Monday, 8 February 2016

STEPHEN KING - THE DARK TOWER - THE GUNSLINGER - SCI-FI - ADAPTATION

LOGLINE: A young boy suffers from daylight hallucinations only to discover they are real, and that he is able to cross into an alternate world where he has special powers that may be the undoing of the universe. 

WRITERS: Stephen King - Novel -- Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner screenplay.

STORY: 12 year old Jake lives in Manhattan. His father died recently and his mother married a man that wants nothing to do with Jake. 

Jake suffers from daylight hallucinations and nightmares. He feels compelled to draw these whacky imaginings down, and when his teachers and carers see these post apocalyptic sketches they're pretty sure he's nuts.

He also sees a psychiatrist who is sure Jake's nuts. Jake doesn't want to be nuts. 

Being nuts ain't cool. Nuts doesn't get girls. 

Jake encounters a couple of monsters at his school, and like the hero he wants to be, he kicks the shit out of them - rather, he smashes them over the head with a computer. 

Bummer for Jake, then, when he finds out that these two monsters were really fellow classmates dressed in their halloween costumes.

A mistake any of us could have made, but for poor old Jake, this is the straw that sends him to a psychiatric institute. 

That night, Jake puts a couple of his drawings together and sketches out a house and the number 1919. With a good old Google reverse image search, he finds out that this house is located in Brooklyn.

Just when the funny farm orderlies are coming to take Jake away he draws a gun on them and runs away.

Where does he run to?

To this house in Brooklyn of course, where he discovers that it is a portal to an alternate universe, known as mid-world. 

When jake gets to mid-world, he realises that he's not nuts. This is where all his hallucinations and visions had been coming from. 

This world is bananas to put it nicely. The sun rises in the north, sets in the east. Time follows its own rules. Animals are humanised - there are human bodies walking around with weasel heads and chicken heads etc... 

Basically imagine the most messed up dream you ever had, then times that to the power of 100 acid trips and you're about half way there. 

It's in this mid-world that Jake meets Roland. 

Roland is one bad ass mother fuckin' gunslinger - hence the title of the book. 

Seriously, this guy moves at bullet-time speeds that make Neo look like a sloth on lithium. 

Roland has his nemesis - the man in black - also known as Walter. (Seriously - pretty bad ass name huh!).

Walter's mission is very vague as most things are in this story. His mission is to use children with special powers to cut or destroy the stars - because the stars hold up the DARK TOWER.

Yeah - I said shit was weird. 

I'm sure someone who has read the novel eight times could probably give a better summary of Walter's mission - but that's what I got from one read of this screenplay. 

I have no desire to re-read it to clarify what was going on, as I don't believe even Stephen King knows what's going on. 

Anyhoooooo....

So While Walter is out there being bad ass and using second rate kids to shoot down these stars that are holding up the Dark Tower - Roland is out there searching for Walter. 

Roland bumps into Jake and they form an odd friendship.

After a couple of fun little adventures -- Roland becomes infected with some radioactive poisoning. He's gonna die soon as they don't have any anti-radioactive poisoning tablets here in the mid-world.

Jake realises that back in his world (earth) they have loads of easily available anti-radioactive poisoning tablets. 

So.... Jake takes Roland back to his world.

Back in Manhattan, they go to a chemist and get the anti-radioactive tablets - then we get the first fun part of the story -- a fish out of water story -- we get to see Roland adjusting to modern Manhattan life. He discovers sugar and fucking loves it! Among other pleasures. 

But all is not to be happy for ever... soon Jake and Roland are hunted by police as Jake is a missing child using his mother's credit card to buy supplies.

Somehow they get back to Jake's apartment, where he 'shines' the moment where his mother was taken hostage by Walter. 

Shining is the ability to see an event after the event has happened. It's like seeing a residue of an event some time later. 

Now that Roland is healthy again, he and Jake head back into the Mid World where (I think) they're going to try and hunt down Walter and get his mother back. 

The question becomes, will he succeed, and what will happen to him now he is a part of this alternative universe. 

INITIAL REACTION.

WTF?

No... that's not fair. It's an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, so it's got to be good right?

If this were a stand alone spec screenplay I would say this is the worst pile of garbage I've ever read. 

But it's not. These writers had to follow the story Stephen King wrote.

I just googled how many pages are in the Dark Tower novel. I thought there would be something like 700 pages... but no... there are 224. 

That's a really short novel. We'd be looking at around 70 000 words. That's not many for a novel at all. Especially compared to Stephen King's other opuses. 

Reviewing something that is adapted from a Stephen King work is hard to do.

You have to keep in mind that there are incredible adaptations such as THE SHINING - and MISERY -- two sensational films. 

But then you have to remind yourself that there are some really awful adaptations out there. 

IT - scared the living shit out of me when I was a kid. Re-watching it as an adult I found it painfully comical. 

There's part of me that thinks just because this is a Stephen King adaptation it will succeed on some level. But then the rational part of me looks at the script for what it is and I really don't think this adaptation will work at all.

The story is a major problem for starters. Some Stephen King stories lend themselves to the film medium better than others.

Typically in film, stories that follow one MAIN characters do better than ensemble pieces. TV and Novels are the place for ensemble stories. 

Ensemble stories are multi protagonist stories, and that's what The Dark Tower is. We have three main characters. Jake, Roland and Walter. We're constantly jumping between the three.

Now this could work in a film if their stories were intertwined from the start, but the stories only come together at about the half way point.

The story is the first major problem here. 

The second major problem is the writing - it's terrible.

I read the story slower than I normally would any other screenplay just so I could make sure I was following what was happening. Even still, I really only got a sense of what was going on. I probably only took in about half the story.

I blame that on the writing here. It's not written like a normal screenplay. It's written like a readers digest version of a novel. I've never seen sooooo many similes in a screenplay. 

Every other sentence was X did Y LIKE Z. You don't need to write the LIKE Z part in a screenplay. It makes for messy reading.

Let's get into it.... 

CONCEPT:

I don't even really know what the concept is. I googled The Dark Tower in wikipedia and even there, the person who had written the story synopsis was confused by what was happening. 

Here's my stab at it...

A boy discovers he can cross over into an alternate world where he has special powers that may be able to be used to end the universe. 

Something like that. 

This concept is broad and unfocused. It's messy. And that concept doesn't take into account the other two storylines of Roland and Walter. 

I'd have to write down Walter's storyline goal, and Roland's, then try to fuse together all three to really get a grip of what the concept here really is. 

For a film, this REALLY doesn't work. For a novel - brilliant! Go nuts. It can work for sure. But this is waaaaay to unfocused for a film.

CONCEPT RATING: 2/10

CONCEPT TIP:

When adapting a novel for film, you need to think in film terms. Just because something works in a novel, does not automatically mean you can transpose that idea verbatim to the film medium. The concept here is muddy and three-pronged. For this to work as a film it needs to be become one-pronged and focused. 

FORM:

Form here was terrible. Use of BOLD all over the place. There were asides from the writers to the reader. They told us things the character was THINKING. How the hell are the audience supposed to know what a character is thinking when they watch the film? 

FORM RATING: 2/10

FORM TIP: Don't write similes into your script. If you took out the similes, this 119 page screenplay would be all of 80 pages long. 

That's just messy, dirty writing.

STRUCTURE:

WTF?

Structure here does not adhere to any kind of film structure at all. They followed the novel structure. 

Maybe it'll work. Maybe it won't.

I'd put my money on the later.  

STRUCTURE RATING 2/10

STRUCTURE TIP:

If you have more than one main character it is going to be hard to structure your story. Find who the most important character is and write from their POV. This way the story will be structured and focused and more likely succeed. 

CHARACTERS:

Characters here were interesting. That's not because of the screenplay writers - but because of Stephen King. Creating a character that already exists in a novel is easy. All your work has been done for you. 

CHARACTER RATING 7/10

CHARATCER TIP: All the characters here are vividly different. There's been a lot of thought put into who each person is and why they're the way they are. Be sure to put this level of thought into your characters before you write your script.

DIALOGUE:

Pretentious. 

Did not work for me at all. When were over in Mid-World, there's this cliched way of speaking that harks from yesteryear. 

It reads like a bad adaptation of a King Arthur story produced for TV in the 70's.

The best dialogue was from Jake. Everything he said came out well. It was also refreshing to hear him call bullshit on a regular basis. It was a great juxtaposition to the corny yesteryear speak. 

DIALIOGUE RATING: JAKE: 8/10 -- ALL THE REST 3/10

DIALOGUE TIP: When you have a character say things you wish the character would say it's refreshing. Often one of the other characters would say something stupid and pretentious that only made half-sense and Jake would call them out. It worked really well.

VOICE:

What little voice there is, is drowned out in simile and bad story telling.

If you're adapting a novel, it's your job to put what can often be a complex story into an easily digestible form. 

That did not happen here at all. 

VOICE RATING 3/10

VOICE TIP: The dirtier your writing the more clouded your voice is. The cleaner, the clearer.

PRODUCTION:

Apparently Idris Elba is cast as Roland. 

So it looks like this film will go ahead. 

It will be at least a 50 mill budget.

It'll probably break even, but it won't make much money. 

I wouldn't put money down. But I would watch it to see Idris. He is a sensational actor!

If you haven't seen Beasts of No Nation on Netflix.... SEE IT!

SUMMARY

Has the potential to be something great, but if they keep the story telling as it is, this story will more likely confuse than entertain the audience.


OVERALL RATING: 4/10