I've thought long and hard about what to say about this CBS miniseries, but now that I've reached my three episode decision point, I think I've finally come to one conclusion: this is not a good miniseries.
Normally, I can abide changes. I usually defend changes and expect adaptations to contain them, but unlike other adaptations, such as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or other works by Stephen King, the alterations don't work; they're not improvements on the story at all. They don't capture the essence of the novel; they tell a different tale entirely, with what feels like different characters.
For instance, the entire series opens with Barbie burying a corpse. It's a man he murdered, who we find out later had an unloaded gun. In the book, Barbie is former military with a distaste for violence. He fought when he had to, in defense. He was the hero, a white knight of sorts. He wasn't an enforcer or murderer or whatever it is they're trying to make him into in this series. Most often, he was a victim of circumstance, caught in the wrong place. In the series, he's a bit of a villain. He even lies. I don't think I can even refer to him as an anti-hero or a flawed hero at this point in the story. While these changes might seem insignificant they change the entire course of the series and his character. When Barbie in the show says, "I don't want any trouble," I find myself scratching my head--he has already murdered someone, is covering it up, and that's the epitome of trouble.
For decades, Stephen King complained about the character changes made to Jack Torrence in Kubrick's The Shining (I love what Nicholson did), so he's well aware what it means to alter them in drastic fashion. It can go horribly wrong. That's what has happened in this series. Pivotal characters are either outside the dome or nothing like what they were in the book, everyone from Barbie to the DJ to Big Jim. The villains of the book are not intimidating in the series; Junior is downright laughable--having watched House at the End of the Street a week ago, it's all I can think of when there are scenes of Angie chained to a bed underground--and wearing a hoodie does not make Junior scary.
On top of a lot of added clichés that weren't in the novel, the acting is stale, a lot of times it's emotionless, and the dialogue is atrocious. Sometimes, I wonder if I'm watching a WB drama when the characters have heart to hearts. I half expected Big Jim and Barbie to hug it out last episode. I must say, despite an awful script, Mike Vogel and Dean Norris appear to be the lone actors bringing anything interesting to the show, yet they can't save this sinking ship.
The rising tension, edginess, and creepiness of the novel did not translate into the show, not in the slightest--it's watered down and pitiful. I find myself oftentimes chortling or scoffing, yet I can't look away. I know I'm going to stick through the miniseries up to its end. I know it'll be torturous, and I'll rant on the forums. I'll bitch like a book snob until I'm red in the face, and I'll continue to be a fan of Stephen King. After all, nothing can lessen my love for the novel--Under the Dome is one of the greatest pieces of literature he has ever written. In some ways though, I might have lost a pinch of reverence. I can't help it; I'm baffled that Mr. King signed off on this script. I really am.