Published at: Sept. 8, 2010, 10:50 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. The Dark Tower has been a big part of my life since 7th Grade. I was a Stephen King fan and in late elementary school started plowing through his work.
At first I avoided the Dark Tower books… There were three at the time: The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three and The Wastelands. I avoided them because I wanted to read horror, not some boring western!
Hoo-boy was I a dumb-ass. When I finally picked them up, checking The Gunslinger out of the Covington Middle School library (gotta love that my Middle School had a Stephen King section), I was immediately hooked. Hooked might be too tame a word for it. Addicted is better. I was addicted to The Dark Tower like Eddie Dean was addicted to heroin.
Roland’s world featured shoot-outs, raping demons, killer sentient trains, the murder of children, mutants, magic, alternate dimensions, a giant cyborg bear and lobster monsters. There’s nothing like it.
As a massive Stephen King fan going into these books there was an extra level of appreciation in that this series acts as a lynchpin for every other King book. Characters from other books pop up (The Walkin’ Dude, for example… not just spear-heading the fight against Mother Abigail in The Stand, but also trying to take out The Gunslinger as well) and King himself eventually became a character in his own story.
I was there as each book came out, ordering the Grant Books special editions, and witnessing how the books changed with their author. Each book reflects a different era of King and each book has a different personality, a different style.
While it probably means I’m a bad person, my first reaction to hearing about Stephen King’s near fatal accident was “Oh, my God… If he dies we’ll never know what happens at the end of The Dark Tower.”
One of the highlights of my life was getting the chance to sit down and talk Dark Tower with King when the Marvel Dark Tower books were announced at the New York Comic-Con. I’m that big of a nerd for him and for Dark Tower.
His post accident books have a radical shift in storytelling that threw a lot of people. Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower aren’t as fun as the first four and take a giant leap into a “what the fuck?!?” weirdness that even his previous four admittedly bizarre novels only nudged up against.
The series is complex, at times brilliant, at times indulgent, always iconic and emotional.
Which is why the guy that wrote Batman & Robin and the Lost in Space movie adapting this material for the big and small screen scares the ka out of me.
To be fair to Akiva Goldsman, I’ve heard his original attempts at both films were radically better than what ended up on-screen. The role of the writer is a perilous one… your name is in the credits even if you’re hired to act as a funnel for a committee of suits who wouldn’t know a good idea if it farted in their faces.
But this isn’t a franchise I feel comfortable giving a guy a chance with, which is why I’m probably going to come off as a dick towards the man.
The same goes for Ron Howard. I love his early stuff. I grew up on Splash, his Roger Corman work is ridiculous, but full of fun and Apollo 13 is a genuinely great movie. I kinda like his recent stuff, but The Da Vinci Code flicks never engaged me at all.
I haven’t spoken to either of these two men, so I don’t know where they’re coming from with regards to The Dark Tower series, but if it’s anything less than a “This is going to be my legacy” point of view then this isn’t going to work.
Credit must be given to them for getting Universal to invest in doing the whole series justice, smartly dividing up the story with three feature films and television series.
From what I gather from the news Ron Howard will direct the first film and follow that up with directing the first season of the show, which means The Gunslinger is a feature, The Drawing of the Three a TV show.
Mike Fleming’s story says the second feature will follow the first season, which would be great because The Wastelands is the most fun of all the books and it has some really harsh shit in it that probably wouldn’t make the cut on NBC. And it has a great cliff-hanger.
Following this the TV series looks to stick close to Wizard & Glass, telling tales of Young Roland Deschain and his original Ka-tet, informed by the book and the new stories from Marvel’s continuing comic book, King-approved, additions to the universe.
Goldsman will write the first movie and the first season of the show.
Over the last 16 or so years that I’ve had this monkey on my back I’ve watched its popularity grow. When I was first reading nobody ever seemed to talk about The Dark Tower series, even friends that were fans. But as it has continued the fanbase has grown and there’s a particular ownership the die hards feel they have over the story.
I know this because I feel it myself. The Dark Tower series is my precious and anybody who attempts to make it will always at first come off as thieving hobbitses.
Here are my major concerns. Howard is a very safe director, who delivers safe movies for the studios. The Dark Tower needs somebody willing to be risky, willing to be nearly as insane as the books. But it also needs someone who isn’t so reverential to the material that a film/TV version suffers for it. There are places where the books can actually be improved in a visual form.
And as for TV… If the deal was for HBO, Showtime or even AMC or FX to be doing the television portion of the story I’d be a little more comfortable, but a major network handling this material frightens me a bit. In order to keep a continuity I’m sure we’re going to get PG-13 versions of the movies, which itself is hard to swallow. It can be done, but it has to be the kind of PG-13 that pushes the envelope, creatively getting some of the harsher elements of the series across without explicitly showing stuff… like Roland performing an abortion with his revolover, for instance.
With the right group PG-13 movies could be done and done well (with harsher unrated cuts for the DVD and Blu-Ray release, of course). But do I trust The Drawing of the Three and Wolves of the Calla to NBC television?
It feels like we’re at a point where all I can do is sit back and hope Akiva, Ron and Brian Grazer have the story’s best interest at heart and are compulsively driven to bring this story to a mass audience, that they would literally rather die than treat this property with anything less than the complete respect it deserves.
I’m unconvinced, but the last thing I want is a shitty fucking version of The Dark Tower out there, so I wish them well on their journey.
Remember the faces of your fathers, fellas.