The Dark Tower movie, the cinematic adaptation of Stephen King’s magnum opus, has taken a long time to come to fruition. The project has been in development hell for years, with fans eager to see such an epic tale finally realized on screen. The project eventually found its home at Sony Pictures, and Nikolaj Arcel was brought on board to direct and write the screenplay. Fans were happy to see the casting of the two main leads; Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, the gunslinger, and Matthew McConaughey as Walter O’Dim, the Man in Black, and indeed, reviews have been favorable about their performances (if not much else). The pair also seem heavily invested in their roles, frequently sharing banter with one another on social media.
But while The Dark Tower should have, and indeed could have been one of the best movies of 2017, it has fallen flat. The problems with the movie are plentiful, and it’s impossible to pinpoint one exact reason why it’s not as good as it should have been, but the source material, and the lead actors, can’t bear the blame. The adaptation is a confusing one; Arcel tried for a retelling of The Dark Tower series but with some bits missing, and some new stuff added. But that only served to confuse those who have read the books, not to mention those who just went to the theater to see the movie with no background whatsoever. The reason for the differences (Roland is trapped in an eternal cycle of his story that differs slightly each time) is not explained well enough, not to mention the fact that many crucial moments and characters are missing completely.
The Dark Tower is only 95 minutes long, which also raised alarm bells for many; King’s work spans seven full-length novels, two slightly shorter novels, and a comic book series – it’s surely impossible to decently re-tell even one of the novels in 95 minutes. Then there’s Sony’s seeming reluctance to promote the movie, which led to some assuming it was because the studio didn’t have any faith in it. The reality is probably more that the studio was still working on the movie until the last moment, especially since it was hit by delays due to more time being needed for special effects. That’s not to say The Dark Tower is a bad film. It’s just not great. And after all those years of waiting for it to be made into a movie, fans are left disappointed. Certainly it’s an okay watch, and there are some moments that stand out; which can then frustrate the viewer even more, of course, because of what could have been. But as previously stated, the source material is strong, and there isn’t any need to change the cast, so where does The Dark Tower go from here?
Plans are already in place for a tie-in TV series, based on the fourth Dark Tower novel, Wizard and Glass. That novel is mainly one long flashback to Roland’s past, and it is a great origin story. The show already has Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead) appointed as showrunner, with Arcel working on the script once more, though it has yet to find a home at any network. Certainly, a TV series based on The Dark Tower books could do well; 13 hour long episodes on, for example, Netflix, could give ample opportunity for King’s work to be properly explored and retold. And given that there’s so much of it, the show could run and run. While any show featuring a young Roland would mean another actor taking on the role, Wizard and Glass also features the adult Roland, and it’s rumored that Elba would be willing to appear, as would Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers, who also features. If that is indeed the case, and further installments of the novels were to be told, then McConaughey could also appear. A TV show certainly could work well, especially on a streaming service where viewers could watch as much or as little as they liked in one sitting. Indeed, the potential is there for the show to become resoundingly popular if it can escape the shadow of the movie – but with more movies planned, that might not be so easy to do.
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