The Dark Tower movie adaptation came and went in the summer of 2017 without much fanfare, an anemic box office tally, and a thorough drubbing by audiences and critics alike; not exactly the start you want for a franchise built on the bones of Stephen King‘s epic fantasy series. So what went wrong? A lot, in my opinion, but the project was wrong-footed from the start. Producer Ron Howard thinks he’s figured out why, though a little too late.
During a guest appearance on the Happy Sad Confused Podcast for his new documentary Pavarotti, Howard admitted that yeah, the movie really should have leaned into the source story’s horror content. He also learned, a little too late, that a focus on The Gunslinger himself, instead of his kid sidekick counterpart, would have been a better approach:
“I think it should’ve been horror. I think that it landed in a place—both in our minds and the studio’s—that it could be PG-13 and sort of a boy’s adventure… I really think we made a mistake not—I mean I’m not sure we could’ve made this movie, but I think if we could’ve made a darker, more hard-boiled look and make it The Gunslinger’s character study more than Jake. I think in retrospect that would’ve been more exciting. We always felt like we were kind of holding back something, and I think at the end of the day it was that.”
Call me crazy, but in adapting King’s horror-tinged Western series that centers on the lone Gunslinger named Roland, one would have expected the adaptation to be a horror-tinged Western that centers on the lone Gunslinger named Roland. This isn’t rocket science, but it is a fine example of too much meddling to the point that the adaptation loses what made the original story compelling in the first place.
Howard admitted another error in planning, suggesting that a TV-first approach would have been a better way to conjure up interest in the sprawling franchise from the general audience:
“The other thing might’ve been to just straight-on tackle it as television first. Disappointing because I poured a lot of myself into it, and sometimes this happens on these projects where everybody’s best intentions—you’re all pulling in a direction, and then you sort of say, ‘Was that the right direction?’ And I wouldn’t say it was all compromise. I do think it was just a sense of maybe too much listening to what you think that the marketplace is calling for instead of the essence of what Stephen King was giving us.”
It’s a real shame that what seemed clear and obvious to millions of King fans around the world when it came to adapting The Dark Tower was so far from the minds of the movie’s creative team until well after it was a certified flop. Next up: The Dark Tower TV series set to arrive on Amazon next year and act as a prequel to the movie itself. Second time’s the charm?