Stephen King's relationship with the silver screen has always been a stormy one - for every 'Shawshank Redemption' and 'Misery', there's a 'Graveyard Shift' or a 'Mangler'. Even 'The Shining', which is most commonly regarded as the best adaptation of a King novel, veered so wildly from the original source material that the author felt the need to make his own version of it in the mid 1990's.
'Dreamcatcher' was a novel that followed the same path as most of King's output over the last fifteen years. It started brightly enough, lost it's way somewhere in the middle and then became a long, hard slog to actually finishing reading the damn thing. Unfortunately, the movie suffers from the same fate.
The story itself is full of tired old King-clichés: Four childhood friends (Stand By Me) take their annual trip to their cabin in the woods (Gerald's Game), get drunk and generally do what old friends do when they get together. Very quickly however, things take a turn for the worse and they find themselves pitted against malevolent alien forces (The Tommyknockers) and realise that the answer to saving themselves lies with a friend they left behind in their hometown on Derry, Maine (It, Hearts in Atlantis, or just about every other King novel in the last twenty years). On the page the story just about works, even though it takes over six hundred pages to do so, but trying to condense the work into a two hour film is a foolhardy exercise, even for a screenwriter of William Goldman's expertise. There is too much to be culled from the original material and, consequently, too much exposition required. As a result the film drags for an eternity before wrapping things up (unsatisfactorily) in an ending that feels far too rushed.
Having said that, the opening third of the film is brilliantly executed. Director Lawrence Kasdan explores the friendship between the four main characters will consummate ease. The four lead actors (Thomas Jane, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Lee and, especially, Damian Lewis) all attack their characters with aplomb and it's a shame that, all too soon, the monsters arrive and we are plunged into a sub-X-File actioner that requires very little from any of the assembled cast. It's especially galling when you realise that the top-billed Morgan Freeman is given absolutely nothing to do with his role as a power crazed military colonel who is called in to take control of the alien invasion. In fact, it's probably fair to say that as soon as Freeman shows up in the movie, you've already seen the best that the film has to offer. All the characterization, most of the tension and even most of the best special effects have been on show by then and the rest of the movie plays out in a long winded fashion, with the odd action set piece thrown in for good measure. Quite frankly, if you've ever seen a later episode of The X Files, you'll have seen all of this before.