Movie Mixtape: 6 Movies To Watch With 'The Dark Tower'

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what's in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: The Dark Tower.)

The Dark Tower is a mystery. It's an adaptation/kinda sequel to a series of Stephen King books that act as an expansive corpus of multi-world fantasy that has the epitome of a cult following. There are thirty years between the first and last published books, and it's been ten years of development to bring this to theaters – enough time to take us from J.J. Abrams with Javier Bardem and Viggo Mortensen to Nikolaj Arcel with Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba.

There's no telling what this thing is gonna be like. Even the trailers only offer a glimpse that's shoot-out heavy and suggests that our world is at stake if the tower falls. To be blunt, they make the movie seem generic, and the books are anything but.

So what do you pair with something like that? Let's stick with the fantastical, the adventurous, and the bullet-riddled, but I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments section.

Tales From Earthsea (2006)

There's a troubling dearth of Ursula K. Le Guin adaptations. This Studio Ghibli gem is technically one of them, although it's still miles off from the iconic fantasy series. That's probably why there aren't more.

Goro Miyazaki's tale of dragons and wizards and True Names was like using the "Earthsea" stories as recipe ingredients but emerging with a different dish. Still, bronze is the gold we get in film form, and the movie is still lesser Ghibli (read: still way better than most). Like The Dark TowerTales From Earthsea represents a stab at realizing a sprawling metaphorical universe as well as the pitfalls of adaptation. The movie version focuses on Sparrowhawk, a powerful wizard investigating why the world's Balance is failing while guiding the teenage prince Arren, who's personally affected by that failing. See the movie, but definitely read the books.

The Stand (1994)

A truly stunning achievement in episodic storytelling, Mick Garris and King utilized some strong '90s talents to translate a book large enough to be used as a blunt weapon into a thrilling, four-part epic. King has been obsessed with immense battles between Good and Evil for a long time, and this incarnation (complete with his recurring devil Randall Flagg) packs a post-apocalyptic outbreak story and Biblical magical realism into a suitcase headed for Las Vegas. After killing most of the population off with the King-canon virus Captain Trips (shout out to Night Shift), two ensembles form to square off as representatives of faithful goodness and greedy maliciousness, and Gary Sinise aw-shuckses his way through the potential end of the world.

It's not as sprawling as The Dark Tower may prove to be, but they're still dark fantasy cousins at the epicenter of the fight for humankind's soul.

Wanted (2008)

After the Dark Tower trailers, this was the obvious style comparison. Roland dropping six bullets into the revolver cylinder in less than a second, flinging his arm wide to take shots, making incredibly long shots – there's a religious worship of the gun at the center of what we've been shown so far. It's a sacred object that can do some absurd things.

Enter Wanted, the ridiculous Chosen One assassin movie where bullets are essentially rubber, and James McAvoy trains with a secret gang of killers who obey a giant weaving instrument. Bonus points: it came out the same year The Dark Tower went into development.

Island of Lost Souls (2007)

If you're wondering who director Nicolaj Arcel is, you're not alone. He's better known as the writer of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He's also written and directed several acclaimed Danish films, and while The Dark Tower will be his first American feature, it won't be his first fantasy. That honor belongs to The Island of Lost Souls (not to be confused with the Charles Laughton/Bela Lugosi riff on Dr. Moreau).

Written and directed by Arcel, the YA fantasy focuses on Lulu (Sara Langebæk Gaarmann), a teen girl in a new town whose brother is possessed by the spirit of a man who draws them into a mystery that involves a secret society, a bizarre island, and the threat of evil taking over their entire city.

Deadpool (2016)

Weird pick, right? It's only on here because it was stuck in the same development hell as The Dark Tower. Ryan Reynolds had been working since 2004 to actively develop an adaptation of the red-suited bullet counter. The character (as you probably know) was set up for sequels and betrayed wholesale by X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009. They killed him, they brought him back after the credits, there were amnesia bullets. It was a whole thing.

Fox was uneasy about giving the character his own outing for years and years, until the response to the leaked proof-of-concept footage all but forced their hand. It's an amazing story of resurrection thanks to creators who refused to give up on a great character, and fans who helped play midwife to the studio's confidence.

It's not a fit tonally, but if adaptations of Blood Meridian or Hyperion ever escaped development hell, they'd be on this list with The Dark Tower in a heartbeat.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)

A Gothic adventure with supernatural beings and fatal stakes, this anime is the sequel to a film that isn't on this list because, well, it's pretty boring. Vampire Hunter D is a half-human, half-vampire (or "Dhampir") whose title gives you a solid sense of what he does for fun and profit. This story sees him and a motley gang of powered beings (one has a wolf face come out of his chest, another uses astral projection to kill huge groups without getting hurt by them) who have to chase through a desert waste for an insanely powerful vampire who's kidnapped a young woman named Charlotte.

It's a beautifully animated, often dreamlike, chase sequence though inhospitable territory where mismatched personalities have to learn to work together to hunt and to learn the greater truth.

The Dark Tower Trailer Breakdown 19

The Mix

There aren't that many older movies here. The obvious choice would be classic westerns that are easy to pair, "Man with No Name" flicks with a lot of dust and blood feuds and vendettas. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is one great taste that would go with part of The Dark Tower. World-hopping fantasies are another great choice (and I almost picked The Lego Movie because it offers different universe in one film, including cowboys and knights).

This particular mix is a litter of mutts. Dark fantasies and shoot-em-ups with impossible physics and desolate worlds with magic stakes. There is something about The Dark Tower that makes me want to pick the weirdos.

What would you pick?