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Why Didn't The Dark Tower Launch a Franchise? Stephen King on the 2017 Movie's "Real Problem"

As King's self-proclaimed "magnum opus," The Dark Tower books border on the unfilmable.

By Josh Weiss

The works of Stephen King are notoriously tricky to adapt, and no project represents that statement better than 2017's film interpretation of The Dark Tower novels (airing on SYFY later this week). Helmed by Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel (The Promised Land), the movie was criticized for its failure to capture the spirit of the epic, 8-book series that King himself considers to be the "magnum opus" of his lengthy and prolific literary career.

Not even leading turns from talented, in-demand actors like Idris Elba (Roland Deschain) and Matthew McConaughey (The Man in Black) were enough to save this attempt to fit such a vast, far-reaching mythos into a runtime of 95 minutes. For context, the world of The Dark Tower is the literal underpinning of King's celebrated oeuvre. That's not hyperbole, either.

"Just as the Dark Tower is the nexus point of the time/space continuum within the context of the Dark Tower novels, so the Dark Tower novels are the linchpin of Stephen King’s creative multiverse," reads the author's official website. "Father Callahan, the damned priest of ‘Salem’s Lot, finds his way to Mid-World, as does Patrick Danville, the little boy in Insomnia who lives in Derry, Maine. The world-hopping Randall Flagg is able to travel from the superflu-ravaged world of The Stand to the Kingdom of Delain, found in Eyes of the Dragon, and then back to Roland’s childhood home of Gilead."

For More on Stephen King:
The Mist: Ranking the Monsters of Frank Darabont's Creature-Filled Stephen King Adaptation
6 Stephen King Easter Eggs You May Have Missed in the Firestarter Remake
Stephen King is a fan of 'Poker Face,' so Rian Johnson & Natasha Lyonne brought the 'shining' puns

What Stephen King Thinks of The Dark Tower Movie

Chatting with Entertainment Weekly back in 2017, King got candid about the big screen adaptation, ascribing its lackluster performance to a PG-13 rating mandated by the studio, which, in his opinion, ultimately took away a lot of the edginess of the original source material.

"The real problem, as far as I'm concerned is, they went in to this movie, and I think this was a studio edict pretty much: 'This is going to be a PG-13 movie,'" explained the iconic horror maven. "'It's going to be a tentpole movie. We want to make sure that we get people in there from the ages of, let's say, 12 right on up to whatever the target age is. Let's say 12 to 35. That's what we want. So it has to be PG-13.' And when they did that I think that they lost a lot of the toughness of it and it became something where people went to it and said, 'Well yeah, but it's really not anything that we haven't seen before.'"

Writer-director Mike Flanagan — who has three King adaptations under his belt (Gerald's Game, Doctor Sleep, and the yet-to-be-released Life of Chuck) — may be the one to crack the code on this nigh-unfilmable saga with a forthcoming television series. Flanagan is also writing, directing, and producing a brand-new Exorcist feature co-produced by Blumhouse, Universal Pictures, and Morgan Creek.

The Dark Tower airs on SYFY this Thursday (June 6) and Friday (June 7) at 8:30 p.m. ET and 5:01 p.m. ET, respectively. Click here for more scheduling info!