So it looks like it’s finally happening. After years false starts, Stephen King’s epic Dark Tower series is poised to hit the big screen. Earlier this week, Stephen King made the announcement we’ve all been waiting for:
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) March 1, 2016
I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions how much I love the Dark Tower books. When I first read them as a teenager, the stories of Roland and his Ka-tet connected with me on a level that no other novel ever had before, and the influence that these books had on my writing was undeniable. King’s combination of western settings, high fantasy, science fiction, horror, and postmodernism is truly something that every reader should experience at least once.
So while this news excites me, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. Our favorite fictional properties change shape when they hit the silver screen, and are exposed to an enormous audience that few other art forms could ever dream of. That means that by next year the words “Dark Tower” will mean something to billions of people around the world who have no connection to them today.
Right now, The Dark Tower is a series of books that link all of Stephen King’s work, an epic cult favorite of genre readers. Soon, The Dark Tower will very likely be a worldwide phenomenon on a scale that we can’t even imagine today.
But that’s the nature of great art: it expands beyond its original limits, it reaches out to people beyond its original fans, and never stops reaching. Like Roland pursuing his tower, art never stops pursuing new audiences.
I’m not familiar with the upcoming film’s director, Nikolaj Arcel, but given King’s famous protectiveness of this property—he Dark Tower is his magnum opus, with only The Stand and perhaps 11/22/63 coming close—I’m inclined to think that this adaptation will probably be an extraordinary thing.
As far as casting goes, this news is tremendous. Idris Elba is a brilliant and unexpected choice for the gunslinger; it’s a part that requires a superhuman level of gravitas that few actors can deliver, and I expect Elba will knock it out of the park. As far as the man in black—also known as Walter, Marten, Flagg, or whatever other name suits him on a given day—McConaughey is such perfect casting that it’s actually hard to envision another actor in the role.
For Dark Tower fans, the author’s tweet probably marks the end of one era, but it’s the beginning of a new one. The Dark Tower is going to be one of the most complicated literary adaptations of all time, with a massive storyline that weaves between realities and genres. But if they get it right, this could easily be a unique cinematic experience unlike anything out there today.