Oh, Stephen King.
Your tweet about “The Dark Tower,” starring Idris Elba as the Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, just made my day (even if it make your hardcore fans nervous).
To wit: From the mid 1990s to 2016 or so, American movies had a median length of about 110 minutes, or slightly under two hours.
The rule of thumb used to be Oscar bait ran a little longer, while genre pictures and kids’ movies tended to run a little shorter.
This is no longer the case. Take a look at the top-grossing blockbusters from 2017:
“Beauty and the Beast,” which has made half a billion dollars domestically, is 129 minutes.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2”: 137 minutes.
“Wonder Woman”: 141 minutes.
“The Fate of the Furious”: 136 minutes.
Clearly, audiences don’t mind these butt-numbing action flicks, but I have yet to hear anyone say, “Gee, I am glad they didn’t trim another frame.”
And it does perhaps play into the idea that the modern theater-going experience is at rock bottom a $22-$25 per person evening (say $10-$12 per ticket and $13 for food), before you add in babysitting and possible parking costs.
But, man, when you consider that, say, “Halloween” clocks in at 91 minutes, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is 112 and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a mere 115, the contemporary expansion of genre pictures just seems indulgent. (One of the most enjoyable things about Fantastic Fest, which highlights a ton of independent genre films, is that the VAST majority are under 120 minutes -- even the thoughtful sci-fi picture “Arrival” was 118.)
All of which is to say, I miss the 90- to 110-minute genre picture.
And here is why fans shouldn’t worry that this movie fits in that range: “The Dark Tower” movie may not be an adaptation of the first book as much as a continuation of the story.
To wit, as this story from the Verge notes:
“[It seems as if] the film is set after The Dark Tower (the novel): Roland has been sent back to the beginning of his quest, and the events of The Gunslinger will play out in a slightly different way. As we saw in the trailer, he meets Jake Chambers, and is going after The Man in Black. So, the film could essentially be an adaptation of The Gunslinger, but a continuation of the story at the same time. It also looks like it’ll be set partially in our own world.”
If this is true, it is a really, really smart move on the part of King and the production, as it a) provides a tight introduction to the universe; b) avoids the “wait, why is THIS different from the book?” stuff that has plagued, say, “Game of Thrones” (or every book to film adaptation ever, honestly); and c) lets you watch the movie as an introduction to the world of the books.
Now, some fans are a little worried, but most of these worries are based on the idea that the movie is an adaptation of the entire saga, which seems NOT to be the case. (A slightly more disconcerting sign regarding the movie: When was the last time you saw a TV ad for it?)
More importantly, if this does really, really well, it might be a signal to the marketplace that we, the people, are once again ready for genre pictures that don’t take up their entire evening.