The Wide Angle: Can the ‘Dark Tower’ work?

Published 8:13 am Sunday, May 7, 2017

On Wednesday the first trailer for the feature film adaption of Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series dropped.

The movie, which comes out Aug. 4, stars Idris Elba as the series hero Roland Deschain or, as he’s perhaps more commonly known, as the Gunslinger.

In short — or as short as I can given the length of the series featuring eight books — the movie follows the Gunslinger in his quest to save multiple worlds from the Man in Black who is on a quest to destroy the Black Tower, the central story arc that connects all worlds.

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Unfortunately, I had problems getting behind the trailer and still question how well a movie version could be. I don’t question the casting because really, I’ll watch just about anything with Idris Elba. In fact I’m among the growing number that would love to see Elba play James Bond.

And the problem also doesn’t lay with the plot. The plot itself, at it’s very core, is something almost custom-made for movies, along the lines of epic fantasies like “Lord of the Rings.”

Rather, my problem lies solely with the question of whether this series can be successfully adapted to the big screen.

Like all movies, there will be detractors of the movie. You can’t literally adapt a book to the big screen. For the sake of pacing and plot you have to either subtract or add in order to hit the two to two and a half hour windows of movies.

The ultimate fix is to have more than one movie. While I’ve seen no definite plans for sequels, it only seems to make sense that there would be. Granted a companion TV series has been announced for 2018 that would fill in some of the backstory, but as of right now that would account for the rest of the series.

If this was simply a trio of books, then maybe this could account for everything, but King is rarely simple.

The “Dark Tower” series is involved. I mean wildly involved. Not only does it span eight books, but those books are thick for the most part with the first book hitting a quick read of 224 pages. Then the books jump up with one of them — “The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower” hitting a hefty 845 pages.

Not only that but the books cross over and connect into a number of other books not related to “The Dark Tower.” The Man in Black alone is represented in both “Eyes of the Dragon” as Flagg and “The Stand” as Randall Flagg.

There is a lot here and while yes you could chop to your heart’s content in order to simply make three movies, there is the real danger of missing a lot that fans love of this or any other real series.

George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series is another example of a series that would have run a major risk trying to adapt to the big screen, though admittedly the content may have had something to do with that. A true representation of that movie would have been challenging to do while avoiding an X-rating.

Of course I must caution you as I caution myself in this instance. First and never mind the pictures that have surfaced, this is only the first real good look we have of the movie.

There’s action, suspense and mystery in the little over two minute trailer, but none of it says definitely how the movie will go, what’s in it or even the over-arching tone.

So much of the internet jumps on things far too fast — especially if you are an involved fan. “Star Wars” is a perfect example of this. A major challenge producers and directors of those movies must get past is making it approachable and entertaining for everybody, but in the end every trailer ever released is scrutinized on the internet to a point  where you wonder if anybody really enjoys the movie.

Ultimately you will get an article and video — one right after the other — talking about what is wrong only because it doesn’t fit the idea they’ve dreamed in their mind or because somebody is missing some little bit of obscure trivia.

So it’s the prudent movie fan that won’t jump on the plus and minus attributes of “The Dark Tower.” It’s very possible that it could very well be a good movie, just not the same as the reader of the books may want.

At the same time, it’s okay to hold a skeptical view of what this might be — a lot of material, crammed into one movie and the inevitable fact that a lot would be left out.

Much like The Dark Tower itself, we must wait for the fate to reveal itself.