Broadsheet Trailer Park: The Dark Tower

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What you may need to know

1. A few months ago I said to look out for lots more shared universes on the big screen. While you wouldn’t quite call the collected works of Stephen King a shared universe, he is certainly being tapped heavily at the moment as filmmakers look for ever-more ways to get bums on seats.

2, With that, here comes The Dark Tower, an adaptation of King’s epic eight-book cycle (1982 – 2012); part The Lord of the Rings, part The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The film has been in various stages of development over the past ten years; J.J. Abrams was attached to direct at one point (when is he not?), before Ron Howard came close with a hugely ambitious alternating film-TV-series-film project covering each book. Howard remains as producer, with Danish director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel in the chair now.

3. Condensing is understandable given the sprawling nature of the source material, but this looks to be a very, very, condensed. Proceedings look to have skipped most of the first two books and eliminated several earth-bound characters that otherworldly “gunslinger” Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) encounters on his travels.

4. Fact fans: King’s original inspiration for the story was the 1855 poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, by Robert Browning.

5. A companion TV series covering other segments of the book series is planned for 2018, according to Entertainment Weekly.

6. There was confusion in the air when Matthew McConaughey was first cast; rumours flew that he was to be cast as Randall Flagg, the villain in a new adaption of King’s apocalyptic masterpiece The Stand. Flagg in that book and The Man in Black here are implied in the text to be the same character (along with several other King novels). Sadly, The Stand – in development as a trilogy by Ben Affleck before he torpedoed his own career by taking the Batman gig – has once again been shelved. Which is a shame because McConaughey is perfect for that role. Maybe that shared universe would work after all.

7. And speaking of shared universes, let’s play a game of Good Idea/Bad Idea. As well as The Dark Tower, It, and any one of a number of his novels currently in “development hell”, Castle Rock was announced quite quietly some months back. It’s a drama series apparently blending characters, stories and situations from several of the author’s best-known works. J.J. Abrams is involved. When is he not? Anyway, Gotham was relatively successful at something similar, and as we keep seeing, everyone wants a piece of that shared universe dollar. It’s a good dollar.

8. The Dark Tower looks very, very different from what one might have expected from the books, where there’s a gloomy, sorrowful atmosphere to proceedings. Mid-World (King’s fantasy Wild West) is shrouded in a dream-like atmosphere, while the visits to Earth were originally set in the 1960s and 70s, taking time to explore the social issues of those eras. Eliminating those situations and characters, and putting the focus on to 11-year-old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) really makes this look like just another teen dystopian adventure, the kind Hollywood has been churning out non-stop over the past few years.

Verdict: Might hang on for IT instead

Release Date: August 4

25 thoughts on “Broadsheet Trailer Park: The Dark Tower

  1. ivan

    The trouble with King adaptations is that it’s the telling of the story that’s good, rather than the story. In other words, it’s the fluff, the descriptions, and internal monologues that the characters tend to have. For the visual medium you have to keep up momentum; for the reader, you’re happy (if you’re into that kind of thing) with the shaggy dog story. So even if you end up disappointed with the ending of a King novel (and I think it’s fair to say that most of us have) you forgive him, because 94% of the book was really really good fun, getting you there.

    We aren’t that forgiving with movies; a crap ending can leave a very bad taste.

    Now, the Bill Hodges detective ones…I’d watch those.

    1. Listrade

      And there’s a tendency to cut out those character elements for the sake of telling the story quicker.

      Mind you 11/22/63 tv show did spend the time, but it was only ok, it lost a lot of what was good in the book.

      Likewise, American Gods is very faithful to the book, but I’m not sure I like it, even though I liked the books.

      Its probably down to who is making it. Kubrick saw something in the Shining no one else did and made it his own and its own thing. But this looks more like Doug says in point 8, a rehash of the distopia theme than something different with the material.

      Could all just be the marketing department cutting a trailer that doesn’t reflect what the film actually is like though.

      1. Listrade

        Akiva Goldsman is the writer on this (one of four). Doesn’t bode well. He’s given us such wonderful book adaptations as:

        I am Legend
        I, Robot (collection of stories like Dark Tower)
        Davinci Code (all the films)
        Winter’s Tale

        And we can include other gems such as Batman and Robin, Batman Forever, Lost in Space.

    1. Listrade

      Dark Tower? No, the kid in the film is Jake Chambers, from the books. Certain technical reasons why it couldn’t be a sequel if he is in it.

      1. Bob

        *****SPOILERS*****

        The books end with it looping back to the start, as if this will repeat indefinitely. But this time around things are slightly different. The film is from this second loop, allowing them to make any changes to the story they like, while still allowing the original story to be made in the future without affecting this one.

        King confirmed this.

        1. Listrade

          I stand corrected thanks. Last I read was it was a loose adaptation.

          And there’s a pretty big giveaway to the sequel with a certain item too.

  2. LW

    King used these books to tie the rest of his works into a shared universe. He also showed up himself in them, incorporating loosely the events of the car crash he was in. (possibly he got hit by a car while walking) The books started well, got extremely meta, lost the run of themselves a bit

    1. Bob

      That’s kind of the way with all his books. Fantastic starts, interesting middles and disappointing endings. Similar to my sex life.

  3. Frilly Keane

    Ya but tis Mattie McConaughy

    So
    Tis ya know
    *****
    The full 5
    Does he take off his shirt
    Then it gets a +1 too

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