Friday, 10 September 2010

Wolves of the Cross Media

Now this is news I can get behind. Deadline reports that "Universal Pictures and NBC Universal Television Entertainment have closed a deal to turn Stephen King's mammoth novel series The Dark Tower into a feature film trilogy and a network TV series, both of which will be creatively steered by the Oscar-winning team behind A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code," which is to say director Ron Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman.

That's some pretty stellar talent, all told, and more appropriate for the project, considering its genre ties, than the press release - is that even a press release? - lets on. A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code may be the sum total of Howard and Goldman's collaborative efforts, but individually, both have a certain credibility in terms of their work outwith such mainstream success stories. Ron Howard, for instance, directed Cocoon, Willow (a personal favourite of mine, way back when) and Apollo 13, while Akiva Goldsman has written screenplays for a trove of genre treasures, including Will Smith vehicles I, Robot and I Am Legend.

Also the execrable Batman and Robin and the ill-fated Lost in Space feature film, but for the moment we're going to overlook that, alright? Because this is a development to get excited about. I'd have been happier, perhaps, to see Lost showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof do something with the rights they once had - sold to them by Stephen King for a paltry $19 - but would what they made of The Dark Tower have been anything approaching as ambitious as the plans Howard and Goldman have announced? I sincerely doubt it.

From the report on Deadline, again: "The plan is to start with the feature film, and then create a bridge to the second feature with a season of TV episodes. That means the feature cast - and the big star who'll play Deschain - also has to appear in the TV series before returning to the second film. After that sequel is done, the TV series picks up again, this time focusing on Deschain as a young gunslinger. Those storylines will be informed by a prequel comic book series that King was heavily involved in plotting. The third film would pick up the mature Deshain as he completes his journey."

Saying their intentions are ambitious is hardly giving these dreamers credit. Nothing like this, that I can recall, has ever been done before. The originating Deadline piece likens The Dark Tower project to Peter Jackson's treatment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but come on: even if you tally up all the deleted scenes and the sequences restored in the extended edition of those film, Jackson shot perhaps 12 hours of cinema. The Dark Tower will be three films and two reportedly full seasons of television. That's 50 hours, and given the scope of King's novels, not to mention the prequel comic books, there's more than enough material to make every minute worth the price of admission.

The only hitch, as far as I can tell - and of course we're a long way out from this actually happening (pray to the dead it does) - is the source material itself. I've read The Dark Tower, from end to end, and though the early-goings of the series, from The Gunslinger through The Drawing of the Three, represent some of King's very finest work, in his mad rush to complete the saga lest he pass on before bringing it to a close, The Dark Tower went from great to good to bad to worse. When I closed the last page of the seventh and final novel in the sprawling sequence, I honestly wished I could take my experience of book four onwards back - and not that I might experience it all over again, afresh, but because the last books were, I'm sorry to say, pretty dire; dire enough to risk tainting my fuzzy feelings for the first three.

But let's be optimistic. There's good in those last books, albeit rather obscured by all the bad, and if there's a pair to wring the best of the latter half of The Dark Tower out, it's got to be Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman. This is great news, and I couldn't be happier to hear it.

So who's hyped? Come to that, who's read the books?


  1. Well, it is likely such a show would be on cable, if it is to be any good anyway, and such shows tend to be 10 or so episodes. So, I think 30 hours is a more realistic length.

  2. I've read The Gunslinger, but it was a long time ago, and I never continued. Maybe this is the kick in the pants needed to finally do so. Though I have a feeling that the last thing my blog needs is yet more "Later Stephen King Disappoints," posts.

  3. Aye, I read 'em and remember feeling soured after the last few books, too.

    I wonder if Stephen King would be cast to play himself as himself in the adaptation? That'd just be crazy.

  4. I seriously don't get what everyone says about the final 3 books. Book 5 is possibly my favourite in the series. I agree that book 6 is by far the weakest but only because it needed the first third of book 7 to be added to it to make it more complete.

    Book 7 has its problems but i loved the Daedalus sequence and was fine with the ending.

  5. I feel like my problems with the latter half of The Dark Tower series are emblematic of the issues I have with King in virtually every one of his books: he doesn't do endings well at all, and in the mad rush to tie The Dark Tower up, those books were largely about ending. They don't, in my view, do justice to the characters and threads King had spent the better part of his writing life spinning.