question of the day: Ron Howard’s Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’? No, seriously: What are these people thinking?

Have you read any of Stephen King’s series The Dark Tower? No? Imagine if Clint Eastwood and James Joyce collaborated on a trippy fantasy about the mystical quest of a gunslinger. It’s weird and fascinating and has inspired a cultish following (and I really need to read more of the series [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.], which has stretched to seven books and ancillary material beyond that). You’d likely find a pretty good consensus among those who’ve read it that — whether they love it or hate it, and not everyone loves it — it’s probably unfilmable.

But that never stopped Hollywood.

The rights to The Dark Tower had been lingering with J.J. Abrams for a while: he’d envisioned it as a TV series, according to the Hollywood Reporter blog Heat Vision:

as a reunion with “Lost” exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. Because of the comprehensive nature of the project, the creators wanted to wait until “Lost” was over to give it their attention. When they realized they wouldn’t be able to do an adaptation justice, they gave the rights back to King.

A TV series similar to Lost at least makes it sound like someone understands The Dark Tower… or thought he did, at least. If Abrams thinks he can’t do justice to this story, that’s telling.

So who has picked up the rights?

Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Akiva Goldsman are teaming up to tackle the fantasy Western.

The three are in discussions on a scenario that would see an adaptation begin as a movie, to be written by Goldsman and directed by Howard, that would lead to a TV series produced by Imagine’s small-screen division.

Yikes! Ron Howard seems to make really great movies only when they’re documentary in nature — Frost/Nixon, Apollo 13 — which is exactly what The Dark Tower is not and never could be. He took a movie about a schizophrenic mathematical genius, A Beautiful Mind, the subject matter of which certainly had the potential to be mindblowing, and he turned it into a pile of sap. Oh, and we have Akiva Goldsman to thank for that fiasco, as well: he’s written, in addition to Mind, some of the most simplistic movies culled from much more powerful source material of recent years. If someone were to invent a machine that would take complicated stories and water them down into mainstream pap, it would look a lot like Howard and Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment.

Ron Howard’s Stephen King’s The Dark Tower? No, seriously: What are these people thinking?

Are they, in fact, actually telling themselves: “We understand why some people love The Dark Tower, but we think if we change everything about it that makes it cool and interesting, we can sell it to mainstream audiences by telling them it’s ‘based on the cult favorite by America’s favorite horror writer,’ even though our version of it will have removed anything that might upset, offend, or confound?”

The mind boggles.

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