Volume 5, Issue 10!
“The Tower Waits…”
“The Man In Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”
In less than a year, I’ll see those words up on a big screen. It’s a weird feeling hearing that The Dark Tower, Stephen King’s magnum opus (and one of my “Five Fandoms”) is FINALLY going into production. After years of false starts and almost green lights, hearing that Roland and his Ka-Tet will finally be exposed to a wider audience is both thrilling and frightening. Thrilling because it’s revitalizing the feeling of first reading the Dark Tower series, and frightening because this is an almost impossible series to adapt. King’s series spans multiple realities, time periods, creatures, and more, and many believe it’s unfilmable. But for better or for worse, Sony is going to try.
For those unaware, The Dark Tower is a seven book series that follows Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger in a world known as “Mid-World”. In this world the “Gunslingers” are essentially a new spin on the Knights of the Roundtable (think guns instead of swords), and Roland, being the last of them, takes it upon himself to find the mystical Dark Tower, which according to myth is the center of all worlds. He must reach it before the evil Man in Black does, and before the beams that hold all of reality together fall to the Crimson King. Mid-World is home to many different portals to other worlds, including our own, and during his adventure Roland pulls in numerous people into his quest for the Tower. The series was written on and off over the course of decades, and many Stephen King fans (myself included), consider it his best work.
But it’s also the hardest to get into. The first book, The Gunslinger, literally drops you into Mid-World. It starts with the iconic first line that I mentioned before, and gives you no set up for what Roland’s search is or how this world came to be. Sure, you’ll eventually find out about Roland’s past in future books, but as for Mid-World, you’ll piece it together as the saga unfolds, but you’ll never get a detailed history of it in the books (there is a companion book though).
With all of this information (or lack thereof), it’s no wonder Hollywood has had a hard time adapting the series. At seven books, Dark Tower would need something akin to the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings film approach, but at the same time, The Dark Tower is a decidedly adult story that may not be able to reach as wide an audience as those two franchises. I’ve always hoped for HBO to pick it up and make it their new Game of Thrones, but in order to do the series correctly the budget per episode would be insane (possibly even higher than Game of Thrones’).
From the recent Entertainment Weekly article, it sounds like Sony may have cracked the code, but doing so means they’ll have to change the timeline of the books. Instead of starting with The Gunslinger, Stephen King states that this first film will take place “in our world”, which makes me think that the first Dark Tower film will be an adaptation of either The Drawing of the Three or The Wastelands, or a combination of the two. This is worrisome, as I’d love to see the movies start at the beginning of the book series, but at the same time, using the story that has the most ties to “our world” would make it easiest for audiences to get into. Plus if the movie does well, then the producers can go crazy with the other aspects of the book. But the movie-going public loving the movie doesn’t seem likely because the base script is by Akiva Goldsman (yes, I still hold a grudge over Batman & Robin).
However, the casting for the two leads is pretty damn awesome. I was surprised like many that Idris Elba was cast as Roland (who in the books is described as being basically Clint Eastwood), but the more I imagine Elba saying lines from the book, the more I get excited. Elba is one of my favorite actors out there, and I have no doubt that he’ll crush it, just like Matthew McConaughey will crush playing The Man In Black, aka Walter O’Dim, aka Randall Flagg. Of course, this brings up the question of whether or not McConaughey will also show up in The Stand (oh yeah, The Dark Tower also crosses over with certain major King works), but we’ll get to that if The Stand movie ever actually happens.
Before you get too excited, Sony isn’t committing to a full franchise just yet, which honestly, I’m all for. Unlike every other major studio, Sony is only making the one Dark Tower movie and waiting to see how it does before committing to more. This is a welcome change of pace, as I’ve lost count over how many franchises have failed to launch due to the middling interest in the first movie. And the silver lining of it all is that this could get more people to check out King’s series. Plus if this adaptation of The Dark Tower sucks, we can forget about it and wait for HBO to pick it up to fill the eventual hole that Game of Thrones will leave.