The Dark Tower is a 2017 film directed and co-written by Nikolaj Arcel. An adaptation and continuation of Stephen King's novel series of the same name, the film stars Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, a gunslinger on a quest to protect the Dark Tower while Matthew McConaughey plays his nemesis, Walter Padick (The Man in Black) and Tom Taylor stars as Jake Chambers, a boy who becomes Roland's apprentice.
Plot[edit | edit source]
|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
One year after the death of his father in a fire, 11-year-old Jake Chambers has been having visions about a Man in Black who seeks to destroy a Tower and bring ruin to the world, as well as a Gunslinger who opposes him. His mother, stepfather, and psychiatrists all dismiss these as trauma-based dreams. While at his apartment home in New York City, a group of workers from an alleged psychiatric facility offer to rehabilitate Jake, but he soon realizes that they are monsters wearing human skin from his dreams and escapes. Jake tracks down an abandoned house seen in one of his visions, discovers a high-tech portal, and travels to another world called Mid-World.
There, he encounters the last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, who seeks Walter Padick, the Man in Black, in order to kill him and exact revenge for murdering his father, Steven. Roland explains that Walter has been abducting children with psychic powers and forcing them into destroying the fabled Dark Tower that stands at the center of the universe, which will allow twisted monsters from the darkness outside to invade and destroy all of reality. Roland takes Jake to a local village to have his visions interpreted by a seer.
Meanwhile, Walter learns of Jake's escape and journey to Mid-World. He investigates, and realizes that Jake has enough psychic potential to destroy the Tower single-handedly. He murders Jake's stepfather, interrogates his mother about his visions, and then incinerates her. Back in Mid-World, the seer explains that Roland can reach Walter's base of operations by traveling through his base in New York. Walter's minions, the Taheen, attack the village, but Roland kills them all. Roland and Jake return to Earth. When Jake returns home to check in on his parents, he finds their remains and breaks down. Roland vows to avenge them and comforts him by teaching the Gunslinger's creed and the basics of gun fighting.
While Roland re-arms himself at a gun store, Walter captures Jake and takes him to his base whereupon he straps him to a machine, intending for him to destroy the Tower. Jake uses his psychic powers to alert Roland to his location, and Roland battles his way through Walter's henchmen. Walter himself confronts and severely wounds Roland. Jake reminds him of the Gunslinger's creed, and Roland recovers and kills Walter with a trick shot. Roland then destroys the machine, saving the Tower, Jake and the children. In the aftermath, Roland declares that he must return to his own world and offers Jake a place by his side as his companion, which Jake accepts. After enjoying ka-hot dogs, the two depart for Mid-World.
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Cast[edit | edit source]
- Idris Elba as Roland Deschain
- Matthew McConaughey as Walter Padick
- Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers
- Claudia Kim as Arra
- Fran Kranz as Pimli
- Abbey Lee as Tirana
- Katheryn Winnick as Laurie
- Jackie Earle Haley as Sayre
- Michael Barbieri as Timmy
- Eva Kaminsky as Jill
Production[edit | edit source]
Development[edit | edit source]
J. J. Abrams[edit | edit source]
By early February 2007, a film adaptation of The Dark Tower series was in the works. J. J. Abrams was said to be attached to produce and direct. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, who co-created Lost with Abrams, optioned The Dark Tower from Stephen King for a reported amount of $19, a number that mysteriously recurs throughout the series. According to issue #923 of Entertainment Weekly, King "is an ardent supporter of Lost and trusts Abrams to translate his vision" into a film franchise, with Lindelof being "the leading candidate to write the screenplay for the first installment." It was around this time that Marvel Comics launched their graphic novel adaptation of The Dark Tower with The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born. Later, in March 2007, Abrams noted in an interview with Wired that the project is "something that we are just now talking about with Stephen, so it's too early for me to say that we're even officially doing it yet just because the thing is in the early stages of discussion."
A year later, in February 2008, Abrams reiterated that The Dark Tower adaptation was in the early stages of development, when interviewed by Reelz Channel. When interviewed by AMC in September 2008, Abrams admitted that the project needs time he does not have because of Lost, especially since he would like to see a seven-film series. However, in May 2009, Abrams stated to IGN that he and Lindelof were planning on beginning work on The Dark Tower as soon as Lost finished its run. Speaking to MTV News around the same time, Lindelof revealed some apprehension regarding the project, noting that his "reverence for Stephen King is now getting in the way of what any good writer would do first when they're adapting a book, which is take creative license." In a July 2009 interview with C21 Media, Lindelof revealed that he and Cuse had indeed optioned the rights for The Dark Tower, but said he was wary about committing to such an ambitious project.
With these reservations being voiced by the producers, this initial phase of the project came to an end at the end of 2009 after three years, since this was a three-year option. In an interview with USA Today in October 2009, Damon Lindelof stated: "You'll be hard-pressed to find a huger fan of The Dark Tower than me, but that's probably the reason that I shouldn't be the one to adapt it. After working six years on Lost, the last thing I want to do is spend the next seven years adapting one of my favorite books of all time. I'm such a massive Stephen King fan that I'm terrified of screwing it up. I'd do anything to see those movies written by someone else. My guess is they will get made because they're so incredible. But not by me."In November 2009, Abrams stated that he would not be adapting the series. During an interview with MTV News, Abrams made the following comments: "The Dark Tower thing is tricky. The truth is that Damon and I are not looking at that right now."
Ron Howard and Universal Pictures[edit | edit source]
In April 2010, Universal Pictures was set to produce trilogy of feature films, alternating with two seasons of a television series to bridge gaps between the films. The involved parties included Akiva Goldsman writing the script, Ron Howard directing, and also producing with Brian Grazer and Stephen King. The report was made official by NBC Universal five months later by press release dated September 8, 2010. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly following the announcement, King stated that "I always thought it would take more than a single movie, but I didn't see this solution coming.", several movies and TV series. It was Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman's idea. Once it was raised, I thought at once it was the solution." A month later, the first Dark Tower film was scheduled to open on May 17, 2013. In December 2010, Howard offered the following in regards to the project's progress: "It is going well, and it has been incredibly stimulating to work on. I really can't stop thinking about it. We've been meeting and talking and I've been reading and researching and just kind of living with it. I hope it goes great. I hope it goes the way we think it will. It never does, really. But sometimes it goes better." Despite Howard's enthusiasm, Universal had not yet greenlit the project at that point.
By the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, New York Post was reporting that Javier Bardem and Viggo Mortensen were in line to play the lead character of Roland Deschain, and Naomie Harris was being considered for the character of Susannah Dean. Speaking on The Howard Stern Show in January 2011 and qualifying his words with the phrase "I don't know if it's going to happen or not", Howard said that after the first film, which would be more action-oriented, a six-episode television miniseries would follow, focusing more on character-driven drama. For his part, Brian Grazer stated around the same time that a casting announcement could be made "within a week."
By April 2011, Mark Verheiden was joining the television portion of the project as executive producer and Akiva Goldsman's co-writer. The same month, Javier Bardem was cast in the role of Roland. Just a month later, a report in Variety revealed that Universal may seek another studio's help, as the project's budget appeared to be more than they were willing to handle. The Hollywood Reporter wrote later that the project was on the verge of turnaround, and Warner Bros. or Columbia Pictures could potentially take the project on, revealing that Universal had paid $5 million for the rights. Shortly after that, Universal committed to a lower budget for the project and Goldsman began rewriting the script to reflect these changes.
Originally, production was slated to begin in September 2011, but in May 2011 it was being pushed back to February 2012 or early spring. The project was still not greenlit by the studio, which had to happen by July 2011. Then on July 18, 2011, Universal decided to cancel development of the entire project due to budgetary concerns. Despite this, Stephen King was confident Howard would see the project through, stating that he was "sorry Universal passed, but not really surprised. I bear them no ill will, and trust Ron Howard to get Roland and his friends before the camera somewhere else. He's very committed to the project." In August 2011, Howard stated that they were "trying to get outside financing to make it, and distribute it through a major studio", including the fact that Netflix might be an outlet. Later, in October 2011, Howard confirmed the adaptation is still on track, noting that HBO would now carry the television portion of the project.
By March 2012, Warner Bros. was expressing interest in taking on the project. Several months later, Goldsman delivered a new script for the first film to Warner Bros., and the studio had to make a decision in August 2012 whether to go ahead with the project. As well, Russell Crowe was being talked about as the lead character. On August 20, 2012, Warner Bros. officially passed. At the same time, Media Rights Capital was in talks to take over the project from Warner.
In January 2014, Aaron Paul stated that he had a conversation with Howard and was possibly being considered to play Eddie Dean. Following that, a rumor appeared that Liam Neeson was interested in the part of Roland.
Nikolaj Arcel, Media Rights Capital and Sony Pictures[edit | edit source]
On April 10, 2015, it was announced that Sony Pictures Entertainment with Media Rights Capital were fast-tracking the project, now with a completely reworked script by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner. Stephen King appeared optimistic, saying: "I'm excited that The Dark Tower is finally going to appear on the screen." Ron Howard appeared to be out as director, but would remain in a producing capacity. By June 2, 2015, Sony was looking to Nikolaj Arcel to direct. Arcel officially signed on July 10, 2015, with him and Anders Thomas Jensen rewriting the script.
By November 2015, Matthew McConaughey had been offered the role of the Man in Black. In January 2016, it was officially announced that Idris Elba has been cast to play Roland Deschain. By February 18, 2016, Abbey Lee had been offered the role of Tirana. On March 1, 2016, Entertainment Weekly confirmed the casting of Idris Elba as Roland and Matthew McConaughey as The Man in Black, with shooting set to begin in South Africa in April. By March 10, 2016, Tom Taylor had been cast as Jake Chambers.
Filming[edit | edit source]
Filming began on April 12, 2016. Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley, and Fran Kranz were added to the cast when filming began, while Katheryn Winnick and Michael Barbieri joined the film at the end of April 2016, and Claudia Kim was cast as Arra Champignon in May 2016. After poor test screenings, Sony contemplated replacing Arcel with "a more experienced filmmaker," but instead producers Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman advised Arcel on cleaning up the music and narrative of the film.
Release[edit | edit source]
The film was originally scheduled to be released on January 13, 2017 and was pushed back to February 17, 2017. In November 2016, the film was pushed back again to July 28, 2017, after the studio's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was moved from that date. In late March 2017, the film was pushed back one week to August 4, 2017, switching places with Sony Pictures Animation's The Emoji Movie.
Marketing[edit | edit source]
On May 3, 2017, a full length trailer was released. A one-minute television spot titled Connected KINGdom featured Easter eggs of other Stephen King stories through the inter-dimensional setting of the titular location, the Dark Tower. Various references included The Shining (1980), Christine (1983), Cujo (1983), Misery (1990), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Carrie and It.
Box office[edit | edit source]
In North America, The Dark Tower was released alongside Kidnap, as well as the wide expansion of Detroit, and was projected to gross around $20 million from 3,451 theaters in its opening weekend. It made $1.8 million from Thursday previews at 2,770 theaters, with screenings beginning at 7:19 p.m. as an ode to the 19:19 of Stephen King lore present in the book series, and $7.7 million on its first day. The film went on to debut to $19.5 million, dethroning two-time defender Dunkirk as the top film at the box office, although it was the second lowest gross for a film to finish number one in all of 2017. In its second weekend the film dropped 58.9% to $7.9 million, finishing 4th at the box office.
Reception[edit | edit source]
Critics panned The Dark Tower, calling it "boring and flavorless" and "incomprehensible to newbies and wildly unfaithful and simplistic to fans of King's books." On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 16% based on 262 reviews with an average rating of 4.1/10. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 34 out of 100, based on 46 critics. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported that filmgoers gave a 69% overall positive score and a 43% "definite recommend".
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- When Jake is wandering around in the forest, he comes across a carnival ride named "Pennywise", who is the primary antagonist in It.
- A photograph of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining is in Dr. Hotchkiss' office.
- An unfinished rough cut of the first trailer was leaked online on October 10, 2016 but was later taken down almost all over the internet.