The problem with adapting books to film is this; because readers are hugely invested in the characters and stories birthed by their favourite novels, film’s propensity to mess with the mind’s imaginings by impeding sacred conceptualisations with the imposing consummation of cinematic visuals becomes a risky business.
When it was revealed that Lord of the Rings was to be made into a film, “WTF” scrolled across my mind with reverberating exclamation. Like many LoR fans, I was utterly distraught but, admittedly, just a little bit excited. My fear: Tolkien’s detailed mythology would not squash into nine hours of film trilogy and would consequently be butchered without purpose. And yet the thought of cinematic life being breathed into Tolkien’s magnificent characters was undeniably thrilling. Peter Jackson did squash but didn’t butcher (to an intolerable degree) and managed to capture the essence of Tolkien’s tale with pictorial eloquence.
What I came to realise is that Lord of the Rings is a work of revolutionary genius and should not be confined to the written word but shared amongst art forms. It’s the generous thing to do. When Lord of the Rings was at stake, my imagination generously managed to come to terms with the fact that it did not have exclusive rights to Tolkien’s great mythology, but, much to my perturbation, that same imagination is having a hard time forming that same conclusion about the impending adaptation of another of literature’s most epic sagas.
A Dark Tower film series? Really!?
I am a massive Stephen King fan and Dark Tower is one of my all-time favourite pieces of writing – translation: my investment is large. And I am afraid. Literally very afraid. The intricacies and complexities encompassing so massive a saga are labyrinthine. History dictates that King novels do not lend themselves to film interpretation, barring a couple – Carrie, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption, possibly The Green Mile, and Mist was also decent (bring the debate; I’m ready). Why film can’t cope with the King legacy is a speculative point. One reason, which links directly to Dark Tower, is that the narratives of Stephen King often spend a great deal of time in retrospect; remembering the past is how the author develops the complex nature of his characters. This is great in a novel but tedious onscreen and thus retrospect is often conveniently cut from film scripts, which means that the adapted film characters consequently lack the depth, of personality and temperament, that resonates with unparalleled intensity in King’s books. Stephen King is a story teller by nature and his characters drive his discourse with written precision. Dark Tower is seven books, with an eighth – tentatively titled The Wind Through the Keyhole – on the way; in other words lots (and lots) of character.
Ron Howard, who has ended up with the rights to the project, is cognisant of the immensity of Dark Tower, which will be fleshed out on screen with the production of three films and a tie-in television series. Howard’s multimedia vision is to be penned by Akiva Goldsman (Angels & Demons and I Am Legend) and the target release for the first film is 2013. If the project is given the go-ahead, the television series would then follow the first film and provide a bridge to the second film, after which the television series would pick up again and carry forward to the final film in the trilogy. The complications incited by a screen project that crosses mediums are plenty, but in the forefront is whether fans will be willing to bequeath their time and souls to such a lengthy endeavour (that may end up being a load of crap). But who am I to piss on the parade of ambition? Visionaries deserve admiration rather than scorn – as long as said visionaries are not compromising the integrity of something I love. Oh the irony!
Rumour has it that Javier Bardem has been offered the lead role of the “Gunslinger” Roland Deschain although Daniel Craig, Christian Bale, Viggo Mortensen, Hugh Jackman and Jon Hamm are names that have reportedly been thrown around as contenders for the role. Whoever ends up as the Clint-Eastwood-esque Roland will have to commit to the entire project – film and TV. Casting is certainly a crucial element to the success of the adaptation: a fact that undoubtedly bellows opinion in the consciousness of Mr Howard.
Over and above the potential for rubbish casting, something that could completely screw up the onscreen adaptation of Dark Tower, is censorship. There is some hardcore shit in the novels – succubus, rape, murder, blood, gore, death, psychosis, language; King doesn’t do sugar-coating – and undermining the novel’s menace to appease bitching bodies would be detrimental to the intrinsic essence of Ka’s brutality. Literature affords writers the opportunity to let imagination run wild but films often inhibit artistry, because they are more accessible to the masses and thus accountable to the mores and values to the populace. It is certain that suppression will kill a film interpretation of King’s story (and on this point, debate is not welcomed).
But let’s be optimistic.
As King’s self-proclaimed Magnum Opus, Dark Tower has the potential to be rendered, by an expert idealist cum director, into a brilliant and charismatic screen adaptation – all the material is there, in black and white. The pressure is on Ron and his team not to fuck it up. Anything less than awesome will provoke blood-lust amongst fans – who will, if your story is shit, be out to get you Ron! Just a friendly warning.