where a tourist walks right across the picture when we’ve finally gotten the whole family together and standing still, but we don’t take those pictures. Imagine three hours of those shots spliced and poorly edited into a film. Stephen King’s works already require enough suspension of disbelief without the audience constantly having to overlook errors in the filmmaking process.
The Langoliers also has a problem common to several other films in the thriller/sci fi genre; the frightening foe in the film is indeed frightening, until we see it, at which point it’s no longer frightening but rather laughable. The key to a good King film seems to be in that crucial air of mystery keeping the force of evil somewhat masked (Carrie, Children of the Corn, Misery), but The Langoliers takes this old format and throws it out the window, offering the viewers some spectacular computer-generated images that come off looking a lot like poorly-drawn balls of aluminum foil with teeth, and even the kids unfortunate enough to see this film will find nothing at all frightening about the film’s climax.
Small-time filmmakers in Hollywood would do well to remember this simple rule: if the audience does not feel terror at the crucial moment in a film, you’ve lost them. They’re not coming back. They’ve already wandered off to see a film that possessed both a budget and some decorum.
As most local movie stores will not carry this item, you can save your time looking for it there… but this reviewer would recommend shortening your Netflix queue by one more item and foregoing this film altogether, lest you find yourself begging for that three hours of your life back.