The saga of The Dark Tower’s journey to the big screen has been rife with conflict. The adaptation of Stephen King’s gigantic fantasy/western franchise has been in development for over a decade, and has passed hands through seemingly every major production company in Hollywood. Like if I heard that PureFlix at one point had an adaptation in place with Kirk Cameron as the lead, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest.
But, ultimately, the project did find a home at the Island of Misfit Toys, more commonly known as Sony Pictures. Sony at this point in time is oozing desperation for a big franchise (I’ve outlined why both here and here), and placed as one of their big summer tentpoles, they are clearly putting a lot of faith in The Dark Tower.
…Maybe? Because for a huge film that Sony hopes will kickstart a franchise, they have been pretty shy when it comes to promoting The Dark Tower. Aside from a behind-closed-door type presentation at CinemaCon, we have yet to see any footage from Roland Deschain’s first adventure on the big screen. For a film that is coming out in only a little more than three months, that’s pretty insane. Was there something so terrible about this project that Sony was desperately trying to hide it? Well, we finally got our first The Dark Tower trailer earlier today and, from my perspective at least, the answer to that question is no.
But that doesn’t mean the film looks great either.
Before I get into more specific thoughts about the trailer, some background: I have read approximately three chapters of The Dark Tower saga, and haven’t read anymore since. Now this doesn’t mean the book is bad or anything (I love Stephen King, for what it’s worth) — I was just instantly overwhelmed with the task of reading the thousands upon thousands of pages that I would have to if I fully jumped on board the Dark Tower train. So I stopped, hoping to one day return when I have more time (like when I’m 80 and almost dead, perhaps.)
So, for me, my first real introduction to this universe is this trailer. And though it’s not a terrible intro, it’s not a particularly special one either…which might be an even bigger problem, if I’m being honest. Because even from a non-book reader’s perspective, I can see this isn’t quite The Dark Tower that book fans know and love. There’s more shots of the New York City skyline here than I would ever expect from a fantasy-western, for instance, and the main character very much seems to be the young boy from “our world.” Hell, even the Western reality that he travels too looks more like a craggy cliff in Maine than the apocalyptic western desert of King’s novel.
Now I’m not saying none of this is in the book: I haven’t read enough of the book to be able to say that (and I have a passing enough knowledge to know that the multiple dimension and kid thing are taken from the series, so I can’t claim ignorance on that.) But from my point of view at least, this trailer seems tailor made to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Everything looks familiar and bland, as though Sony is trying to sell a movie called “BIG NEW FRANCHISE” rather than an interesting one like The Dark Tower. It’s the trailer equivalent of this below poster, which is equally as by-the-numbers:
Character in a vaguely mobile stance? Check. Background mostly white, with some vague smoke filling the rest of the area? Check. Text covering the better part of the main character’s body? Check. Object with a slightly blue-ish tint? It’s there too, for reasons I couldn’t possibly fathom (seriously, what is with Hollywood and light blue? I like the color too, but not EVERYTHING needs to be tinged with it.)
Like the trailer, the poster isn’t bad, but it certainly doesn’t make an impression. Compare that to the cover for the first Dark Tower novel, The Gunslinger:
That’s unique, and vivid, and not just a bunch of monochromatic nonsense. In a perfect world, this poster and trailer should have been just that — something vivid, fresh, and exciting. But other than the promise of Idris Elba: Badass Cowboy, there’s nothing about this trailer that makes me look forward to the actual film. And since that’s the whole point of a trailer…well, that’s not a great sign, if you ask me. I hope I’m wrong though, for my sake AND Sony’s. I just…just don’t think I can write another intervention letter again, you guys. I just can’t.
The Dark Tower, from director Nikolaj Arcel and no less than four screenwriters (another not-to-great sign for a big franchise film) will hit screens on August 4. I’m hoping that the many, many, many warning signs that pop up for this movie will ultimately mean nothing. Unfortunately, in the years I have been following film, that’s a pretty damn rare occurrence.
Also published on Medium.