I’m Really, Really Nervous About The Dark Tower

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As we approach the release of The Dark Tower adaptation on August 4th, all signs point to trouble for the movie, which stars Idris “I love you too, Kaila” Elba as the Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black.

Way back in May, I wrote about a Dark Tower trailer in an article called “The First Trailer for The Dark Tower Shows Us the Whole Movie, so I’m Nervous.” (I have since grown even more nervous.) At the time, based on the impression made by the trailer, I said:

In my experience as a film lover and trailer obsessive, when a trailer tries to show too much, it’s because the film itself isn’t too stellar. So they pack the trailer full of the most impressive moments, effects, and attempts at profound dialogue, hoping to lure us in. The problem then is that when you show up at the theater, you’ve already seen everything worth seeing.

I’d love to be proven wrong about this. The Dark Tower has been promised to us for a long time, and the property has so much potential.

Unfortunately, it seems as though my initial suspicions about The Dark Tower not working may be borne out. Marketing for the film has been nearly non-existent. And over at Forbes, Scott Mendelson’s fears echo my own:

The film is a little shorter than expected (95 minutes) and snagged a PG-13 as opposed to an R. None of that precludes it being a good movie. … the report that Variety dropped yesterday, detailing poor test screenings, behind-the-scenes melodrama and too many cooks in the kitchen well, even the guy who ended up liking G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is getting nervous.

Same, Scott. Same.

Same, other Scott. Same.

The report, by Brent Lang in Variety, runs through many of the problems that have afflicted The Dark Tower‘s production and, seemingly, its end result. Lang’s article, “‘The Dark Tower’: Clashing Visions, Brutal Test Screenings Plagued Journey to Big Screen,” is a bracing early morning read. Good morning! Lang details a director, Nikolaj Arcel, in way over his head (only just imagine if he had been a woman! He’d never work in this town again), and glaring danger signs from early screenings:

Three blind screenings last October, shown before final effects work had been completed, confirmed fears that the picture was a mess. Audiences at the test screenings couldn’t understand the mythology and rated the film poorly.

… Sony and MRC spent $6 million on reshoots to fill in more backstory about Elba’s character’s hatred for McConaughey’s Man in Black. In addition, to better familiarize audiences with Mid-World, the film’s magical setting, five minutes of exposition were cut and a new scene was shot to combine ideas that had been sprinkled throughout the picture.

Reshoots are nothing new these days—but the test audience’s initial verdict that the picture was/is “a mess” feels like a kill shot. It’s unlikely that any amount of money can smoothly pave over a muddled and confusing narrative.

But there may be a glimmer of hope: Stephen King himself seems to approve of the result. “After seeing the film, King sent Arcel an email praising him. ‘You have remembered the faces of your fathers,’ he wrote.” Then again, King famously despises Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, so maybe reviewing movies isn’t for him.

Are you headed to see The Dark Tower, naysayers be damned? I’m (nervously) awaiting first impressions.

(image: Columbia Pictures)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.