While IT continues to rack up big bucks at the box office heading into its fourth weekend of release, another Stephen King adaptation didn't fair so well this summer. In fact, some are calling Sony Pictures' The Dark Tower an outright bomb. It did well enough that there may be a sequel. And the TV show is still being planned. But according to Stephen King, that may be the problem to begin with. In a recent interview, the King of Horror offered his explanation as to why The Dark Tower crashed and burned, while IT continues to thrive and survive.
We are in a new era of Stephen King adaptations. Perhaps the prolific horror author had his original heyday back in the 80s, when it seemed like a new Stephen King movie was coming out every weekend. But those movies were notoriously bad most of the time, and everyone seemed genuinely shocked when a good one made it through the mix. Sure, The Shining is considered a classic now, but it was pretty much dismissed during its release. But over the years, the King adaptations have gotten better and better. Though, there is a problem that has always brought grief for any director or screenwriter trying to adapt the material. And that's the sheer length of some of these books.
That problem was solved by IT with the director splitting the novel in half for a two part movie, with IT: Chapter 2 getting an official fall 2019 release date just yesterday. There are two more Stephen King movies on the horizon, and they are both promising works of suspense. 1922 is coming to Netflix this fall, and King himself has been singing the praises of Gerald's Game. But even before The Dark Tower came out, he personally warned longtime fans of the sprawling book series that they would perhaps be disappointed in what they saw on the big screen. And a lot of them were.
The Dark Tower gestated for a very long time in the Hollywood system. It is a massive saga that carries a lot of weight. And it's so hard to adapt that it requires multiple sequels and a 20 episode per season TV show to encapsulate it all. So of course the first Dark Tower movie would barely scratch the surface. It's basically the pilot for something so massive, we won't reach the end until 2030. So why would audiences want to invest in that at the box office? Especially when the movie only clocks in at 90 minutes.
The Dark Tower has barely broken even at the box office, and has acquired a 16% rotten score at Rotten Tomatoes. Stephen King was heavily invested in the success of the movie, and had a bigger hand in bringing it to life, than he did IT, which he wasn't really involved in the production of. Now, King is revealing just why this movie failed while others flourish. Speaking with Vulture, he had this to say.
"The major challenge was to do a film based on a series of books that's really long, about 3,000 pages. 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, although I've gotta say, I thought [screenwriter] Akiva Goldsman did a terrific job in taking a central part of the book and turning it into what I thought was a pretty good movie. The TV series they're developing now ... we'll see what happens with that. It would be like a complete reboot, so we'll just have to see."
The Dark Tower spans over three decades and 8 books. So the movie's 95 minute runtime did not bode well for the initial release, and fans were concerned they were being sold a bunk piece of wrought before it even hit screens. The movie was only able to scrap together $50 million domestically. And the series currently appears to be dead until someone says otherwise.
The Dark Tower's fate as a movie is unfortunate, as it has been over 10 years in the making, and has gone through directors like J.J. Abrams and most notoriously Ron Howard. It's still very likely that the TV adaptation will happen, with The Dark Tower reaching maximum potential on the small screen. Idris Elba has already said that he'd be back to reprise his role as the Gunslinger in either medium. It's possible that The Dark Tower will find a way to live on and survive.