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Cinematic Universes are all the rage these days. Marvel helped propel the notion, while DC and Universal's Classic Monsters are finding ways to explore and continue the on-screen experiments. So why can't we have a Stephen King Universe? King's books used to be adapted to film all of the time, and he's experiencing a bit of a rebirth on screen as of late, with several King novels making their way to different screens. We got a look at The Dark Tower this morning, and the trailer had some subtle (and very curious) nods to other King works. First, the trailer:
The Dark Tower tells the story of Roland Deschain of Gilead, the last of a dying breed of Gunslinger warriors. His quest to reach The Dark Tower covered seven books, and could set off a series of movie and television projects propelled from the pages of Stephen King's classic stories. And yet, there are obvious nods to existing King movies and books in this trailer, suggesting that Sony might be trying to connect dots to previous King works in interesting ways. Namely, to movies that belong to other studios, and even movies that ALSO plan to reach theaters in 2017. Let's start there, with a certain, terrifying clown.
In a scene in the trailer that's not in the books (get used to saying that, DT fans), Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) wanders through a ghostly forest and comes upon... a Pennywise sign? The sign looks like it could have been part of an abandoned amusement park in Mid-World, the land where Roland remains. The image even comes with floating balloons, because as Georgie figured out, we all float down here. Now, why is this strange? Because an overt mention of Pennywise and Stephen King's IT points to the IT movie that's opening one month after The Dark Tower hits. Only, that's a Warner Bros. movie, and not a Sony movie. Sharing? Or a different reference altogether? The mystery remains.
The Overlook Hotel
If you thought Pennywise was an unexpected reference, wait until you get to this one. In a picture frame on the desk of Jake's psychiatrist is a shot of The Overlook Hotel, the setting of Stephen King's seminal haunted house story The Shining. Now, why on Earth would a New York psychiatrist have a framed shot of The Overlook? Also, film fans will love that The Dark Tower director Nikolaj Arcel used the exterior of The Timberline Lodge, which Stanley Kubrick used for his 1980 movie, and not The Stanley, the Colorado hotel that actually inspired King. So is that a direct nod to the existing Kubrick film? Does that movie take place on the same Beam that connects The Dark Tower and, possibly, IT? The possibilities are endless.
The Crimson King
This one is a quick and fleeting nod to the true identity of Matthew McConaughey's The Man In Black. Essentially, he's a timeless evil, a force that has been around for eternities who, as Roland (Idris Elba) notes, is worse than The Devil. McConaughey taps a wall of graffiti as he passes a mention, "All hail The Crimson King." Readers of Stephen King's novels will recognize this character as a shapeshifting menace who has tempted good people and threatened innocent victims in stories like Insomnia and Black House. He's primarily an adversary in King's Dark Tower anthology, but he has connections to characters like Randall Flagg, the chief villain in King's own The Stand.
You can't name drop The Crimson King in a Dark Tower trailer and not get fans all worked up and the different connections these characters and plotlines could have to subsequent stories... especially if The Dark Tower is able to continue with multiple movies and spread this universe out.