Morgan Freeman, Jason Lee, Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Donnie Wahlberg
Stephen King (novel), William Goldman, Lawrence Kasdan
Evil Slips Through.
Four young friends perform a heroic act and are changed forever by the uncanny powers they gain in return. Years later, on a hunting trip in the Maine woods, they are overtaken by a blizzard, a vicious storm in which something much more ominous moves. Challenged to stop a deadly alien force, they confront an unparalleled horror, with the fate of the world in the balance.
Budget $68 million.
Opening Weekend $15.027 million on 2945 screens.
Domestic Gross $33.685 million.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 134 min.
Release Date: 9/30/2003
• “DreamWriter – An Interview with Stephen King“ Featurette
• “DreamMakers – A Journey Through the Production” Featurette
• “DreamWeavers – The Visual Effects of Dreamcatcher” Featurette
• Lifted Scenes and Original Ending
• Cast & Crew
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 19, 2003)
As a writer, Stephen King displayed two sides. He made most of his literary bones off of his horror stories; these occasionally translated to successful flicks like The Shining and Carrie, but most of the movies based on King’s tales in the genre didn’t make much of an impact. On the other hand, King’s more human and character-based efforts like Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption proved to move to the big screen smoothly.
Dreamcatcher feels like a combination of the horror and character drama genres. It’s like King decided to meld the two and hopefully score big. Unfortunately, that didn’t occur with Dreamcatcher the movie, an occasionally entertaining but generally messy and borderline incoherent piece.
Dreamcatcher presents lots of twists and surprises. To keep those secret for new viewers, I’ll make my synopsis fairly vague after a point. The movie opens with individual introductions of four long-time friends: Henry Devlin (Thomas Jane), Gary Jones (Damian Lewis), Pete Moore (Timothy Olyphant), and Joe “Beaver” Clarendon (Jason Lee). We quickly observe that these guys all have some form of psychic abilities.
Henry and Jonesy plan to see someone named Duddits, but before this can occur, Jonesy gets badly injured in a car accident when he blithely crosses a street. He almost dies but does survive, and the movie then jumps ahead six months. The guys go on their annual cabin trip in the middle of nowhere. There we learn that Jonesy crossed the street because he saw a vision of Duddits (Andrew Robb) beckoning to him.
It turns out all the guys have been thinking a lot of Duddits lately, and we get a flashback to see how the foursome met the mentally challenged Duddits – real name Douglas Cavell – at that time. Slowly the film explores their interactions and the gift Duddits imparted to them.
Back in the present, Jonesy meets a badly injured and lost hunter named Rick McCarthy (Eric Keenleyside). Jonesy tends to him but sees some very odd bodily concerns. McCarthy also presents about the worst case of gas one could imagine. Soon thereafter, Henry and Pete crash on their drive home after they swerve to avoid person sitting in middle of road. She also has the same malady that ails Rick. As Jonesy and Beav deal with Rick, they see an odd migration of similarly affected animals across the cabin’s front yard.
And that’s when things get really weird. I won’t talk about the rest except to indicate that it involves the military and various supernatural and extraterrestrial elements.
On one hand, I think Dreamcatcher seems cool in the way it so blatantly subverts our early expectations. The first act clearly sets up the story as something in the Stand By Me vein, but it takes abrupt turns that strongly set it apart from the earlier film. Most movies don’t jolt us with such broad changes after they apparently set the tone, so the film comes across as fairly daring in that regard.
It also includes at least one truly great sequence. Since I don’t want to spoil anything, I won’t spell it out in detail, but there’s a showdown in a bathroom that ranks as a really creepy, scary and exciting piece. It almost redeems the movie’s lesser elements.
Almost, but not quite. One problem stems from the first act’s pacing. Boy, does it take forever to get anywhere! It sets up the four main characters at a very languid rate, which would be fine if that resulted in greater personality depth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. I never got a good sense for the different characters and except for the profane and scrappy Beaver, they all kind of blended into the same guy. The first act moves so slowly that it risks alienating the viewer.
Once the action starts, the film fares better, but it never lives up to the level set during that bathroom scene. A couple decent action sequences appear, but they remain fairly unmemorable, and even those suffer from the jarring pacing of the flick. It leaps from one subplot to another with such abandon that the movie loses any sense of flow or integration. Characters and stories disappear for long periods of time and then reappear awkwardly.
Ultimately, Dreamcatcher falls short of its goals because it tries too hard to be so many things to so many people. The movie feels like a mélange of The Green Mile, Stand By Me, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Outbreak and Independence Day, but it fails to capture the strengths demonstrated by any of those films alone. Dreamcatcher enjoys a few solid moments and boasts a number of cool concepts, but the final result seems only occasionally interesting.
Footnote: what was up with Morgan Freeman’s enormous eyebrows in this film? Is he trying to become the black Eugene Levy? Some of the flick’s biggest scares came from those fuzzy phenoms.
The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-
Dreamcatcher appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A mix of small concerns made Dreamcatcher look less than top drawer for a modern flick, but it mostly presented a strong picture.
Sharpness never faltered. The movie stayed crisp and detailed from start to finish. I saw no instances of softness or other focus-related issues. Jagged edges and moiré effects didn’t present problems, but a little edge enhancement showed up at times. Print flaws seemed absent, though the image appeared a little grainier than I expected on occasion.
For the most part, Dreamcatcher featured a cool palette with fairly desaturated tones. These came across as they should, with good clarity and tightness. Because of the visual style, the colors never leapt off the screen, but they looked concise and distinctive. Black levels were similarly rich and deep, and shadow detail usually was solid. Occasional low-light scenes demonstrated a little more opacity than I’d expect, but those examples were rare. Overall, the picture seemed very positive.
Dreamcatcher also presented a good but not exemplary Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield seemed appropriately varied and involving. The film featured many different sequences that made good use of all five channels. From the various battles and elements with helicopters to the psychic sequences, the audio appeared appropriately localized and integrated smoothly. Pieces moved cleanly from side to side or front to rear and presented a natural and engrossing setting.
Audio quality sounded fine for the most part. Speech seemed distinct and crisp, and I noticed no problems connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music was vibrant and lively. The score demonstrated good range, with bright highs and reasonably deep lows. Effects also appeared detailed and clean. They were accurate and without concerns related to distortion. Bass response occasionally sounded a little loose and wasn’t as impressive as I expected. Nonetheless, the overall impression left by the audio of Dreamcatcher seemed nicely positive.
A mix of extras fill out the DVD. Mostly we get featurettes, and these open with DreamWriter – An Interview with Stephen King. In this seven-minute and 25-second clip, he discusses the accident that laid him up for a while and how this led to his writing of Dreamcatcher. He also tells us what he wanted to do with the story, how he came up with various elements, and issues connected to the film adaptation. It’s a fairly nice little examination of the tale behind the tale.
The DVD’s most substantial piece comes with DreamMakers – A Journey Through the Production. It runs 18 minutes and 50 seconds as it gives us a general look at the flick. It presents the standard mix of movie snippets, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from director/producer/screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, producer Charles Okun, director of photography John Seale, screenwriter William Goldman, visual effects producer Jacqueline Lopez, associate producer Mark Kasdan, co-producer and production designer Jon Hutman, make-up supervisor Bill Corso, editors Carol Littleton and Raul Davalos, supervising sound editor Robert Grieve, composer James Newton Howard and actors Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Morgan Freeman, Tom Sizemore, Donnie Wahlberg and Jason Lee, They cover the production fairly well despite the program’s brevity. We learn about why Kasdan took on the project, its adaptation, working in difficult physical conditions, some acting and character notes, specifics about some scenes, editing, audio and score. The show’s brevity means it lacks depth, but the shots from the set are good, and the piece gives us a surprisingly decent look at the making of the movie.
The one big topic omitted in the prior piece comes to the forefront in DreamWeavers – The Visual Effects of Dreamcatcher. It lasts eight minutes, 12 seconds and uses the same format as the previous show. We get comments from Lawrence Kasdan, visual effects producers Jeff Olson and Stefen Fangmeier, animation supervisor Hal Hickel, CG sequence supervisors David Horsley and John Walker, and computer graphics supervisor Joakim Arnesson. Mostly the program examines the creation of the flick’s various critters, though it also gets into the main battle sequence and some other elements. Again, this piece doesn’t present a lot of detail, but as a quick glimpse, it covers a lot of territory efficiently and makes the topics interesting.
After this we find a collection of Lifted Scenes and Original Ending. In this 13-minute and 51-second compilation, we see four segments plus the alternate conclusion. Most of them consist of pretty mediocre extensions of existing bits, though one that involves Morgan Freeman’s character would have been useful. The final one actually is more of an outtake, as Thomas Jane and Donnie Wahlberg offer a straight-faced goof on one of their bits. As for the original ending, it definitely doesn’t work; I’m not wild about the movie’s actual finish, but it beats the pants off this one.
A few minor bits finish off the disc. We get the movie’s teaser trailer as well as a Cast & Crew area. As with most WB DVDs, the latter just lists names and includes no actual information about the participants.
If nothing else, I have to respect Dreamcatcher for being something different. Sure, it largely consists of clichés, but it combines so many clichés from so many genres that it creates something strangely new. Unfortunately, the result is too incoherent and awkwardly paced to ever become very successful. As for the DVD, both picture and sound seem positive though they fall short of excellence. The disc includes a sparse selection of supplements, but the pieces we find are quite good for what they are. Dreamcatcher seems way too inconsistent and flawed for me to strongly recommend it, but I do think it’s intriguing enough to at least merit a rental.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.1071 Stars|| Number of Votes: 28|