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When we first heard rumors that Ron Howard would be working on somehow adapting Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series the first thought was: huh? How? Immediately we began to hear mumblings of a trilogy. “Travesty!” We fans cried when faced with our beloved seven book series being condensed. But today our fears were alleviated, while our questions expanded. The wheel of ka continues to turn and we’ll have to wait for it to come back around to get all of our answers. For now let’s speculate how this adaptation could play out.
The idea presented by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and others is to produce three films and a number of TV series to encompass the entire Dark Tower story. It’s the planned execution of the story that has us baffled. It sounds simple on paper: make a film, do a season of TV, another film, more TV season, finish the story in a grand finale film. But the question is not whether they can produce what they promise, that’s the easy part. The difficulty is getting Universal interested in doing all of the TV series’ when people get confused by the disparate stories from one season to the next.
In order for The Dark Tower to work they have to do the first book as the first movie. It would honestly make for a more exciting and interesting film for general audiences if most of Drawing of the Three (the second book in the series) were part of the film. Unfortunately that would undermine a bit of the groundwork laid for Roland Deschain’s (the main character) and Jake’s (a young boy Roland meets) relationship. But that could be dealt with and forgiven.
Then we’d be heading into the first TV series, which would deal heavily with The Wastelands, which contains a lot of great stuff. It’s genius to handle this part of the story with television because there’s a lot of trudging along and character development. A season of a TV show would be the ideal way to get people to know these characters.
It’s the next steps that I’m wary about. A film will tell the next stage of the story, essentially setting up the main character’s final push to the titular Dark Tower. And then season two of the TV series will start up with an entirely different show. The setup proposed by Ron Howard and his production partners is to do Wizard and Glass as the second season. Alone it’s the perfect way to tell of Roland’s childhood and becoming a gunslinger. But will the folks sitting at home, who loved the previous season and film, stick with a show that’s going to have an all new cast that stops the forward momentum of the story to fill in a vast amount of back story on Roland? It’s the riskiest part of this process, and could doom the project to never finish.
The saving grace may be that we’re not talking about 20 episode seasons here. Nowhere is it stated that the TV series will be a full show. It’s quite possible we’re talking about 10-13 episodes at the most. The ideal would be to do the series on a cable channel like HBO. But with Universal producing it’s highly unlikely we’ll see that happen. HBO produces their own stuff, Showtime deals with CBS, and Universal itself already has many options at their disposal. Most likely the TV series will air on SyFy, which means it’ll be ignored by so many people who might otherwise love the story.
There’s a lot to speculate about with this adaptation of The Dark Tower. The tone of the books can tend to the “R” rating, which would work for film, but on TV the story would have to shift. We’re assuming that the films and TV series will be one continuous story, so some alterations will have to be made on both sides to make it work. The worst possible result of this is that the films will be tamed and made into hollow shells of the original story. A balance needs to be found among both the films and TV series'. Also…I can’t be the only one who believes Clint Eastwood should make a cameo appearance as The Man With No Name was the inspiration for Roland Deschain. In the same vein, Frank Darabont has to be tapped to direct the final film. He's done the best King adaptations ever (Shawshank Redemption and The Mist) on film and deserves the honor.
To be honest it’s just surprising that any production company would go along with a plan so perfect for this series. This is the way it should be handled. Let’s just hope that the desires of Ron Howard and friends to do right by King’s tale can withstand the eventual backlash that will come from the suits at Universal. The idea is brilliant, and the execution will be arduous.