Universal Considers Pulling Out of THE DARK TOWER

     May 5, 2011

Every time I had the opportunity to write about the developing adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, I wrote with awe at the ambition.  Three movies and two seasons of television!  I still can’t believe the studio is actually pulling this together.  Well, you see, here’s the thing…

Variety hears Universal is rethinking the original plan.  After encountering budgetary complications, the studio executives are expected to meet soon to decide whether to put the project into turnaround, at which point Imagine Entertainment heads Ron Howard and Brian Grazer could shop it to another studio.  If this happens, Universal could still co-finance or partner with the new home studio.

Variety stresses that, as of this writing, Universal has no plans to halt the development process.  Akiva Goldsman will write the screenplay, with Howard committed to direct at least the first movie.  Javier Bardem is on board as Roland Deschain, and the filmmakers are casting the supporting roles around him.  At the very least, though, this news casts a shadow of doubt on the planned May 17, 2013 debut.  More, including a synopsis of the series, after the jump.

The report is unfortunately timed just two months after Universal pulled the plug on Guillermo del Toro’s $150 million R-rated creature feature At the Mountains of Madness.  The internet was not happy with that decision, and while I’m bracing for a similar uproar here, I beg of you: please don’t.  Like Madness, there is massive risk in committing to The Dark Tower.  The reward could be similarly massive — heck, if the first movie hits big, practical planning enables Universal to amortize the setup costs across the sequels to maximize profit.  But how can you will a $400 million hit into existence?  How do you cut a trailer for an apocalyptic Western that appeals to all four quadrants?  How do you adapt a sprawling, perhaps unfilmable, seven-book series that has conquered the likes of J.J. Abrams into a guaranteed hit?

Universal is crazy for thinking this could ever work, and I’m still rooting for the wave of crazy to carry The Dark Tower to movie theaters.  But if the journey stops here, objectively, it’s because saner minds prevailed.

We’ll update when we hear more about the state of the project going forward.  Click here for all our Dark Tower coverage.  The series synopsis:

In the story, Roland Deschain is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers and the last of the line of “Arthur Eld”, his world’s analogue of King Arthur. The world he lives in is quite different from our own, yet it bears striking similarities to it. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West but is also magical. While the magical aspects are largely gone from Mid-World, some vestiges of them remain, along with the relics of a highly advanced, but long vanished, society.

Roland’s quest is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to be the nexus of all universes. Roland’s world is said to have “moved on”, and indeed it appears to be coming apart at the seams as mighty nations have been torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish without a trace and time does not flow in an orderly fashion. Even the Sun sometimes rises in the north and sets in the east. As the series opens, Roland’s motives, goals and age are unclear, though later installments shed light on these mysteries. [Wikipedia]

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