I really, really want THE DARK TOWER to be good. There’s a lot about it that makes me worry, much of which is difficult to articulate, but while I’ve liked the trailers I’ve seen well enough, I can’t shake an eerie sense of deja vu of one of the worst adaptations imaginable, also of a highly-regarded niche book series handed to a talented cast and largely-untested director with an ambivalent studio and massive changes to the text, and that’s the horror of the DARK IS RISING adaptation THE SEEKER.
I feel like Sony has bungled this from the get-go…the presence of BATMAN AND ROBIN’s Akiva Goldsman as producer and writer, the half-assed “plan” to bounce between films with television filling the gaps, and now the aggressive lack of publicity for what’s been positioned as a major summer release but given no meaningful promotion. Now news comes today the film will run a mere 95 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the post-LOTR idea that the default film length needs to be two-and-a-half-hours long, and would love for a pithy, punchy film to get in there and knock my socks off, leaving me wanting more. The $60 million budget should at least ensure that if it’s not a success at the box office, it at least shouldn’t be forever saddled with a radioactive, JOHN CARTER-esque narrative of toxicity. But like JOHN CARTER, which failed utterly to convince potential audiences of the property’s relevance, so too is THE DARK TOWER’s promotion failing.
The other big Stephen King adaptation, arriving a month later, needs no introduction: IT is a touchstone that enjoys more cultural cache than THE DARK TOWER ever will, despite the latter’s generally recognized status as King’s magnum opus. DARK TOWER trailers need to be introducing the uninitiated into the weird-Western world of Roland Deschain and his ka-tet, but those who’ve not read the books are being left with a general sense of “I guess that looks kinda cool?”, minus any lasting impression.
With the current “shared universe” craze sweeping the film and TV industries, and every studio scrambling to make (or buy) their own (witness the non-starter of Universal’s “Dark Universe”, or Sony’s own witless plans for…Robin Hood, of all things), the fact that King’s endless prose is already connected screams out for a Stephen King Universe, ready for any studio with some imagination and a bit of money to pick up the rights to any stray works that have been sold in the interim. Barring that, if you absolutely must keep THE DARK TOWER to itself, why not use it as a read-made replacement for the soon-to-end GAME OF THRONES? HBO has made a name for themselves in this sort of “Dragoncon after dark” niche, with GOT following TRUE BLOOD, and WESTWORLD building itself. THE DARK TOWER would be cheaper than GOT, I’m sure, and the King brand would be a great pull.
Those are just musings, however. We are, for certain, getting a film in a mere 19 days, starring Idris Elba (who’s great), Matthew McConaughey (who’d be brilliant as THE STAND’s Randall Flagg, but should also work as the Man in Black version) and written by the scribe behind BATMAN AND ROBIN, LOST IN SPACE and TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (I do not care if you have an Oscar, Mr. Goldsman…you write BATMAN AND ROBIN, that’s your cross to bear). I hope against hope that it’ll be great, that it’ll be successful, and that we’ll see an epic adaptation of Stephen King’s signature story. At this point, though, I’ll settle for it just being good.