Since his debut in the early 1970s, Stephen King has been one of the most prolific writers of our time. King has produced some of the finest horror, character-driven, and dramatic stories of a generation and continues to do so decades later. His works include timeless novels like Carrie, The Shining, IT, and Salem’s Lot as well as short stories like The Shawshank Redemption. Hollywood was eager to knock on his door to start creating film adaptations of his work after learning about how widely read his novels were and how they reached millions of people.
The Dark Tower (2017), a current adaptation based on Stephen King’s multi-volume novel series of the same name, was one of the failures. The Dark Tower, one of King’s more imaginative works, rose to prominence as one of the modern era’s most well-known fantasy novels. However, the 2017 film received harsh criticism from critics who found it to be “boring” and “lifeless,” and it only garnered a paltry $113 million USD at the box office. Since then, no sequel has been planned or produced, leaving fans to speculate as to whether it will ever happen. What will it take for Hollywood to appropriately adapt The Dark Tower Series?
The runtime of The Dark Tower, which clocks in at a pitiful ninety-five minutes, was one of the main complaints expressed by most (if not all) critics and Stephen King himself (roughly an hour and a half). Being so short in the first movie was a big disadvantage given that the series consists of eight books and more than three thousand pages. The storyline was incredibly hurried, the characters weren’t as well developed as they might have been, and crucial themes and messages were just skipped over in order to finish the movie. The critics agreed that the greatest parts of the movie were when Roland and Jake started to get along (as well as Elba’s performance), but the length of the movie prevented further exploration of these moments. A runtime like that was disappointing for a movie that took more than 10 years to conceive and produce. A movie would need to be lengthier, at least two hours long, in order for Hollywood to capture the series properly.
The absence of violence and the Dark Tower adaptation’s PG-13 rating were two major points of contention for author Stephen King. According to a comment from him, the movie “lost a lot of roughness” from the book. And that criticism makes a lot of sense when applied to a brutal series like The Dark Tower. The first novel begins with Roland Deschain (Idris Elba in the movie) having to massacre a whole village because Randall Flag manipulated them against him (played by Matthew McConaughey). Roland loses many fingers to a creature that resembles a lobster in the second novel. At one point in the narrative, Roland even murders Jake. The picture suffered greatly from being constrained by a PG-13 rating, and any subsequent adaption would need to be significantly enhanced.
More Flesh Out Everything
The major complaints of the Dark Tower movie, which follows straight from the first two, are that the plot felt hurried, the characters lacked depth, and it felt more like a generic action movie than one of the best fantasy novels of all time. Uproxx’s Mike Ryan summed it up best: “According to what I’ve been told, the huge mythology, fantastic characters, and intricate narrative of The Dark Tower books are what made the movie difficult to film for so long. The solution, however, appears to have been to simply drop everything and make a startlingly brief 95-minute film that just sort of skips over everything up to the point that has any significance or point.” So it would appear that much more development would be necessary to produce a well-received, praised version of The Dark Tower. The setting and mythology of the series, the characters (Roland, Flagg, Jake, etc.), and the tale (an extended version) will all need to be more cogent and clear for a movie or television series to succeed. On Netflix, you can view and stream The Dark Tower.