The Dark Tower Appears to Have Real Problems

Fans have waited for decades for Stephen King’s Magnum Opus The Dark Tower to finally come to the screen. It’s a complicated series of books that blend the genres of Western, Horror, Fantasy, Suspense, and Sci-fi. It features a gunslinger chasing the Man in Black across multiple universes to keep the tower at the nexus of everything from collapsing and destroying all realities. Many filmmakers attempted to get their arms around this difficult series, ranging from JJ Abrams to Ron Howard, until the duty finally fell to Nikolaj Arcel.

There has been very little marketing of the film which alarms me, and the word out of Hollywood is that Sony Pictures doesn’t support the film and just want to dump it into theaters and move on quickly. The movie that many expected to be a sprawling epic is a very lean cut just under 90 minutes in length.

As if those weren’t enough warnings that the film isn’t any good, we have some REALLY bad news.

Variety is reporting that there were clashes between director Nikolaj Arcel, Sony Pictures, and Media Rights Capital (MRC).

“Sources paint a more acrimonious picture of the production, one that was enabled by the unique nature of the deal that Sony struck with MRC — a pact that allowed competing power centers to emerge. The two companies split costs, and in return MRC was granted “kill rights” on everything from the marketing campaign to the final cut of the picture. If one company didn’t like a trailer or a cut of the film, it had to be scrapped, making it difficult to achieve consensus. It’s a rare type of partnership, with the kind of sign-off that few production companies enjoy. That led to a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” according to one insider. [Stephen] King also had a great deal of input. In return for the rights to his work, he retained veto approval of almost every aspect of the film.”

That’s right, Sony made a film where they had to share all veto power with MRC and Stephen King. It’s no wonder we see the same footage over and over in all the trailers, it’s the few shots they could all agree on. It also explains the bad CGI trailer we got that tried to show how the Dark Tower universe interacts with all of King’s books and movies.

When director Nikolaj Arcel turned in an early cut of the film, Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman and MRC co-founder Modi Wiczyk held 3 screenings. Audiences were confused by the film, and the studios considered bringing in another director to re-cut the movie. Both have denied this, and tell Variety that they simply offered notes. The original cut was 2 1/2 hours, and now it’s cut down to 88 minutes total. The Variety story claims that the reason they didn’t bring in another filmmaker was because it would be too expensive, so Rothman spent hours in the editing room making suggestions and edits.

Ron Howard, who was going to direct when the film was at Universal, and Avika Goldsman are producers on the film, and are said to have been very involved in the post-production as well.

The film is said to have cost $66 million, with an additional 6 million spent on reshoots to give more backstory for Roland (Idris Elba) and the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). Five minutes of exposition was cut, a new scene was shot to help bridge other segments of the film, along with the ending receiving some work.

Sony and MRC admit The Dark Tower defied easy translation. The books move forward and backward in time and reference multiple genres, from gangster films to Arthurian legends. It was a struggle to combine parts of several books into an 88-minute film that appeals to both King devotees and mainstream audiences.

The film has yet to be screened for critics, which is also worrisome since it opens this Friday, August 4th. The film is tracking to open in the $20-$25 million dollar range for opening weekend, so it may do well enough with overseas money, TV rights, and DVD/On-Demand sales that it could end up being profitable. I sincerely hope that the film is good, as I am a HUGE King fan and Tower junkie, but I worry that the beams holding this film together fail and it may fall in on itself. Oh, Discordia.

What are your thoughts? Are you excited for the Dark Tower? Will critical reports change your mind?

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