why the dark tower failed

We’re in a new age of Stephen King adaptations, with new and upcoming films like ItGerald’s Game, and 1922 winning over critics and audiences alike. But, like King’s own catalogue, there are plenty of stinkers.

The Dark Tower was the long-awaited adaptation of King’s magnum opus, the multiverse-spanning sci-fi series of the same name. And it tanked. Despite the many years The Dark Tower spent in development, fans got a choppy, chopped-up adaptation of the book series, causing the film to barely break even at the box office and to attain a meager 16% Rotten Tomatoes rating. And though King was heavily invested in the success of this adaptation, the author revealed why The Dark Tower failed.

There were a lot of concerns leading up to The Dark Tower‘s release that its short run time of a mere 1 hour and 35 minutes boded ill for the quality of the film. The series spanned three decades and eight books, and could not feasibly be adapted into such a short film. But director Nikolaj Arcel promised that this film would merely be the first in a series. Unfortunately, the $50 million that the film raked in domestically only guarantees that the series is dead in the dirt.

King told Vulture in an interview that the problem with The Dark Tower was condensing his densest saga into one of his shortest film adaptations:

“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.”

It’s unfortunate that a movie that spent nearly 10 years in development hell, seeing a revolving door of directors including J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard, and starring big stars like Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey would meet such a pitiful fate. But King is putting stock in the TV series adaptation, which is steadily becoming a much more reliable medium for dense adaptations, so the untold stories of The Dark Tower could eventually see the light of day after all.

But The Dark Tower should not worry the author. King is having a moment, with It breaking records for the best opening weekend for a horror movie and Gerald’s Game receiving critical buzz in the festival circuit. Plenty more King adaptations are on the way, on both the big and small screens, and with one bad egg out of the way, hopefully there’s a greater chance for more quality adaptations.

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