Above is our first non-zombie production photo from the set of AMC’s The Walking Dead, a forthcoming series based on Robert Kirkman’s acclaimed comic book. It’s of Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, the police officer who serves as the main protagonist in Kirkman’s tale of a post-apocalyptic, zombie-ravaged planet. This photo arrives at a pretty good time for me, as I just finished reading all 72 current issues of the comic this afternoon, and I watched Frank Darabont’s The Mist last night.
The comic book is, in a word, incredible. But here are some more words: harrowing, gutsy, terrifying, devastating. Many comic book ads tout the adage “No one is safe,” but The Walking Dead is one of the few series where I actually believe it. It is possibly the most risk-taking comic I’ve ever read. It’ll be a tall order to adapt, and I hope the TV show is just as ballsy (considering it’s on AMC, home of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, I think it’s found a safe home). As for The Mist, well, Frank Darabont wrote and directed that Stephen King adaptation, and though the plots are very different (where The Walking Dead has zombies, The Mist has impenetrable fog and otherworldly beasts), certain elements reminded me of The Walking Dead. The film almost entirely takes place in a small grocery store, the customers forming different allegiances and trying to survive. It’s much less about the monsters than it is about the double-sided nature of humanity, what it takes for some to become heroes and others to become dictators, and what the line is between the two.
How was the movie, you ask? …Interesting. There were parts that I loved, and the last ten minutes are utterly awe-inspiring, but there were also a lot of other parts that felt ordinary. Which is how Frank Darabont projects usually feel. Don’t get me wrong, I think The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile are great–and The Majestic was unjustly maligned–but they all feel rather ordinary. Which is probably why Shawshank is currently the #1 movie on the IMDb top 250, ahead of The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Persona, Seven Samurai…well, every single other movie ever made. It’s also why, personally, I love the movie but could never call it a masterpiece. And there’s definitely a lot of ordinariness in The Mist. The characters are all real and down-to-earth in Darabont style, but big chunks of the movie feel fairly conventional and though I’m not one to underestimate the inherent cruelness of the human mind unleashed in the event of supernatural tragedy, the rise of Marcia Gay Harden’s Mrs. Carmody from tolerated Jesus freak to evil, bitchtastic spiritual leader felt a little quick and over-the-top. (Though, as much of a King fan as I am, if there was anyone who would enact that rapid character progression, it’s him.)
So I don’t know. I hope Darabont does a good job, and he has a fine track record. If he can sustain the feeling of overwhelming hopelessness and despair of The Mist‘s final ten minutes, then I think he’s got a chance to do something great with The Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman is certainly excited about the series, and this interview with Darabont is encouraging. So I’m putting aside my doubts, instead waiting for the high-quality AMC product we’ve grown accustomed to.