My initial reaction, as I was walking out of the theatre? Not bad. I think it was a little less than the best they could have done, given the expectations and amount of source material. As a writer, I appreciate the difficulty that comes with translating an author’s words and putting it onto the screen. There are so many technical considerations a filmmaker has that an author can skip. (But at the same time, a filmmaker has her own built in advantages, but that’s another topic.)
Over the last several I’ve been musing over the movie and stacking it against the books. I wondered how and why certain things were done, and how it could have been done differently. As a storyteller myself, I’m plagued with rebuilding the stories in my mind, and seeing how the different components could (and sometime should) work together. But as I was processing, the thought occurred to me… What does this mean for a Wheel of Time movie? The two series are eerily similar; a beloved multi-volume series that has spent many years ‘in development’; a sometimes rabid fan base; and a multitude of characters and settings. Here are a few points were the Dark Tower went wrong, and the WoT can go right:
- Be careful how you describe the production. The Dark Tower was billed as a sequel, a follow up, and retelling. In truth, it was neither. We didn’t see the Horn of Eld, or some of the other beloved characters we expected. If they had said “This is another room in the Tower,” the fanbase and critics could have prepared for the differences. As it was, being caught between descriptions highlighted the weaknesses.
- You don’t always have to start at the beginning. Given The Dark Tower probably has the best opening line of the last half – century, one expected it. But from a story telling perspective, they could have easily started with Roland and Susan, or Roland’s battle with Cort. It didn’t really need to start with Roland in the desert, or pulling Jake from New York. Why not start tWoT with New Spring?
- With an epic, don’t try to tell the whole story at once. There doesn’t need to be the final climax with the bad guy. And speaking of the climax… really? Flagg’s ending was bad enough in the books, but the movie ending? I don’t think they could screw it up any worse than that. (Please please please don’t tack the Last Battle onto the end of the trip to Baerlon. Please.)
- Shake up the modern American movie-making formula. About 1/3 of the way through the movie, Roland and Jake began the “bonding” phase of the relationship. It was a cut-scene montage that showed them growing closer, placed just so in the movie because that’s what we’ve been condition to expect. Toss it. Americans should learn patience, and our stories are a good place to start. Rand and his three wives ought to... nevermind.
- Balance backstory. This is something I thought the Dark Tower did well. A couple of lines, and the stage was set. This will be a challenge with WoT; it’s not easy to sum up 1000 years of political intrigue in 20 seconds. (If you remember the PC game from the late 90’s, that intro wasn’t bad.)