The Dark Tower Collapses: Rebuild or Move On?

There is a fine line between chasing dreams and chasing windmills. Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Akiva Goldsman, the filmmakers behind the doomed adaptation of Stephen King's magnum opus, The Dark Tower, have been stridently straddling that border ever since they announced their sprawling multi-platform plans for the septet spanning a trilogy of films, two TV series, and a location shoot on the moon. Ok, scratch that last part. But the rest was on the agenda and putatively moving toward a green light until yesterday, when Universal officially pulled the plug on the project.

The Dark Tower has been teetering on the brink of oblivion for much longer than Howard and his creative confreres were willing to admit. Ever since Universal pushed the production's start date from this summer to early spring, 2012, Howard grew increasingly vague about the status of his leading man, Javier Bardem. In April, the star was "locked in" as the franchise's mysterious gunslinger, Roland Deschain. A month later, Howard hedged on Bardem's commitment, claiming that he'd "shown a great deal of interest."  The impending doom signs were plastered all over the Tower's scaffolding and its demise seemed all but certain.

What's most fascinating about this story is not why or how the project went south but the unalloyed grandiosity from which it sprung. Howard, Goldsman, and Grazer sought to make an uncompromisingly faithful version of King's most complex work at a time when Hollywood is investing in movies based on boardgames ("Battleship") and craven high concept gimmicks like "What to Expect when You're Expecting," whose sole raison d'etre is to capitalize on the bestselling pregnancy how-to. We're just waiting for Hollywood to find a way to tease a narrative thread out of all those bestselling diet books. Just imagine what Scorsese could do if turned loose on an epic version of "The 17 Day Diet."

The Dark Tower, on the other hand, has always been a movie waiting to happen. Ever since Stephen King fired off the first book in the series -- The Gunslinger -- in 1982, it was clear Roland Deschain was an epic hero begging to be embodied by a great actor. Like any epic storyteller, King's made sure to throw plenty of obstacles in his hero's way -- like taking seven books and twenty years to wrap up the story -- to prevent Roland Deschain from seizing the cinematic legacy he so deserves.

That's why we have nothing but respect for Howard's ambitious plans for the saga. None of Howard's previous films has revealed the faintest hint of the visual and emotional ruthlessness necessary to capture the series' bleak impressionistic vision of humanity. But Howard's passion for the project was unassailable, so much so that he seemed to forget he was dealing with the studio that had just passed on Guillermo del Toro's much smaller-scale adaptation of HP Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.

Still, all hope is not lost. We've always believed that The Dark Tower needs space to unfold gradually and perhaps the most viable option is for it to roll out over many episodes as a high-end HBO series in the vein of "Game of Thrones" or "Deadwood." For some this idea may sound like capitulation or the downsizing of a man's farfetched dream. Instead, this might be a way to negotiate a compromise that allows Howard to maintain some of the quixotic spirit of his quest to direct an authoritative version of The Dark Tower without waiting another twenty years to make it happen. Submit your own blueprints for rebuilding The Dark Tower here.

  • Bob Vince Jr

    First I would nail down Nathan Fillion (Castle) as Roland Deschain. Then I would make it a mini series that would make roots and the Thornbirds look like short stories. Until that is the final book The Dark Tower, make it into a two part feature film. By the time the film is ready to hit the screens Tower fever could rival that of the Potter franchise and Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
    i would pick the SYFY Channel as the place for the mini series.

  • Gerrard

    The HBO option doesn't sound bad. Being a huge fan of the series including Stephen Kings work, this would be the only network to give it justice on this level. ( Other than a full fledged movie. Which they need to do) Putting it on SyFy would just end up screwing it up with cheesy scripts and bad acting/special effects. I mean these dudes made "Dinoshark vs Sharktopus".................nuf said. They also need a decent actor for the need. Javier would've been spot on but Jeff Dean Morgan could be good too. But the real reason is that they are afraid that putting this much $ into a King story scares them. They are used to making lesser productions for him like The Langoliers, Tommyknockers, Storm of the Century, etc...... They need to know that this will be a surefire hit with the masses

  • Bug

    JUST DO IT!!!!!! dont care who picks it up SCIFI,HBO.WHO CARES!!! JUST DO IT!!!!!! i knew when i was reading this series that it would make an awesome movie series so...... JUST DO IT!!!!! WOOHOOO

  • Marcie

    LIKE ALL THE REST........ JUST DO IT !!!!!!!!! Take each book and turn them in to a series...... just as they have with the TRUEBLOOD series based on Sookie Stackhouse on HBO. Don't care who pickes it up......... JUST DO IT!!!!!!!!!

  • rod

    Doesn't anyone remember that the series has no ending!! After 22 years of following Roland I was enraged when he walked through the door to...........

  • Bobbi

    I always imagined Clint Eastwood as Roland. Although Bardem is a fine actor, I cannot imagine him as Roland and the guy from Castles someone mentioned has a round, soft face so I would boycott movies or TV shows with either of them. Only suggestion I might consider is perhaps Hugh Jackman, he has the height and intensity and chiseled intense look. I love the Dark Tower series but would hate for my imagined characters to be messed up by bad casting like so many adaptations do. The Stand miniseries is really the only King adaptation that has gotten almost all the characters cast correctly in my mind. I wouldn't go for big screen. HBO would likely do it justice - it could easily go for 2 sows per book - not sure SciFi has it in them. Just do it but do it justice. Thanks.

  • Anthony

    It sincerely pains me to say this but the Dark Tower series was not as epic as people make it out to be. The last book was atrocious and, to me, nearly undermined the entire rest of the series. A lot of the plot thread tie-ups felt forced and arbitrary. Whatever message he was trying to get across with Randall Flagg's exit from the series, it fell on it's face, and the encounter with the Crimson King ended up being laughable.

    Also, the books tie in to so many other Stephen King books that it would be nearly impossible to have the same

    Last but not least, Stephen King announced back in 2009 that he's working on an eighth book.


    You read that right. An eighth Dark Tower book.