Adapting Stephen King novels into movies can be tricky, especially if the movies are short. And based on runtimes alone, it looks like the new It movie might be truer to the spirit of King than the highly-anticipated movie version of The Dark Tower.
On July 17, when fans learned that The Dark Tower would only be 95 minutes long, some started to worry. How could all eight novels be done justice in only an hour and half? To be fair, The Dark Tower film isn’t a straight adaptation, but rather, a sideways sequel, set after the books. Still, considering the epic scope of that universe, 95 minutes seems too short.
On the flip-side, the forthcoming new It movie has a crazy robust runtime, which could signal it will be a better translation of Stephen King’s vision.
The British Board of Film Classification listed the running time of It, an adaptation of only half of the 1,138-page Stephen King book, at 135 minutes. For context, the original version of the 1990 It miniseries was 192 minutes, with the first half clocking in at 94 minutes.
This is a promising sign for fans hoping for a meaty adaptation of the book. In the interest of maintaining tension between scares, most horror films run for about 90 minutes, but this doesn’t leave a lot of room for substantial character development. The wonderful thing about It the novel is that it pays attention to both. The book also provides a rich history to the town of Derry, Maine that adds to the terror. It’s longer runtime means that the film will be able to tap into all those details a lot more, and cover events that weren’t previously adapted.
Meanwhile, The Dark Tower’s runtime is worrying for King fans looking for the film to capture the multiverse-trotting, history-spanning, cyclical traits of The Dark Tower series, without those elements feeling weak or relegated to Easter Eggs. Addressing the film’s runtime in an interview with Bustle on July 19, director Nikolaj Arcel said that “It is a tight, precise way of getting into the world. The run time should not concern people. There isn’t anything getting lost, and fans will know this as soon as they see it.”
However, that was far more encouraging when production challenges, which might have affected the film’s runtime, hadn’t come to light. On Tuesday, Variety reported that multiple entities, including King, had veto power over the film, which could have led to another case of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Response to test screenings was also supposedly not positive, and expensive reshoots were done.
This could all mean that The Dark Tower is a leaner, punchier movie. And it should be noted that Stephen King approves of both movies. Plus, not being the best translation of Stephen King’s work doesn’t mean The Dark Tower will be a bad film. The Shining definitely wasn’t the most faithful adaptation of his writing (King even denounced the film), but it’s still hailed as one of the best horror movies of all time.
Whether The Dark Tower ends up being good or bad, though, at least it’ll be short.
The Dark Tower opens on August 4. It will be released the next month on September 8.