Stephen King saw two major adaptations up on the big screen this year. One of them, IT, was a massive hit. The other project, The Dark Tower, was not. Stephen King has an idea why the latter movie didn't work. While the author is hesitant to be too critical of the film, because he liked a lot of the people involved in its production, he does believe that The Dark Tower suffered due to the edict that the movie be treated as a major tentpole release, thus requiring it to have a PG-13 rating in order to allow a broad audience to see it. According to King...
The real problem, as far as I'm concerned is, they went in to this movie, and I think this was a studio edict pretty much: this is going to be a PG-13 movie. It's going to be a tentpole movie. We want to make sure that we get people in there from the ages of, let's say, 12 right on up to whatever the target age is. Let's say 12 to 35. That's what we want. So it has to be PG-13, and when they did that I think that they lost a lot of the toughness of it and it became something where people went to it and said, Well yeah, but it's really not anything that we haven't seen before.
From a structural standpoint, it's easy to see why a studio would view The Dark Tower as a potential tentpole franchise. It's a massive story that covers seven books, and thus could be even more movies. It's got elements of the western, as well as both fantasy and science fiction. It has a lot of the sort of material that makes up the modern tentpole blockbuster movie. Those movies are all also rated PG-13 in order to include the largest audience, but from the POV of the guy who wrote the book series, it may have needed a harder edge to stay faithful to the material.
However, while The Dark Tower may look like a major franchise candidate from the outside, the actual story really isn't that sort of tale. Those elements are used in unique, and often bizarre, ways. It's not really a PG-13 summer movie sort of story, and Stephen King tells Entertainment Weekly that trying to make it fit that mold really dulled the edges and turned into a generic action movie that people had seen before.
Still, there's a core audience of fans of The Dark Tower who, had they embraced the film, might have been able to make it successful. Unfortunately, the story the fans got was something very different from the one the books told, which is something else Stephen King says didn't work, though he tried to stop it.
There was a decision made, too, to start it pretty much in the middle, and when they actually made the movie I had doubts about it from the beginning, and expressed them, and didn't really get too far.
It certainly was an interesting decision to include elements in The Dark Tower movie that weren't even hinted at until much later in the books. It's also interesting that the author tried to voice concerns and nobody apparently listened. One wonders if the lukewarm reception of the film might change that in the future.