This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
John Cribbs’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
*Note: this is based on the 3-hour Director's Cut.*
Mike Flanagan's SUPERMAN RETURNS: a reference-heavy sequel to a beloved film shot in England and released in 1980, with new actors standing in for the original cast, that seeks to satisfy fan nostalgia while simultaneously expanding upon the world of its predecessor and existing as its own thing. Both movies ultimately fail in the latter and end up a pale reprise of the classic movie (quite literally, in the case of DOCTOR SLEEP's climax).
While it's admirable of Flanagan to try servicing both fans of the King novel and Kubrick movie, there just doesn't seem to be any reason for a random office to be the same one from the opening of the 1980 movie. There's no logical reason to have Abra send Dan the message "REDRUM." And while I enjoyed Henry Thomas (FROG DREAMING) playing Jack Nicholson playing Jack Torrance, I imagine someone who's never seen THE SHINING will be confused as to who this character is and why he's showing up in the last 20 minutes of the movie, or who Carl Lumly is playing for that matter.
What I've noticed about Flanagan after a decade of films is that he will always go for the cool idea over one that will enrich the story and the characters. The result is a movie that has lots of neat stuff that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with each other. Rose the Hat flying over the city looks great, but what does it have to do with anything? Having the group of 1980 SHINING ghosts hanging around in a group like they're the League of Evil Ghosts is just corny (and if he truly wanted to go for it, where's the bear-suit blow job guy?)
In terms of adapting the King novel, I'd say the film improves on the book's worst element (the cheesy villains) while fumbling its best: Dan's recovery and finding purpose as a hospice caretaker. Granted it's a tough thing in a genre movie to translate a character's personal journey from sinking to absolute bottom and finding his way back to the surface, but the strongest section of the book is how Dan turning off his shine leads to ruin and finding a way to use it to help others gives him purpose. It's hard to know what the character arc is for Dan in the movie: is it most important for him to protect Abra? Reconcile with his father? With his mother? Don't worry about that, look - there's the elevator gushing blood! Neat!
Like all Flanagan's films, DOCTOR SLEEP is a well-made movie that doesn't leave much of an impression. Enjoyable enough to watch while it's on but largely substance-free.