After much hype but little marketing, the first trailer for Nikolaj Arcel’s The Dark Tower finally landed last week. The adaptation of Stephen King’s epic saga is set to arrive this summer, starring Idris Elba as Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey as The Man in Black. King is a famously prolific writer, having published some 56 novels and 200 short stories so far. Some of his best works have also gone on to become huge movies, including classics such as Carrie, The Shawshank Redemption, and Stand by Me (adapted from ‘The Body’).
King is a smart writer, frequently connecting his stories by something as subtle as a nod here and there, or by something more overt, such as one character appearing in two separate stories. The trailer for The Dark Tower revealed two Easter eggs. In one scene as Jake sits in his therapist’s office, a photo in a frame is of The Overlook Hotel from The Shining. In another scene, Jake stands in front of an old, dilapidated circus which touts Pennywise, the terrifying clown from It, as its headliner.
While there are connections to The Shining and It in King’s work there are also strong ties to The Stand, and Salem’s Lot. The character Father Callahan, from Salem’s Lot, makes an appearance in the fifth, sixth, and seventh Dark Tower books. He is a religious man, but he struggles with his faith in light of the events taking place in his town. Salem’s Lot is said to be King’s favorite piece of his own work; when asked if he would consider writing a sequel, he pointed out that he didn’t need to, since Callahan’s narrative is continued in The Dark Tower series.
The Stand is another of King’s epic works, telling the story of a world in the aftermath of a Super-flu, where most of humanity has been wiped out. One of the central characters, Randall Flagg, has gone on to become known as the ultimate evil in King’s writing, appearing in many iterations across many novels and short stories. One such major appearance is as The Man in Black in The Dark Tower. The Walkin’ Dude, Walter O’Dim, Marten Broadcloak… the names for this character are endless, but they’re all the same incarnation of pure evil.
So, with multiple references to King’s other works to be found within The Dark Tower, why did Arcel choose to focus on The Shining and It in his trailer? It could be that Arcel just liked those movies or books and wanted to include nods to them, but given that this is a King adaptation, the answer is far more complicated. At first glance, any connection between The Shining, It and The Dark Tower isn’t apparent, but there is one – starting with the caretaker in The Shining, named Dick Halloran (the man who notices Danny’s powers). Halloran is referenced in It, when it is mentioned that one of the characters in the novel had a father who served with Halloran.
Then there’s Pennywise – one of the most terrifying characters King has ever created – whose life actually began in another form, in The Dark Tower. Roland encounters a creature called Dandelo, who serves The Crimson King (the character that is ruler of all evil, above The Man in Black). When Dandelo is killed, he turns into an evil clown. Any guesses who that could be? In The Dark Tower trailer, there’s the briefest of glimpse of something with razor sharp teeth. A form of Dandelo/Pennywise, perhaps?
With this context, Arcel’s Easter eggs make perfect sense, because it certainly does seem as though all three of these books and subsequent movie adaptations share the same universe. Not only that, but we can also assume that The Stand and Salem’s Lot share the same universe too… and Misery. Yes, the novel made famous by Kathy Bates’ ankle-smashing movie performance features a character named Paul Sheldon, who comes from the same town as the kids from It. Still with us?
Does this mean, then, that Arcel is setting The Dark Tower up as a shared King universe? Will the movie feature references to Salem’s Lot and The Stand, or even other King works, such as Hearts in Atlantis, or From a Buick 8? Hearts in Atlantis also features Randall Flagg/ The Man in Black, and he is also rumored to be the ‘evil man wearing black’ that appears in From a Buick 8. Both books also feature Lowmen, who appear in The Dark Tower. The list of possibilities is endless.
All of these books, apart from From a Buick 8, have been adapted for the screen (big or small) before. However, a remake of It will arrive this September, and The Stand is wholly in need of an accurate and worthy remake. This is rumored to be coming from Josh Boone (New Mutants), though that’s still on the very distant horizon. Warner Bros.’ option on The Stand has long since passed, but if it does somehow find its way back to the studio, theoretically, McConaughey could reprise his Man in Black for the movie.
For now, as exciting a notion as that may be, it’s pie in the sky. What’s much more likely, though, is that King fans will end up watching and re-watching The Dark Tower hoping to spot multiple Easter eggs. Going forward, should The Dark Tower succeed, there’s scope for even more of King’s universe to be brought to light.
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