Alongside the works of Philip K Dick, the filmed adaptations of Stephen King are almost an industry in and of themselves, cinematic translations of Carrie (twice), The Shining, Cujo (with a remake forthcoming), The Dead Zone, Christine, Firestarter, Pet Sematary, Misery, The Mist, television versions of ‘Salem’s Lot (twice), It (soon to be released as a pair of motion pictures), The Tommyknockers, The Stand, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Under the Dome, 11.22.63, The Mist…
Prolific, popular and hugely admired by critics and readers, his stories are bold, graphic and most often feature a varied ensemble of characters whose lives irreversibly unravel, a natural fit for dramatic media, yet the success has been varied with the result too often failing to convey the subtlety, depth and dread of his greatest works, and none of those is more expansive than The Dark Tower.
A series of seven novels published between 1982 and 2004 totalling over four thousand pages, the first was a originally simply a collection of previously published short stories dating as far back as 1978’s The Gunslinger before being substantially re-written in 2003, the sequence also formed a backbone previously only hinted at through King’s wider work, linking together locations, characters and events both from Earth and the supernatural realms beyond.
With many proposed productions over the last decade, the film of The Dark Tower has finally come together as a standalone set after the events of the final novel and directed by Island of Lost Souls‘ Nikolaj Arcel from a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen and Arcel, starring Prometheus‘ Idris Elba and Interstellar‘s Matthew McConaughey in the two lead roles of Roland Deschain and Walter Padick, The Gunslinger and the Man in Black.
A complex story set across modern-day New York City and Mid-World, a Wild West style parallel universe, the first trailer has finally been released after years of speculation and only months before the finished film is due to hit cinemas, and the team are unsure quite what to expect.
Michael Flett – I used to be a great reader of Stephen King, but I kind of fell by the wayside. I loved ‘Salem’s Lot, Christine, Pet Sematary and It and even Carrie when I read it for the first time just a few years ago, and was astonished that the King style was there complete from his very first published work, but The Tommyknockers was so bad I stopped reading him then and there. Other than Carrie, purely for research purposes, I think I’ve only ever gone back for The Dark Half, which was disappointing though not terrible.
As a consequence, I’ve never read any of The Dark Tower, despite my friends in the know claiming it’s among his best work, so I am very much looking forward to this, and I have absolute faith in both Idris and Matthew who never disappoint even with the most mediocre material, which, to be fair, they have appeared in.
My greater concern is simply the painfully low batting average with which Stephen King’s material translates to the screen. It may be a side effect of just how much of it is out there, that he is a recognised name, a guaranteed seller, that anything is snapped up by whatever production company has cash to hand and they churn out absolute clunkers with no understanding of what they are dealing with – Cell from last year springs to mind.
King is a far more complex writer than those who have only seen the most pitiful low budget poorly acted stretched out straight to video versions of his weaker short stories would understand, and a single feature film can only be a fraction of a work as vast in scope as The Dark Tower.
I think a lot of people will be disappointed in it simply because of what it cannot be, whereas with no foreknowledge or expectation – I’m actually liking this, although it does have a somewhat generic “young man comes of age when falling through dimensional portal to be taken under wing of more experienced man fighting ultimate evil power who will decide the fate of two worlds!”
I also suspect some of the effects are not yet complete, as they really stand out as effects rather than realities, and in contrast to the gorgeous, flawless cinematography in the live action shots across the portal, mist and shadow and firelight.
Despite that trepidation, I intend to take it purely as what it is, an epic science fantasy western horror, so strap on your six-shooter and saddle up!
And while I may not have read these particular books, don’t think I missed those references to The Shining and It in the trailer with a photograph of the Overlook Hotel and a decayed carnival ride boasting the dubious presence of Pennywise the Clown…
Dario Persechino – Oh now, that does look good. I have no previous knowledge of the books so I’m taking it all from the trailer and it looks fantastic.
Growing up watching westerns I have a fondness for the character of an old gunslinger who has walked away being pulled back into a noble fight. Idris Elba looks great in the role, as does McConaughey as the devil-like man in black.
The mix of old revolvers and gunbelts mixed with the modern world and a sci-fi/fantasy alternate one have got me very interested. The style of the trailer, mixed with a story from King and good quality actors is very promising.
This is one I’ll definitely be trying to get to see in the cinema.
Les Anderson – Oh, dear. I’ve only read one of the books but the novels have a rather oneiric quality which really needs a Jodorowsky or Tarsem Singh at his best to do it justice. This trailer suggests a grab-bag of every action movie cliché of the past five years. I am also sick fed up now of helicopter shots of New York skylines in saturated colour. I am not inspired to watch it.
Kevin Gilmartin – Can’t really say much about this. I haven’t read any of the books and I don’t know anything about them – never really been much of a King fan. I think this looks pretty fun, though, and you can’t really go wrong with an Elba-McConaughey twofer.
The thing is, though, as much as it has made me want to see the film, it’s made me want to check out the books even more. Oh, look, a new Audible credit…
Wes Morrison – I have only the most basic knowledge of Stephen King’s expansive Dark Tower universe and it’s inhabitants, but what I do know makes me pretty excited for this film. This trailer looks like the movie will do a solid job of establishing that world on the big screen. And seriously, I could watch Idris Elba do anything all day long. Some cool action scenes, some dabbling in the supernatural and some cool alternate world set pieces are just the icing on the cake. Count me in for this one.
The Dark Tower is scheduled for release on 4th August in America and 18th August in Britain