Stephen King has spoken out on why he thinks The Dark Tower failed. The prolific author’s work has always been ripe for adaptation (See: Carrie, The Shining, Children of the Corn, and a trove of other classics), but this year has been particularly fruitful. In the last few months alone, two of his well-known works have been translated to screen: IT, his famed clown-centric thriller, and The Dark Tower, his sprawling, eight-book fantasy epic.
But while IT was a runaway blockbuster, The Dark Tower fell woefully short. The film took in only $110 million worldwide against a $60 million budget, and its reviews were largely scathing. A tie-in TV series, based on the fourth book, a prequel, is still charging ahead, but even the movie’s star, Idris Elba, isn’t certain about the franchise’s future. So where did it go wrong?
According to King, it came down to two things: Trying to fit such a large scale project into a suitable runtime and having to water down the book’s original tone. As he told Vulture in a recent interview:
“The major challenge was to do a film based on a series of books that’s really long, about 3,000 pages. The other part of it was the decision to do a PG-13 feature adaptation of books that are extremely violent and deal with violent behavior in a fairly graphic way. That was something that had to be overcome, although I’ve gotta say, I thought [screenwriter] Akiva Goldsman did a terrific job in taking a central part of the book and turning it into what I thought was a pretty good movie. The TV series they’re developing now … we’ll see what happens with that. It would be like a complete reboot, so we’ll just have to see.”
King notes that he’s loved every adaptation of his work (“Even the worst movie I saw was f—in’ terrific,” he told the outlet,) but his points are spot-on. The full series encompasses over 4,250 pages, not including the multiple references in King’s other books. A faithful adaptation for the first novel would have been ambitious enough on its own, but The Dark Tower attempted to pull from across the entire story while still adding its own spin. Simply put: The film’s team tried to do too much at once, and it showed. The long-gestating movie was plagued by numerous delays, and by the time it finally arrived in theaters, the list of concerns were high. Couple that with weak marketing, poor reviews, and, as King says, a significant shift in content, and it was essentially dead on arrival. But King enjoyed it nonetheless, and even though it was a missed opportunity for fans, his original series still speaks volumes on its own.
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