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Rumors and half-truths have been circulating and ceasing for years, getting us needlessly excited for a vision of The Dark Tower that never comes to pass: producers (Ron Howard), directors (J.J. Abrams) , actors (Javier Bardem, Daniel Craig, Russel Crowe), etc., ad infinitum. First come smiles, then lies. Last is gunfire. Stephen King’s heralded opus of grandeur, supposedly destined for the big screen. Finally! We have Roland, we have the Man in Black, we have Jake. We have a trailer!
I have to admit, some shock set in. I was fairly prepared for some differences, as Hollywood is wont to bastardize greatness in literature in order to fit the necessities into the big screen. What we get in the trailer seems to be a hybrid of the first few books [is that the Tick-Tock Man dragging Jake? (Tom Taylor)] which makes the plot difficult to determine.
Jake’s first entry to Mid-World (nothing but strikes at Mid-World lanes!) – the psych backstory, through a house, seems to be the clearest evidence that Book One and Book Three are dabbled in, which will be a large obstacle for a linear thinker like myself to overcome. I have concerns the movie is trying desperately to reach audiences, and is pulling solid material from later on in the story in order to win us over.
However, it’s vitally important that Sony Pictures and director Nicolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) do not paint themselves into a corner in terms of story presented. If we are led to believe that this journey of Roland’s is new, different than the books, but with parallels between Roland’s journey in the novel, we must have expectations that the original story will be respected to some degree.
This entire idea is a very fine line, like walking the edge of a knife. Pulling essential content now from later on in the story to sell tickets in an attempt to drive the future of the franchise seems like artistic fool’s gold. The story is there, the world of Roland is there. Just tell us with a camera instead of words. Audiences will respond and buy tickets because it’s a damn good yarn. Do ‘ee ken?
The Dark Tower is close, now. The Crimson King awaits. Soon Roland will raise the Horn of Eld. And blow. pic.twitter.com/rqGSKM3dWL
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) May 19, 2016
This is a tweet from King about a year ago. Roland has the Horn of Eld in his possession. Without spoiling a great deal for anyone who has not undertaken the eighth book, 4,300-page marathon campaign that is The Dark Tower series, this crucial piece of information means Roland can actually complete his journey. With King’s infamous tweet, we can assume he has come to terms with the idea that the ‘wheel’ might have an end.
King is obviously on board with the direction of the films, and this bodes promising to the fans of the novels. It’s not that King hasn’t given the nod to other films of his books that missed the mark entirely, but The Dark Tower should have a different set of standards for America’s greatest novelist. This is his finest work, his heretofore crowning achievement. I sincerely hope he makes sure all things serve the beam.
Intrigued? Yes I am. More than that, I am excited to find out if Arcel can harness the considerable talents of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey as The Gunslinger and The Man in Black, respectively. I’m excited to see the best thing I have ever read come to life on the screen. I am excited for the visualization of the breadth and depth of Mid-World. This excitement is attached to substantial trepidation. My desire for an absolute life-changing epic adventure sets the bar unapologetically very high. I will not accept anything but excellence, I will not suffer mediocrity, and I believe I speak for a large portion of the audience clamoring for this movie.
Long days and pleasant nights…
The Dark Tower opens on August 4th.
CHIEF’S COMMENT: As an outsider to Stephen King’s novel, but someone who considers himself a cinephile, I see parallels between what Sony is doing and what, e.g., Marvel Universe has done, in taking the pieces of the comics that work in the confines of the time allotted by movies and melding the histories and backstories of characters into new constructs that fit the “universe” they have to play in. I also feel like any serious attempt to do justice to a novel of any length or complexity needs to be a 9-hour epic and studios are simply not willing to pull the trigger on a project that size that’s not attached to a cape, so you have that to consider, as well.
AUTHOR’S RESPONSE: Large differences are apparent in the comparison between lower-risk Marvel movies. Taking a well-developed Marvel character and creating a movie and universe in film around the vast amount of material is a synergistic approach. The comic books are themselves written like screenplays. What if they made a Spider-man movie where Aunt May is a superhero sidekick with X-ray vision and superspeed? Fans would riot in the streets.
Yes, The Dark Tower carries high amounts of risk, but it has the opportunity to become that special brand of cinema that defines greatness. I will be forever indebted to Sony Pictures for taking a shot at this enormous undertaking. I just want to be very clear that I, and many others who believe The Dark Tower series are the best thing written in the last 80 years, will demand that the movies pay homage to the books that defined who I am as a reader.