After years in development, the film adaptation of Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower hit theaters earlier in 2017 and proceeded to disappoint everyone. King’s book series is full of rich, complex mythology, but the film adaptation decided to jettison all of that for a more streamlined narrative that didn’t make a lot of sense anyway. King was heavily involved with the promotion for the film, and now that it’s come and gone, the prolific author is sharing his thoughts on the overall Dark Tower failure.
Stephen King had a pretty good year. It was a box office and critical hit; the Netflix movies Gerald’s Game and 1922 created good buzz, and more and more of his books are being optioned for films. But not all recent Stephen King adaptations have done well: the big screen adaptation of King’s epic Dark Tower saga was met with an overall tepid response. Hardcore book fans felt the film strayed too far from the source material, and newcomers who had never read the books had very little to enjoy. The film also barely broke even at the box office. In short, The Dark Tower was a failure.
Now, Stephen King is weighing in on what went wrong. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the best selling author blames most of the problems on studio interference and an insistence on delivering a PG-13 film:
“The real problem, as far as I’m concerned is, they went in to this movie and I think this was a studio edict, pretty much, this is going to be a PG-13 movie. It’s going to be a tentpole movie. We want to make sure that we get people in there from the ages of, let’s say, 12 right on up to whatever the target age is. Let’s say 12 to 35. That’s what we want. So it has to be PG-13 and when they did that, I think that they lost a lot of the toughness of it and it became something where people went to it and said, Well yeah, but it’s really not anything that we haven’t seen before.”
All due respect to Mr. King (who is pretty much my hero), I sincerely doubt an R-rating would’ve solved The Dark Tower‘s problems. Yes, King’s books tend to be strictly R-rated, but keeping the “toughness” wouldn’t change the fact that The Dark Tower suffered from a lackluster script and equally lackluster direction.
That said, King doesn’t lay all of the blame on the rating. Rather than start with a straight adaptation of the first book in the series, The Gunslinger, the Dark Tower movie instead started somewhere in the middle of the books, and was actually more of a sequel to King’s series than a straight adaptation. King thinks this approach didn’t help matters either. “There was a decision made, too, to start it pretty much in the middle,” he says in the EW interview, “and when they actually made the movie I had doubts about it from the beginning, and expressed them, and didn’t really get too far.”
It’s worth noting that King did a lot of promotion for the film before release, including being involved in a big press day where certain journalists were flown out to Maine for a visit to several locations from King’s stories, ending with a press conference-style interview with the man himself. If King really did have problems with The Dark Tower adaptation, he avoided voicing them during the promotional tour. It’s also worth noting that a few months before the film came out, King told the Herald Tribune that he had seen The Dark Tower movie and that he thought it was “terrific.” Perhaps now that all is said and done, King feels more free to be more honest. Says the author:
“Sometimes when people have made up their mind, the creative team that’s actually going to go and shoot the movie, it’s a little bit like hitting your fist against hard rubber, you know. There’s a kind of it doesn’t really hurt, but you don’t get anywhere. It just sort of bounces back and I thought to myself, Well, people are going to be really puzzled by this, and they were. So there was some of that problem, too.”
Right now, the future of The Dark Tower series remains in doubt. There are plans to launch a TV series that will literally reboot the story again and pretend the movie didn’t even exist, but I remain skeptical that this TV adaptation will ever see the light of day. In the meantime, let’s all take solace in the other, better Stephen King adaptations, okay?
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