John Carpenter does some amazing work on Christine. He’s got help from his cinematographer, Donald M. Morgan, but the first forty-five or fifty minutes of the film are simply masterful. Carpenter has a wide variety of scenes–high school, ominous, family scenes, conversations–and all of them are magnificent.
It’s just too bad Bill Phillips’s script falls apart once John Stockwell ceases to be the main character and top-billed Keith Gordon takes over. It also doesn’t help Gordon’s terrible. Some of the film’s logic holes are because the script’s focus switches from Stockwell to Gordon (and finally back to Stockwell), but it wouldn’t matter if it didn’t. Gordon wouldn’t be any better if Phillips’s had plotted the script better.
Gordon starts out as an ostracized nerd and he’s awful at it, but at least he’s got Stockwell to hold up the scenes. But then, once Gordon gets his evil car, he becomes super-cool. Except Carpenter and Phillips don’t show this period, it’s just implied because Alexandra Paul wants to go out with Gordon. When the film catches up with him again, he’s super creepy. By the end, he’s a vampire.
The last hour or so is a mess, with some excellent special effects, Carpenter’s direction and Stockwell’s acting keeping it watchable.
Paul’s okay, nothing more, but there are some great supporting performances. Robert Prosky, Harry Dean Stanton and, especially, Roberts Blossom are all fantastic.
Christine can’t overcome its major problems; Carpenter makes it worthwhile all by himself.