Stephen King on why The Dark Tower movie didn't work
The Man in Black fled across the desert…but audiences didn't seem to want to follow
Stephen King fans had high hopes for Hollywood’s film adaptation of The Dark Tower, the horror maven’s brutal fantasy Western saga. But, as the box office numbers conclude, the summer blockbuster fizzled. Now that it’s been nearly two months since The Dark Tower‘s theatrical premiere, King reflects on what he thinks went wrong.
“The major challenge was to do a film based on a series of books that’s really long, about 3,000 pages,” the author tells Vulture in an interview. “The other part of it was the decision to do a PG-13 feature adaptation of books that are extremely violent and deal with violent behavior in a fairly graphic way. That was something that had to be overcome.”
After multiple attempts to make a feature film version of The Dark Tower, Nikolaj Arcel landed the coveted director’s gig and went to work with Idris Elba as The Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as his spell-casting nemesis, The Man in Black. The film was envisioned as a companion sequel to King’s original story, which was spread across a series of novels, comics, and a children’s book.
King gives credit to screenwriter Akiva Goldsman for doing “a terrific job in taking a central part of the book and turning it into what I thought was a pretty good movie.”
The Dark Tower only made $50.4 million domestically, while it’s worldwide gross reached $110.3 million. Critics called it “astonishingly bad,” “generic,” “a complete disaster,” and a film that’s “embarrassed of itself.”
While speaking to UPROXX, Arcel had addressed the problem of adapting such “an extremely complex mythology.” He said, “It’s not one thing, it’s 50 things. So many characters, so many ideas, so many plots, so many things you’ve got to remember from book one to be able to follow book five. And so, that’s part of it. And also part of it is that I think it’s also just like can we gamble – you know, do we take the gamble on this thing, this unknown thing which is obviously not unknown because it has millions of fans, including myself.”
Now there’s a television adaptation, which was announced even before the film hit theaters. “We’ll see what happens with that,” King says. “It would be like a complete reboot, so we’ll just have to see.”
The Dark Tower