While Stephen King has come to hate The Tommyknockers in hindsight, the 1987 alien invasion book is still worth adapting into a new movie. When one writes as many books as King, it’s only natural that some of them might end up a bit lacking. That’s the case for The Tommyknockers, at least in the eyes of most. The tale of a small Maine town that finds its residents corrupted by a malevolent alien force buried under the Earth has potential, and a few great moments, but is mostly a letdown.
Like many King stories, The Tommyknockers focuses on a writer, a couple of them in fact. James Eric Gardener, or Gard for short, is a poet with an alcohol problem and ends up being the main force of resistance against the aliens. Roberta “Bobbi” Anderson is an author of western fiction, and Gard’s significant other, but is the first to discover the alien ship, and the first to be taken over by its malevolent influence. The two are then set on a collision course.
The Tommyknockers was a critical dud, but still sold well, so it was adapted into a 1993 miniseries by ABC, starring Jimmy Smits as Gard and Marg Helgenberger as Bobbi. The miniseries, like the book, was panned by critics but did well commercially. In 2017, it was announced that James Wan and IT producer Roy Lee were developing a feature film adaptation. Even though King seems to think the book is terrible now, the remake is still worth doing.
While Stephen King now regards The Tommyknockers as an “awful book,” he also acknowledges that not everything in it is bad, and chopping down its length considerably might have led to a much better final product. The movie remake is a perfect opportunity to do that, as most often movies are forced to cut a lot of material for time reasons, but in this case Wan, Lee, and screenwriter Jeremy Slater appear to have complete freedom to keep what works from the book and ax what doesn’t. If King hates the book, and the majority of his constant readers aren’t huge fans, there’s no reason to worry about potential changes to the story earning the usual ire from book purists.
There are also things that could actually be included from King’s book this time that were excluded from the Tommyknockers miniseries. In the book, it’s revealed that the aliens originally hail from a planet called Altair-4, while the miniseries doesn’t expand on where they’re from. Additionally, the book’s ending is much darker and almost entirely different, killing off many more major characters, involving recurring King villain The Shop, and just generally giving everyone an alternate fate to what most people will be familiar with from the miniseries. The movie remake presents an opportunity to make the best version of The Tommyknockers, King’s book included.