Epic. A word that is certainly familiar to nerds everywhere and one which holds some lofty connotations. When it was announced that Stephen King’s magnum opus The Dark Tower series was finally (after years of rumors, hints, and teasing) was finally being pushed forward into production, literary nerds everywhere perked up. You can certainly count me among that throng. This has been one particular project that has, for a very long time, been considered one of the loftiest projects to ever be tackled.
We all know that Stephen King certainly has hits and misses. There’s no denying that he’s one of the most prolific writers of our time, but that doesn’t automatically grant him a pass. The man can rarely end a story to save his life. Yet, if you work under the assumption that it’s not so much the ending of a story as it is the journey that gets you there… King certainly is a master. Who will easily forget Pennywise the Clown, the Overlook Hotel, or those cuddly little ass-eating aliens from Dreamcatcher?
The Dark Tower is unlike most of King’s other works. Sure, it has its frightening moments and scary imagery to chew on, but it’s about much more than that. Life, love, honor, loyalty, duty, family, free-will, dedication, and faith are some of the many themes which are tackled throughout the series. Much of the series is like an old Spaghetti Western. At times it ventures into straight sci-fi and fantasy. The one thing you can count on is that you’ll never really be able to predict where the road to the Tower is going to take you.
Which is exactly why the idea of a film series is so daunting to Tower fans. How are you going to tackle seven books, each with a different feel than any of the others, and turn it into a coherent series? J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof were attached for quite a while, but decided to turn the project down after the completion of LOST. I can’t imagine that producing another epic series sounds very appealing to them right now.
So when it was announced that Ron Howard was now in charge of the project, I was a little skeptical. Akiva Goldsman being attacted to write the films wasn’t the biggest morale booster either. Sure, they’ve had success together with A Beautiful Mind and Angels and Demons, but The Dark Tower is really something else entirely. I was pretty sure that, upon hearing these two attached, this was just going to end up being another mediocre adaption of a Stephen King work. (Because, let’s face it. Movies based on Stephen King books usually suck. Usually.)
That all changed with the first major announcement relating to casting. Roland, the title Gunslinger of the books, is the central character of the series and the driving force on the quest to find The Tower itself. Viggo Mortensen’s been the name which has always been batted around and sure, he’s who I pictured when reading the novels too. But that’s just way too easy… assuming that Viggo even has another epic in him. If Howard and company simply turned to Viggo… it would be lazy. So when Javier Bardem was announced as being courted for the role, my interest was piqued.
This is truly inspired casting. Roland is a character who’s very rough, having made some incredibly tough decisions in his life. He makes the hard choices when he has to and at times, he is incredibly hated. Despite his blatant anti-hero status, you can’t help but love him. I personally can’t think of anyone better to play Roland. Bardem is certainly tough but has the capacity for great compassion. He’s handsome in a flawed way and, I truly think, one of the best actors of our time.
The series isn’t out of the woods yet, for casting the rest of the roles will be crucial. The success of the entire piece rests, in my opinion, on the character of Jake, who is the heart and soul of The Dark Tower. He’s a young boy of no more than 12. Cast this role poorly and the series will be shit. No names have been dropped yet and I’ll take that as a good sign for now. Susannah is another vital role. The actress will need to rapidly travel between meekness and psychotic behavior before finding stability as a strong, proud warrior. The fact that Susannah is black also carried a lot of importance in the series and I genuinely hope they keep her ethnicity intact for the films.
Cautiously optimistic. That’s what I’m holding onto. The simple announcement of Javier Bardem makes me believe that Ron Howard has the care, dedication, and imagination to make The Dark Tower come to life in a way that is poignant and real to both fans and newcomers. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t screw this up.