Typically, January is the month movie releases go to die. I can’t recall a good movie I’ve seen that was released in January.
So, it was with a heavy heart that I read Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series is getting its first movie, assumed The Gunslinger, on January 17th, 2017.
King considers The Dark Tower to be his greatest work and it is a series beloved by many of his fans. I myself am not a huge Stephen King fan, but I love the Dark Tower and it’s interesting now to go through adaptations of his books (many of the films are classics, cult or critically, and I am a film buff) and find the links between the two. To wit, my girlfriend introduced me to Kingdom Hospital a short while ago, and I had to show the first episode to a friend who had just finished the series to see the similarities in a couple shared events between the stories.
But to the point, why is Sony, a company that has had some huge PR issues of late and in desperate need of a new franchise, seemingly slating a movie with a huge fanbase and modest franchise potential in January? I see two possible reasons.
Reason one – Sony does not expect The Dark Tower to perform. The book is very difficult to adapt to the screen, especially as we get to later installments that begin to lean on and then break the fourth wall. It is an amalgamation of many different genres – Post Apocalypse, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Western – all of which will require large set pieces that translate to either expensive on location shooting or huge digital effects budgets. These genres have seen recent successes, especially Fantasy and Sci-Fi, but the Western is antiquated and only experiences a real hit every couple years. and the post apocalypse only recently came back with Mad Max: Fury Road – even then, it didn’t perform as well as it should have.
All together, the combination of these issues make for a film that might seem too bloated and busy for the average viewing audience, leading to poor confidence in the film’s ability to draw a large numbers. This would result in a January release date and a lower budget. A lower budget means less advertising, cheaper talent, less cool set pieces the movie requires. The film will be expected to draw in viewers by word of mouth and rely on the abilities of the creative team to make something from scarcely more than the source material.
The second reason for the release date lies in the fact that there is a companion TV series being released alongside the film, produced by Ron Howard with MRC. The second reason could lie in the fact that the beginning of the year is Pilot Season and Sony/MRC hopes to capitalize off of both items being released around the same time. Allegedly, the TV series is to follow all the stories dealing with character backstories and child Roland, while the movies focus on the important meat and plot of the story. An interesting way to approach such a large universe, to be certain.
Which reason for the January release will remain to be seen shortly once casting for the film is announced. I feel that the actor to play Roland and the Man in Black must be well established A-List actors in order to make this film successful. As much as I’d like to see Dad Winchester and The Swede cast (respectively), they wouldn’t be able to draw the crowd this film will need to survive and the fan base can only do so much.
Hopefully, Ka will be kind to us.