Last night, CinemaCon kicked off in Las Vegas, Nevada. In attendance were thousands of industry types and theaters owners from around the country, all of them there to get their first look at some of the major studio offerings headed their way in 2017.
This year's opening presentation was held by Sony, which meant the crowd was shown brand-new footage from Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049, Edgar Wright's Baby Driver, and - most importantly of all - the very first look at (officially-sanctioned) footage from Nicolas Arcel's The Dark Tower.
As you might expect, I was monitoring Twitter for reactions. They started strong...
Yep, #TheDarkTower looks legit— Aaron Couch (@AaronCouch) March 28, 2017
Damn, The Dark Tower trailer was pretty badass, if even just to see Roland do his speed reloads. Lots of cool fantasy/action elements— JoBlo.com (@joblocom) March 28, 2017
Just saw an extended clip/footage from THE DARK TOWER. Looks really cool and ended with an awesome shot that crowd loved.— Steven Weintraub (@colliderfrosty) March 28, 2017
... and then things started sounding a little odd.
THE DARK TOWER footage/ trailer looks... OK? Pulling from so much of the span of the books that it's hard to tell what the true story is.— Russ Fischer (@russfischer) March 28, 2017
Rough Dark Tower thoughts: Not at all the way I imagined Mid-World to look. Way more sci-fi tech-y than it should be.— Eric Vespe (@EricVespe) March 28, 2017
The doorways between Mid-World and Keystone Earth looked like something out of Stargate. Not a fan of that.— Eric Vespe (@EricVespe) March 28, 2017
It was around this time that someone under the #CinemaCon hashtag (in a since-deleted Tweet) compared the film to The Matrix. It was also around this time that Twitter's contingent of Dark Tower fans began openly worrying about the film: "The Matrix? Doorways out of Stargate? What the hell have they done?"
Well, they've done what they've been saying they were going to do for a long time now: they've remixed the Dark Tower series. Not only is Nikolaj Arcel's The Dark Tower meant to function as a pseudo-sequel to Stephen King's series of novels (Roland begins the film with the Horn of Eld), but they'll also be rejiggering familiar elements from the entire timeline of those novels.
For instance: the events of The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger barely factor in to the film. There's no journey through the mountains, no Way Station, no Slow Mutants. Elsewhere in the film, you'll find elements from The Drawing Of The Three and The Waste Lands, but they won't necessarily appear in the order you might expect ... nor will they always unfold the same way. Some of these changes were surely made to streamline the series' sprawling narrative. Others, like the decision to have Jake enter Mid-World via a giant Stargate door rather than via battle with The Waste Lands' Doorway Demon, were almost certainly cut to keep the film within budget (that's pure speculation, but we're willing to make that bet). You win some, you lose some.
Look, I've been writing about The Dark Tower on this site for years now, so a lot of the above is stuff I've already mentioned in previous posts. But given the response I saw to some of the #CinemaCon reactions on Twitter, it felt like now might be a good time to remind everyone that we're not dealing with a straight adaptation of these books. Far from it, in fact, and if you head into The Dark Tower expecting to see anything resembling that, you are almost certain to be disappointed.
As for fans' concerns regarding the general lack of marketing for the film: I can't claim to have any understanding of the way Sony has chosen to market (or not market, as the case may be) Arcel's adaptation. As a fan, I'm just as frustrated as anyone else to see The Dark Tower's first foray into Hollywood treated so ... quietly (yes, I've also heard about the reshoots, but my understanding is that those have done nothing except improve things, so I wouldn't be too worried about those). Fans have been waiting forever for this, so of course we want to see the studio screaming about their film from the rooftops. We all want The Dark Tower to succeed. But we gotta remain calm. Whatever's done is, for the most part, done. My advice is to make peace with the fact that The Dark Tower will be wholly unlike any Dark Tower adaptation you might have imagined over the years. Do that, and your chances of enjoying the film are that much better.
And also, with Sony totally committed to that July 28th release date, we're gonna have to see a trailer soon.