Stephen King’s magnum opus, The Dark Tower series, spans eight books, 1.3 million words and at least a dozen comic books. Even It, The Shining and Salem’s Lot (among others) play a part. In other words, there’s a lot, which means that there are equally as many ways to approach a movie adaptation. Word has it that instead of a straight adaptation, either of the first book or the entire series crammed into one film, that this is more of a sequel to the whole thing.
King is easily one of the best known genre authors in the world and the movie adaptation of his classic horror The Shining is frequently quoted even by those who haven’t seen it. He’s a vastly prolific writer who experiments across multiple genres, including horror as well as epic fantasy and science fiction. The Dark Tower combines all those things with the “absurdly majestic” backdrop of the Wild West to become King’s self-proclaimed magnum opus.
The Dark Tower takes place in the mid-world, part of King’s large multiverse (hence the connection with It, etc), a magical place in a state of post-apocalyptic ruin. Magic has largely disappeared but there are still some pieces of advanced technology knocking around. The story follows the last living member of an order of knights known as The Gunslingers, Ronald Deschain, on a quest to find the Dark Tower, a building that is said to link all the worlds in the multiverse together.
In both the books and the movie, Ronald (Idris Elba) is locked in an eternal battle with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to defend the Tower from him as it holds the universe together. If it fell, that would be… um… bad. Obviously. Along the way, Roland meets a young psychic boy named Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) who died in another world like our own.
There’s also (in the books) a woman in a wheelchair named Odetta who has dissociative identity disorder, has tactical sex with a demon and uses something called the sieve of Eratosthenes to find prime numbers. And a heroin addict named Eddie who fights naked gun battles and defeats a crazy train (named Blaine, obviously) with in-jokes. And cannibal vampires in New York and robot wolves in mid-world. And so, so much more.
It’s still unclear as to how the movie will actually play out (and which of these epically cool characters and locations will actually appear) and the extent to which is follows the books. The world-building in the books is bloody epic and the characters all have fully developed backstories – it seems too much to ask that all this be crammed into one movie. And apparently, Sony have anticipated this problem because rumour has it that a companion tv show is in the works, exploring the backstory of the Gunslinger (and with Elba appearing on the show in some capacity).
Rare is the movie adaptation of a beloved book or series of books well-liked by fans and it looks as if The Dark Tower is no exception. The movie hasn’t been released and the professional critics have not yet set upon it but already it has come under criticism from fans, just based on the trailer. While the books tackle complex themes, such as relationships and personal journeys, the movies looks to be filled to the brim with the more spectacular elements such as Wild West-style shootouts and CGI monsters.
The question is: have the filmmakers stayed true to the ethos of the books or is this just an attempt at a “summer blockbuster” with more style than substance?