If you're a fan of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, today's a big day.
First off, let's take a moment to appreciate how perfect this moment was on Twitter this morning:
And now that we've all enjoyed that, let's talk about the gigantic info-dump that just arrived over at EW. The site spoke with both Stephen King and Dark Tower director Nikolaj Arcel, and in the process they've confirmed (and clarified!) a number of details we've all been wondering about. Fair warning: while some of what King and Arcel have to say is very exciting, the news isn't all good. Some of it is downright alarming.
Let's start with the fun stuff: The Dark Tower begins filming in seven weeks in South Africa (welp, there goes any hope of a set visit), and is still on track to arrive in theaters on January 13th, 2017. At King's insistence, the film will open with the same immortal line that opened The Gunslinger ("The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed"), and everyone involved is very excited to have secured Elba and McConaughey for the lead roles.
Speaking of which, here's Arcel talking about Elba's role:
“For me, it just clicked. He’s such a formidable man. I had to go to Idris and tell him my vision for the entire journey with Roland and the ka-tet. We discussed, who is this character? What’s he about? What’s his quest? What’s his psychology? We tried to figure out if we saw the same guy. And we absolutely had all the same ideas and thoughts. He had a unique vision for who Roland would be.”
King - as we already knew - loves the choice, and calls Elba "one of the best working in the business". King admits that he pictured Clint Eastwood when he started writing the series, but that eventually Roland just became "Roland":
"For me the character is still the character. It’s almost a Sergio Leone character, like ‘the man with no name. He can be white or black, it makes no difference to me. I think it opens all kind of exciting possibilities for the backstory.”
You'll recall that some fans aren't so thrilled about Elba's casting, but on that point is sounds like Arcel and I are in complete agreement: he says the racial tension of the story won't necessarily be lost, and will be dealt with as the series goes on. Surely this will not be enough to quell the butthurt that has rocked the more, ahem, reactionary corners of the Dark Tower fanbase, but it's nice to know that Arcel's aware of it and has a plan.
And now for the not-so-great news. Let's start with this:
“[The movie] starts in media res, in the middle of the story instead of at the beginning, which may upset some of the fans a little bit, but they’ll get behind it, because it is the story,” King says.
Arcel declined to specify which books his movie focus on, but he did offer this clue: “A lot of it takes place in our day, in the modern world.”
I read that and thought, "Ruh-roh, that sounds a lot like the Akiva Goldsman draft", and sure enough:
Goldsman’s script became the foundation for the new film, and King says a successful movie could revive Howard’s broader plan. That’s one reason for saving the earlier part of the narrative, depicting Roland’s younger days. “They’re still holding on to this idea that they can do a TV series, and they’ve got it pegged for that,” King says.
First of all: Akiva Goldsman's script becoming the foundation for Arcel's film is cause for concern (it is, in fact, cause to slam my head into this keyboard repeatedly, but let's not belabor the point). I'm also not crazy about the adaptation's structure being influenced - to any extent - by the possibility of a TV spin-off. If that plan isn't set in stone, it means that the overall structure of this franchise is still in flux (in case there's any doubt: Sony has apparently only committed to one film at this time), and that strikes me as a wonky way to set up a franchise. Say what you will about the Goldsman draft or Ron Howard's "three movies and an ongoing TV series" pitch: at least it had a clearly-defined gameplan.
From where I'm standing, everything worth being excited about here - the pitch-perfect casting, the fact that shooting will begin in a matter of weeks, the firm release date that's less than a year away (which, depending on how you're looking at it, may not be a great thing at all) - is more than balanced out by the reveal that the first Dark Tower movie will not adapt the first book in the series, that they're rolling with a modified version of the Goldsman draft, and that the entire shape of the franchise has yet to be determined. Speaking as a hardcore Tower fan: I am deeply conflicted about all of this.
What do you guys think?