As a romance story, John Carpenter's film realization of Christine leaves something to be desired. The development of love between Arnie Cunningham and his newly acquired 1958 Plymouth Fury (the title character, who is imbued with supernatural powers and will kill to protect her owner) is never shown, and the rest of the film suffers as a result. As impressive as the acting, cinematography, and effects are in the last half of the film, they don't follow sufficient character development, and so I felt that something was missing. This is probably the result of squeezing Stephen King's 500-plus page novel into a film with a running time of under two hours, but isn't that the way with all of King's books? King's development of his characters is so thorough that even a master of atmosphere like John Carpenter must have despaired a little at adapting such a book.
That said, Carpenter does a masterful job at bringing the characters to life, even Christine -- scratch that, especially Christine. Turning a car into a character isn't easy, but this director makes it look natural. Christine goes through various moods in the film, including jealousy, triumph, and rage, and they are all communicated as clearly as by any human actor. Carpenter's choices of vintage music and the mood-inspiring notes of his own original score are impeccable. In addition, the scene in which Christine rebuilds herself, given the pre-CGI state of special effects in the early 1980's, is simply astonishing. Carpenter has been given loads of grief in recent years over films that have flopped, but if you believe that a director is as good as his best work, then Christine stands as testament that the man is a master.
If you have read the book, considering the movie as a companion piece might help you appreciate it more; simply fill in the missing details from imagination and memory and enjoy as you watch Christine take to the road.
Carpenter has always had a reputation for beautiful photography; Christine is no different. Who else could make the explosion of a gas station so breathtaking? The disc is appropriately gorgeous, with 16x9 enhancement and a nicely preserved print. The sound is supposedly Dolby Digital 2.0, but I didn't hear much in the way of stereo effects. Heck, Christine's radio only gets AM channels anyway.
The film has a decent number of scene selections, but the most impressive thing about the presentation is the quality of the menus. They are spine-tinglingly gorgeous, especially the scene-selection menus, which feature Christine's ghostly-green speedometer.
Unfortunately, this is another disappointing disc for a film that really could have benefitted from some extras. All we get are some text biographies of Carpenter and the actors. Even the film's trailer (which I still insist should be the rock-bottom minimum for any disc's collection of extras) is woefully missing. Sadly, to find out just how many vintage cars were crushed for the making of Christine, we'll have to look elsewhere.
Chris Holland, 3/21/2001