This past year saw the release of two major theatrical film adaptations of works by Stephen King. One of them, It, has been a huge hit. The other, The Dark Tower, was much less successful.
Andy Muschetti, the director of It, has offered an explanation of why his film was more popular with audiences than The Dark Tower. According to Muschetti, it’s because It is first and foremost a story about “kids who are lonely and oppressed” and who “learn to get powerful by getting together”; hence “people connect” with It because “it’s a human story” where “the fantastic elements are sort of on the backburner.”
By contrast: “In The Dark Tower, we’re almost immediately invited to jump into this world of fantasy …. It’s just more genre, I think, and you can’t expect a massive audience to eagerly jump into that reality.”
Maybe Muschetti is just being gracious in victory, but c’mon. The Dark Tower didn’t fail because it started out too “genre” or because it asked audiences to “jump” straightaway into a “world of fantasy.” After all, the first Lord of the Rings movie started out with a battle of elves against a giant necromancer. The first episode of Game of Thrones started out with ice zombies in a wilderness on the far side of a 700-foot-high ice wall. I have a hard time imagining opening scenes more “genre” than those two; but audiences seem to have coped.
The Dark Tower failed because the filmmakers stripped out almost everything that was distinctive and haunting about the books and replaced it with generic crap. You know, I can’t even remember what the movie’s opening scene actually was. Whereas everyone who’s read the Dark Tower series remembers the first line of the first book.