The negative reviews for The Dark Tower keep rolling in. Sony’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s long-running dark fantasy series slides into theaters only hours after initial reviews started appearing online — intentionally delaying press screenings is a strong indicator the studio knows its film is troubled. Currently The Dark Tower is sitting at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes and 34 on Metacritic, and unlikely to improve.
So what went wrong? The film has the backing of powerhouse producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, veteran screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (Lone Survivor, Cinderella Man), and a cast which includes Idris Elba (Thor) and Matthew McConaughey (True Detective). Bigger question, will Sony’s heavy marketing be enough to give it a strong opening weekend? Given the relatively modest $66 million budget, a solid global box office this weekend is probably enough to warrant a sequel. If there is a sequel, what can be done to rectify the first film’s problems?
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Collider caught up with legendary author Stephen King to discuss the film and get his thoughts on what went right and what went wrong:
“I think that Akiva Goldsman, who wrote the screenplay, picked up what seemed to him to be the most accessible and human relationship kind of thing between this old guy, Roland, who’s been around for a long long time and the kid, and they have wonderful chemistry when they were doing the show and it comes through on the screen.”
This is a great point, when adapting a work of fiction some things are kept, others thrown away, and sometimes things are added to glue it all together. It’s more art than science, and it doesn’t always mesh, as King describes:
“They had to make some decisions. Some of those decisions are related to telling a story that the general public will get, not just the hardcore Dark Tower fans, the people who will show up at a convention with Roland tattooed on their biceps, something like that. You have to keep in mind that all the books that I’ve written, The Dark Tower fans are the most zealous, the most fervent of all but they make a small subgroup of the people who read books like The Shining and Misery.”
King is describing the tightrope walk that the MCU’s Kevin Feige has proven so adept at and the DCEU’s Geoff Johns is just beginning to get his arms around: you can’t only please the hardcore base, you have to make the themes and subplots relatable and universal to draw in a wider audience. In other words, compromises must be made, which risks alienating folks… but you still have to be authentic to the source material, and that’s where some fans feel the current movie goes off the rails.
So, what would King like to see in a potential sequel?
“There are things that I think the hardcore fans are going to wish was in the movie and all I can say is, if the movie’s a success, there will be a sequel… I would love to see Roland on the beach with those lobster monstrosities, and I understand the rationale behind the movie, that it’s PG-13. I totally signed off on that. I think it’s the right thing to do. I want as many people as possible to attend for all kinds of reasons; part of it having to do with the dynamic between the gunslinger and the boy because I think that’s a father-son relationship.”
I haven’t seen the film yet, but the father-son relationship isn’t being noted as a strength; in fact, many reviewers are citing a general flatness, superficiality, and lack of emotion as just a few of the film’s problems. Yikes. Given that horror is one of the key elements in the books, perhaps a PG-13 rating required a few too many compromises — King has a few thoughts on this too:
“I would love to see the next picture be R. Because I think that’s sort of where we’re coming from now, where the movies need to go. For a long time, PG-13 was the safe spot to go and when pictures were R, studio executives would say ‘Well, we know that this movie is going to make 20-30% less money because we’re going to exclude a market.'”
Sadly, we’ll probably never know if an R-rating would have given the screenwriter and director more room to explore or experiment. What we’re left with, unfortunately, is a film that is getting hammered with comments like “missed opportunity” and “a mixed bag of abridged mythology.” Double yikes.
Do King’s comments make you feel better or worse about the film adaptation of The Dark Tower? Let us know in the comments down below!
The Dark Tower hits theaters on August 4, 2017.
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