Now that The Dark Tower movies are officially a go again, especially now that casting announcements seem to happen on a regular basis, there are certain things that these movies need to get just right.
The Dark Tower is a series of sweeping fantasy and horror novels from author Stephen King, and they cover a lot of ground, including a lot of things that remain important throughout the weaving of the story.
So far, it seems that Hollywood wants greatness from this epic story: early casting announcements include Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba in the two starring roles. The series also recently cast a Jake, newcomer Tom Taylor, and the good news is that he definitely looks the part.
However, there are still some casting announcements, as well as key details from the stories, that remain up in the air, including some things that will make or break a movie adaptation of the story. It's important to stay true to King's initial vision, while still managing to have everything actually make sense once translated to the big screen.
Probably the most important casting decision the moviemakers will face is getting the right person for Susannah Dean. This is a complex character with two distinct personalities: Odetta Holmes and Detta Walker. This character needs a top-notch actress, someone who can get downright nasty at times, but also still remain sympathetic to viewers.
Not only that, but Susannah is disabled: she lost the use of her legs after getting pushed in front of a subway train. This gives Hollywood an option to actually employ a disabled actress (who would understand Susannah in a way others might not), but it's certainly doubtful if that's the route the casting department will take.
Regardless, Susannah shouldn't be just a pretty face, as so often is the result of Hollywood casting decisions. This is a gritty character who has seen adversity and struggled with it her entire life. It's going to take an actress with real gravitas to pull that off.
Oy isn't a human character, but he's still a key player in book series, one who first appears in the third novel. He's a creature known as a billy-bumbler, but he isn't a household pet: he can mimic sounds, which is how he gets his name. Oy also has a special relationship with Jake, who he refers to as "Ake," and often comes to the group's aid when they need help.
Oy is more intelligent than a dog or a cat, but looks like neither. Getting this character right on film will mean the difference between something that looks ridiculous or something that looks real. Obviously, Oy will probably become a CGI creation, and that should make fans nervous, because sometimes, the CGI just doesn't work. Fortunately, we live in a day and age where CGI technology is good, so let's hope Oy comes across as realistically as Rocket Raccoon or Gollum. Viewers need to care about him as much as Jake does, because he is very much part of the ka-tet.
Don't Skip The Fantasy
Although some of The Dark Tower takes place in our modern world, much of it actually occurs in a bleak Western-type fantasy world that hearkens back to the days of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. The film's director, Nikolaj Arcel, though, has already stated that the first movie will start in the middle of the story and that a lot will happen in "our day, the modern world."
That is a mistake. And by the middle of the story, a lot of what's happening isn't happening in our modern world, but in that fantasy world. And things are really crazy there: the book even includes a screwed up version of The Wizard of Oz's Emerald City. But if the film chooses to skip those wonderfully weird fantastical elements, it's just another modern Western, something we've already seen.
The movies must keep the fantasy. If we wanted to see the modern world on film, we'd go watch other films that cover that setting.
Keep The Stephen King References
Fans of The Dark Tower series particularly love the novels because they reference previous King works (not to mention, they include nods to other authors, such as J.K. Rowling). Stephen King even appears as a character in the book series, reliving the day he was hit by a car while out for casual walk. His character becomes important to the ka-tet's quest, so he needs to stay in there.
It's unlikely, though, that those making the movie will see that, although it's probable that King would like to get involved and portray himself in the movie. And why not? He's often done that in adaptations of his works, although The Dark Tower would require him to take on a larger role as himself.
King fans probably also wouldn't mind including some references from his other works: King often littered his other writings with mentions of events that occur in The Dark Tower. King's fans love this, and it's obvious that this film series should cater to those who know the books.
Don't Oversimplify The Story
The Dark Tower story spans more than eight novels, and, unfortunately, we're already seeing signs that the filmmakers want to condense that. Here's a tip: don't. We're already skipping the first few books to start the series in the middle, and that could prove a mistake. It's probably already too late to request that they start at the beginning, but at least King confirmed that the film will start with one of the most famous opening lines in literature: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." Here's hoping that those in charge of the movie don't change their mind on that, because that sets the mood and tone of the story.
There are also a lot of details that make up the story told in the novels, and a lot of those weave in and out of the story from the beginning to the end. Filmmakers will need to edit things down a lot, unless they're planning on making more than three or four films, but here's hoping that they don't lose the truly important details in the editing process.
The Dark Tower isn't a simple story: we hope the filmmakers don't dumb it down for film audiences and weave all the plot threads into it that they can. Let's make an intelligent film that gives viewers something to think about.
Sony Pictures Entertainment has scheduled the film for an early 2017 release.