It’s looking like 2017 has become the pivotal year for blockbuster film franchises. With 2016 being such a downer – especially for the rocky beginnings of the DC Extended Universe and their critical failures in Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. For the record, there were parts of Batman v Superman that I really liked (especially the ultimate edition director’s cut, which to me is the only cut of that film in which it makes any real sense). I have actually really liked Ben Affleck’s turn as the Caped Crusader and thought he had maybe the best understanding of the duality of Batman and Bruce Wayne.
But along came 2017 and already we’ve had a massively successful new film in the DCEU with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman film. Was it perfect? No, but it was upbeat and funny and adventurous in all the right places. And the MCU has continued its arch to Avengers: Infinity War with a really fun, adventurous, and emotionally gripping Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (which may be my favorite film in the MCU so far) and Spider-Man: Homecoming. And Thor: Ragnorok and Black Panther look to be really exciting as well.
And with all the hype surrounding it and shoots and reshoots and personal tragedies and directorial changes, I’m still really excited about the upcoming Justice League, but I’ll do another post on that soon.
But the two films I am most ecstatic about are The Dark Tower and Ready Player One.
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series was really my introduction to Stephen King as an author. Growing up, I hadn’t read anything King had written because I wasn’t really a fan of horror stories (something that ultimately turned out to not be true) and I was under the mistaken impression that King only wrote horror books. Boy was I wrong. Not only was he the author of one of my favorite films of all time, The Shawshank Redemption, but as I would begin to discover, his books were extremely imaginative and his writing style became the ultimate inspiration for the way I knew I wanted to write. His characters are often deep and compelling and in 2011, his 11/22/63 told one of the greatest love stories I’ve ever read.
I was nineteen when I “read” my first Stephen King book. It was The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. (Nineteen is a significant number in the Dark Tower universe.) I had been working as a janitor for my dad’s church. The job had me cleaning for eight hours a day with almost nobody to talk to. And after about two hours of listening to music on my trusty Sony Walkman, I was bored to death of music and thought I’d give audiobooks a try. So one day, on a whim, I decided to try out my first “Book on Tape” and bought The Gunslinger, narrated by the late amazing Frank Muller, whose gritty voice still rivals any audiobook narrator I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t stop listening. And I finished the first volume of the DT in one weekend, and then, with the money I earned from that week’s work, I went out and bought the second, much larger volume, The Drawing of the Three. By this time, Stephen King could take all of my money for the rest of my life. I breezed through that audiobook and then moved onto Volumes III and IV (The Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass, respectively). I would have to wait four more years before King finally wrote the final volumes, Wolves of the Calla (V), Song of Susannah (VI), and The Dark Tower (VII). In between, I had plenty of other King books to read, as I discovered that nearly every Stephen King novel ever written was somehow tied into the Dark Tower universe and had plenty of Dark Tower Easter eggs inside them. From Salem’s Lot to IT to Insomnia to The Shining and The Stand, there were loads of doors and worlds swirling around Roland Deschain and his Ka-Tet.
And Now, a Look at The Dark Tower
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel, the film adaptation spent over a decade in development hell, first attempted by JJ Abrams and then given to Ron Howard who initially set out to make the most expensive and expansive film and TV franchises in history, Howard was ultimately rejected by Warner Bros. who felt it was too risky and expensive for their taste. So the script was then sold to Sony Pictures who decided to take a gamble at doing ONE FILM and seeing how it was received. So they added rewrites of Akiva Goldsman’s script and brought in Arcel (A Royal Affair) to co-write and direct. And then they announced that Idris Elba would be starring as The Gunslinger Roland and Matthew McConnaughey would be the evil Man in Black. This is exciting to me as I loved Elba from BBC’s Luther and the Thor films, and I’ve never seen McConnaughey take on a villain role.
And the latest rumors are that Sony is busy promoting the hell out of this film because, like every film studio does nowadays, they have the idea to create a cinematic universe surrounding The Dark Tower and connect as many Stephen King films into it as possible (There are a lot of those Easter eggs in this film as you can see in the videos below.). Not sure if Sony is looking to purchase future rights to other King works or somehow just allude to existing ones.
And speaking of universes, The Dark Tower technically could fit into the MCU as the comics and graphic novels inspired by the books are published by Marvel Comics. Likely Disney won’t go for that as it would be another exhausting Sony deal that could take years to make and we already know how long it took for the MCU to get Spidey. But maybe this ties into Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” and upcoming Venom smaller Marvel universe.
Ugh, all this talk of universes is exhausting. So take a look at the Stephen King universe spread throughout The Dark Tower.
And then there’s Ready Player One.
I first heard about this from a friend of mine, who mentioned this was Steven Spielberg’s latest project and that I should read the book by Ernest Cline. So that’s what I did, again on audiobook with my favorite online bookstore and app, Audible. It was a long and captivating novel, taking place in a dystopian Oklahoma City in the not-too-distant future where every natural resource has nearly been drained from the planet and the world has gone digital, where all commerce and business and social activities have gone online in a virtual gaming and internet system known as The Oasis.
Spielberg was taking THIS? This was amazing news! And I can’t wait to see them both!