Who is Danny Torrance?
Is he a boy with a talking finger that few realize has clairvoyant powers? Or is he the key to everything that holds the gateway to the spirit world? We take a closer look at stark differences between Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Stephen King’s The Shining television mini-series. I also have a kooky theory why one depiction is embraced more than the other.
Let’s begin what both versions had similar with the novel. Danny is an only son to parents both unemployed. His father has problems with alcohol and had hurt Danny at least once. Danny has visions of the future. As the ghosts of The Overlook come alive, he sometimes sees them. Other than a brief, yet close relationship with Dick Hallorann, the similarities between the two end there.
Knowing that Kubrick wanted to protect and shield the 5-year old, Danny Lloyd, Danny Torrance was portrayed more subtly, leaving Jack Nicholson as the story’s epicenter. Danny had visions and mostly kept to himself. Even Tony, the friend who lives in his stomach, makes few appearances. Tony comforts him but never directly reveals anything new, unlike his mini-series counter part. Through Danny, we know things are not quite right at The Overlook. However, if you watch closely, notice how rarely you see ghosts of The Overlook and Danny in the same frame. Same scene, yes. Same frame, maybe only once, and only from afar.
It’s not that Danny wasn’t involved, he clearly was. He asks the question, to Hallorann, about room 237, wonders if his father will hurt his family, and orchestrates the escape from the hedge maze that traps Jack. He also isn’t seen exploring room 237 or has overt confrontational events from spirits; attacks from fire hoses, pursued by hedge monsters, or threatened to be eaten by ghosts in wolf masks. We see him stare at twins with disturbing cutaways that convey the same message more efficiently. While the spirits of The Overlook acknowledge Danny’s special powers, the story approached it as a threat, an unfair advantage Danny had to thwart the master plan of another incident of murder-suicide. Danny’s character evolved from overlooked prophet, to a silent witness, to the character that ultimately evades and outsmarts his father and The Overlook spirits that controlled him.
The mini-series is faithful to the book. Danny and his relationship with his father is the core center of the story. Everything about him is more overt, more literal, less cryptic than Kubrick’s adaptation. Danny’s imaginary friend, Tony, is an apparition we can see. Tony needs no curled finger to speak for him. Danny prophetic visions are acknowledged early by his parents and is inquisitive. With opportunities in a 4 and a half hour mini-series, he gets into more trouble. The ghosts of The Overlook come after him in forms of wasps, a hose, hedge animals, and more. He’s confrontational and will monologue his parents, something Kubrick-Danny would never do.
Mini-series Danny’s powers were more prominent. Adding to his clairvoyance, he can speak telepathically and hold two-way conversations with ghosts. Danny’s Shining was responsible for magnifying the ghostly powers of The Overlook and we see through his eyes, including room “217”. In difference to Kubrick, he uses his powers in the end to help his father find redemption. In many ways, Kubrick’s mysteries were replaced with dialog and conversation. It fed our expectations from the novel at the cost of imagination and self-interpretations.
Granted, most would prefer Kubrick’s narrative simply because most would prefer the film over the mini-series. But which “Danny” best represented the novel? Kubrick’s narrative or King’s literal adaptation? The Overlook through the eyes of a child rather than actor-playing-psychopath, Jack Nicholson, has merit. I remember watching the mini-series, it was the first and only other opportunity to see the novel’s story, live action, since the original film. Seeing another interpretation, even if its a ripped copy from the book, was refreshing even if it was inferior.
To my kooky theory, Kubrick’s Danny had an out-of-date hair style. when Mini-series Danny arrived. Sadly, mini-series Danny’s hair is stuck in 1997. I think I embraced the mini-series performance more because he was modern, said more, did more. As time passes, Kubrick’s Danny’s hair has return to more fashionable acceptance, almost retro-modern again. Kubrick’s reserved role for Danny is more artistic. I embrace him more than the version with ridiculous hair.
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining
Stephen King’s The Shining TV mini-series