Stephen King’s epic “Dark Tower” series would seem, at first glance, to be a natural source for a major film franchise. For a while, JJ Abrams, Carlton Cuse, and Damon Lindelof were attached to the material, and that was interesting… but even with them onboard, it’s such a big and strange and slippery piece of work to turn into film.
But now, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Akiva Goldsman are said to be signing on to produce the property together as a film (or films, depending on which source you read) as well as a television series. Ambitious. That’s fitting for a piece of work like this. I’m not sure exactly what that means, and I’ll bet they’re not sure yet either. But at least they’re thinking of something big and sprawling.
For “Dark Tower” fans, my question is this: can anyone really pull off the essence of what is “The Dark Tower” on film? For me, the experience of that story came from how it was told, over decades, as well as what was told, and being there to read it from start to finish felt special. It added an urgency to the last few books. I’m not sure someone starting with a finiite stack of books already done and easy to get can ever have the same “Dark Tower” experience as someone who read the thing as it came out, wondering if it would ever actually have an ending. And that’s not to say that this team can’t find a strong central storyline to tell in what King wrote. They probably can. I’m not sure if I buy that the general public really knows what “The Dark Tower” is, though, and even as a major King fan, I’m not sure his name carries the singular commercial clout it might have in other earlier moments.
Never mind the strange metafiction turns the series takes. Even trying to tell one or two of these books will be a major undertaking, much less the entire series. What Howard and Grazer and Goldsman choose to tell is going to be a big part of whether or not I’m excited by it. Looking at the way they adapted the Dan Brown books, I can guess what they’ll do with this. It will likely be a straightforward adaptation, recognizable as the source material but given a slick Hollywood spin. Goldsman has a gift for writing movies that studios will greenlight. That doesn’t mean they’ll be good movies to watch, necessarily, but they are scripts that a studio reads and signs off on. That’s a particular gift in this town, and cannot be over-valued, frankly. He’ll turn in something that looks and feels a lot like whichever book they’re adapting, but polished in a way that makes sense to a studio.
I’m not down on this overall… I’m just curious to see how they even begin to divide up the story they’re trying to tell. And there’s no guarantee that they’ll figure it out and actually make it to camera with any of this. So for now, color me surprised to see this particular combination of names, and curious to see what comes of it.
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