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Fails to please either crowd.
In dealing with all book-to-cinema translations, one ends up with two distinct audience groups: those that read the book, and those that didn't. The book-readers will need less explained to them, while the other group will have less high or detailed expectations. Particularly with Stephen King book-movies, directors have the hardest time in making a smooth translation. Time and time again, they fail to make the right choices in picking out what must be told and shown and what can be left out.
Dreamcatcher, unfortunately, is no exception. The book-reader sees too little of the all-important relationship between the four friends and their "Duddits" visualized; their problems, piece-by-piece, are told at a dizzying pace; Colonel Kurtz's (oh right, that's "Curtis": I guess "Kurtz" was too complicated a name *groan*) brooding madness is laid bare in two seconds; Lieutenant Owen's character development is swept under the carpet, turning one of the novel's heroes in a pointless strawman; etcetera, etcetera. Meanwhile, the general opinion of the audience that didn't read the book seems to simultaneously be that the story receives far too little explanation, while the movie is overly long-winded. A sure sign that the screenplay was not written well enough.
Dreamcatcher's point is to show a more realistic version of, and human reaction to alien invasion, and simultaneously show the power of childhood friendship enduring into adulthood. The latter is killed by speed; the former falls short as the director seems more interested in showing flashy action and creepy monsters. Which is exactly the kind of cliche King tried to avoid.
Speaking of cliches, the movie starts off good and fizzes out halfway through. The famed "bathroom scene" is indeed fantastic (and highly suspenseful I imagine, if you didn't read the book). Like many other aspects of the story, the aliens' attempt at looking harmless is not exploited enough. Good moments, like Jonesy's cracking a sudden smile as "Mr. Gray" surfaces, are followed by bad ones, like the usage of the cheap "swoosh" sound effect whenever Mr. Gray is close to revealing his true form (which is a horrible director's mistake, every single time). Much like the choice to change the book's name "Kurtz" to the movie's "Curtis", the poor British accent including cockney slang that Jonesy puts up whenever Mr. Gray surfaces is a scandalous insult to the audience's intelligence; clearly the director feels that this was a clever way of cueing the rabble on when the alien's talking. Take a note from Gollum, please. The ending witnesses an absurd revelation about Duddits and then comes to a crashing, abrupt halt, though in the movie's defense, there were some serious flaws in the book's ending too (namely that King employed the unforgiveable "closing dialogue epilogue" between the surviving characters, which explains everything the story so far didn't... think characters sitting around the fireplace when one suddenly bursts out and says "One thing I still don't understand...").
Still, the curse of King movies endures. Perhaps as a miniseries this movie would've done better, though time was certainly not its only weakness. I shudder to think what's been/being done to Desperation and Bag of Bones as I write this.