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Thoughts on media, culture, and the world-at-large bubbling up from the dusty corners of my cluttered mind
May 15, 2011
The Crew

Bridesmaids was marketed like a raunch-com centered on female friendship and the absurdities of weddings, but there's a whole lot more going on. The film's wide-ranging (and, to some, surprisingly cross-gender) appeal appeal is based on something far more universal.

Posted By Saralyn on/at 9/12/2010 08:00:00 PM

Photo from deadline.com
  Earlier this week, it was announced that Stephen King's massive 7-book, metafictional Dark Tower series would be finally making its way onto the big and small screens.  In what is being hailed as an unprecedented move, Universal Pictures and NBC Universal Television Entertainment will turn the book series into three feature films, each spanned by a network television series.  Akiva Goldsman (Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind, and some of my favorite episodes of Fringe) will write the screenplay of at least the first film and television series, both of which Ron Howard has already agreed to direct.  Brian Grazer, Goldsman, and Stephen King will produce.  The television series will feature the same actors as the feature films and be headed by the same creative forces - a utilization of a media conglomerate's vertically integrated resources never before attempted.


I am a big enough fan of King's work and the Dark Tower series in particular to be both obnoxiously excited and ridiculously nervous about the upcoming film/television series.  I was a little disappointed when the Abrams-Cuse-Lindelof adaptation fizzled because of the trio's expressed affection for the King series and have always been somewhat skeptical of how well The Dark Tower will translate to the screen.  King's works are not known for working well as films, owing not in small part to the graphic nature of most of his stories and that there is a great deal of "action" that is internal to the characters.  While I have not read the Dark Tower graphic novels yet, there is something about the comic medium that seems to fit well for me with the story.  On top of all of this, you still have the issues of casting, production design, story arch choices, etc.  If all this isn't enough to make a fan nervous, I don't know what is.

 

And yet....I am hopeful for this upcoming adaptation, should everyone follow through with it.  I think it is ambitious to embark on this kind of project - especially with such a convoluted, meta-fictional, mixed genre series - but it is that ambitiousness that gives me hope.  Much of my hesitation about potential film/television adaptations of the Dark Tower series (in addition to the general ones about King's work noted about) is its scope.  The thing is MASSIVE - the mass market paperback that I own of the final book in the series clocks in at 1072 pages all by itself.  Add in the other six books, flashbacks, and side stories, and you have a series to rival those by Lewis and Tolkien (if in heft alone).  It could not fit into a traditional film (or trio of films) without devastating cuts.  In this way, it is more suited to television, where it could take time to unravel the story, spend an episode or two on the back stories of characters and so on.  However, the nature of the story almost requires the resources of a big-budget film (and studio).  It will require massive effects work, not to mention elaborate costuming and staging if certain portions of the story remain in place.  Using feature films to tell the "big parts" of the story and a television series to fill in the spaces between the films (presumably the "slower" or more drawn out portions) seems a creative way to use each medium as it can best tell the story.

It will be an exciting experiment in cross-platform storytelling.  Perhaps, years from now, we media scholars will look back on it as a shining example of transmedia and medium specificity.  For now, there are still many questions to answer.  Who will play Roland? How will they handle the metafictional elements (ie, King himself becoming a character late in the series, the connections to other King works, etc)?  Will there be online/print comics in the vein of Marvel's graphic novels to help further fill in character backstory (my opinion: it's almost necessary)?  Will audiences go for it - both in terms of the unpleasantness of the story and commitment to the franchise? Is Ron Howard really the right director?

Will it be any good?

Howard and his collaborators certainly have a difficult path ahead of them.  If the first film fails critically, financially, and/or with the King fans, the fate of the rest of the project will be uncertain.  However, I am curious to see how it all pans out.  Perhaps ka will be on our side...

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