“Doctor Sleep” is the most ambitious film of the year. Continuing where “The Shining” left off, it’s an all-new tale of supernatural powers and homicidal menace starring a grown-up Dan Torrance, the tricycle-riding, psychic little boy from the original movie. Its mission: not just to deliver a terrifying adaptation of Stephen King’s 2013 novel but to broker interdimensional peace between King and Stanley Kubrick over 1980’s “The Shining,” a film King notoriously dislikes. Just as that movie’s Overlook Hotel is haunted by tragedies past, so “Doctor Sleep” director Mike Flanagan must contend with Kubrick’s cinematic ghosts. Can he reconcile King and Kubrick’s divergent visions?

To assess, we must take the new movie’s tagline literally and “Dare to go back.” Spoilers ahead.

“The Shining” is the story of Jack, Wendy and Danny Torrance, holed up for the winter in a grand hotel in the Rocky Mountains. Jack’s taken a caretaker job to finish a writing project and rebalance the life he’s nearly destroyed through alcohol abuse. Before long, they’re snowed in, and the hotel unleashes a menagerie of malevolent ghosts who drive Jack into a state of homicidal catatonia. Danny, who is gifted with a telepathic, precognitive skill called “shining,” summons help, and he and Wendy escape.

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From King’s pulp classic, Kubrick sculpted his own work of gleaming obsidian art. He and co-screenwriter Diane Johnson pared back the plot, reducing entire threads to hints or props — such as the scrapbook of Overlook history, significant in the novel, which is merely glimpsed on-screen. They also drastically altered the tone. King’s novel is character-driven domestic horror, emotionally resonant even at its most supernatural; Kubrick’s film, with its avant-garde score and innovative visual scheme, is chilly, grand, inscrutable. The family drama at the center of King’s novel is fundamentally psychosocial; in Kubrick, it’s mythical. King’s close identification with his characters and the psychological coherence he gives their actions are replaced in the film by a terse, menacing opacity and a semiotic promiscuity that make of it, in the words of Roger Luckhurst, “an open matrix that can support multiple avenues of possibility.”

King’s objections to Kubrick’s film are well established. Principal among them are the treatment of Jack Torrance — who, in Jack Nicholson’s performance, seems insane from the start — and the fate of the Overlook. In the book, the hotel’s boiler explodes, killing Jack and burning down the Overlook; in the film, Jack freezes to death in the hotel’s hedge maze. This discrepancy presents a beguiling opportunity to Flanagan.

“Doctor Sleep,” set mostly in the present day, finds adult Dan Torrance trying to escape his “shining” abilities at the bottom of a bottle. After hitting a new low, he hops a bus to New Hampshire, sobers up and finds orderly work in a hospice, using his powers to calm dying souls. Meanwhile, a vampiric tribe called the True Knot, led by the sinister Rose the Hat, roams the land hunting children who shine, feeding off their pain and terror to sustain their own hollow existences. An especially gifted girl named Abra draws the attention of this murderous band and turns to Dan for help when it becomes clear they plan to kill her.

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In contrast with Kubrick and Johnson’s approach, Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep” is packed with incident; he squeezes in as many of the novel’s characters and locations as he can. In so doing, he ignores a cardinal law of adaptation: as in nature, when the medium changes, the material must adapt to survive; darlings must be killed, and in greater numbers on film than in print. The resulting movie feels rushed — despite a 2½-hour running time, individual scenes don’t have time to breathe; if anything, the story moves too quickly. While fans may be pleased by Flanagan’s fidelity to King’s plot, casual viewers may be disoriented.

Where Flanagan gets King right — like Andy Muschietti in his recent adaptation of “It” — is in capturing his humor and humanity, alongside the horror. Yes, at its most gruesome, “Doctor Sleep” is skin-melting, flesh-wracking, corpse-steaming, classic King. But his stories, however filled with vampires, evil clowns, telekinetic teenagers, rabid dogs and possessed cars, are also grounded in a recognizable world of regular people with regular problems. King’s characters are writers, doctors, teachers, bullied kids, depressives, alcoholics, people on low incomes. In “The Shining,” what disturbs Danny most, long before “REDRUM,” is “DIVORCE, a word that always appeared in his mind as a sign painted in red letters.” Ewan McGregor’s Dan, in “Doctor Sleep,” is haunted as much by his old drinking days as he is by the denizens of the Overlook.

Nevertheless, “Doctor Sleep” is, by design, a servant to two masters and, in the end, Flanagan’s fealty to King compromises and is compromised by his attempts to capture some of Kubrick’s black magic. This occurs mostly in the movie’s final third, when Flanagan pushes at the door Kubrick left open when he failed to burn down the hotel and returns to the Overlook.

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It’s a mistake. Part of the issue is that, in its loving reproductions of the sets, costumes and characters of “The Shining,” Flanagan’s film falls into the old uncanny valley problem. Does Alex Essoe as Wendy look and sound like Shelley Duvall? How does Room 237 match up? However well Flanagan re-creates Kubrick’s aesthetic — and for the most part he does a great job — it is, unavoidably, a metatextual distraction from the on-screen action. Even the clever riffing of the Newton Brothers’ score on the Bartók, Ligeti and Penderecki cues used by Kubrick feels ersatz — Muzak piped into the elevators of “The Shining Experience.”

This problem reaches its apex in this final, silliest act of the film. Dan and Abra have lured Rose the Hat, by now the last member of the True Knot standing, to the Overlook to defeat her in a shining-powered psychic battle. There, Dan unleashes his secret weapon, the Overlook’s ghosts — the twins, Delbert Grady, the rotting lady in the bathtub — each one reanimated like so many immaculate Halloween costumes. The menace is gone. With this act of tribute, Flanagan dissipates completely the mysterious effects Kubrick so successfully created; the horrors of the Overlook are diminished and domesticated, transformed into lumbering zombies. Rose’s response when the elevators unleash their famous gush of blood is one of indifference; by that point, so’s ours.

Lovingly made but ultimately ill-conceived, “Doctor Sleep” is like the members of the True Knot, imbibing the essence of Kubrick’s original in the vain hope of remaining vital. It’s a shame, because Flanagan has a flair for visuals, and there are some effective moments of horror, like the Knot’s capture and torture of a young baseball star in Iowa. But the ironies of the movie’s failed attempt at reconciliation — that it ultimately deviates further from the plot of “Doctor Sleep” than Kubrick did with “The Shining;” that its success in finally destroying the Overlook should feel so hollow — overtake and capsize the film. Its failure is noble, sure, but sufficient to doom this sequel to be a footnote to its forebear for ever … and ever … and ever …

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