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Stephen King fans were very optimistic over the last couple of years as J.J. Abrams’ company Bad Robot held the option on King’s expansive, ambitious series The Dark Tower. Easy to see why — King’s labyrinthine, multi-layered storyline seems like perfect raw material for the guys behind Lost. But that wasn’t to be, as Abrams, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof decided they couldn’t do the story justice, and gave the option back to King.

Now there are new players: Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Akiva Goldsman are reportedly taking the rights to The Dark Tower, and their plans are just as ambitious as the books.

THR and Deadline both report on this, and each outlet describes a slightly different deal. In each, Akiva Goldsman would write a feature that Ron Howard would direct and Goldsman and Brian Grazer would produce. That feature would lead into a TV series that finished out the story. But THR says one feature, and Deadline says a trilogy, before the TV series begins. Quite a difference.

If this goes through, the feature(s) would likely have a home at Universal, which could use some sort of monster summer hit, even one that wouldn’t come down for a couple years. The TV division of Imagine Entertainment would produce the television show. (Warner Bros. has also been vying for the property.)

I’ve only read the first three books in the series, which I found to be enthralling at the time. (This was as they were published, so between ’82 and ’91.) The long wait between some of the books (six years between the third and fourth volume; another six between four and five) put me off going back, but the series has rabid fans that are drawn to the novels for a variety of reasons: the scope, the parallel world setting, the broad cast of characters, and the fact that many personalities from King’s other novels, and even King himself, move through the stories.

All of those elements make The Dark Tower a hell of a thing to adapt. Abrams, Cuse and Lindelof seem perfect for the task, and Howard and Goldsman…don’t. I can’t see them capturing the oddities of the story. Certainly not in the way that Cuse, Lindelof and Bad Robot might have.

I can see Howard making films that would rake in the cash, and that may be the selling point here. If you’re a Dark Tower fan, do you want the guys behind the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons films to be responsible for the movies and TV show? (Or the writer of Batman and Robin, for that matter.)  I think I know the answer. Then again, it is so easy to see how this one might stay in development hell, no matter how big the names on it get.

For those unfamiliar, here is a short and woefully incomplete synopsis of the story, which spans thousands of pages.

The series incorporates themes from multiple genres, including fantasy fiction, science fantasy, horror and western elements. They describe a “Gunslinger” and his quest toward a tower whose nature the books call both physical and metaphorical. King has described the series as his magnum opus. Besides the seven novels that compose the series proper, many of his other books relate to the story, introducing concepts and characters that come into play as the series progresses.

In the story, Roland Deschain is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers and the last of the line of “Arthur Eld”, his world’s analogue of King Arthur. The world he lives in is quite different from our own, yet it bears striking similarities to it. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West but is also magical. While the magical aspects are largely gone from Mid-World, some vestiges of them remain, along with the relics of a highly advanced, but long vanished, society. Roland’s quest is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to be the nexus of all universes. Roland’s world is said to have “moved on”, and indeed it appears to be coming apart at the seams±—mighty nations have been torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish without a trace and time does not flow in an orderly fashion.

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