Netflix could finally do justice to Stephen King's most "unfilmable" epic
This epic sci-fi/fantasy/horror/Western series might be brought to life by Midnight Mass boss Mike Flanagan.
Tired: The Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe. Wired? Netflix’s Mike Flanaverse.
If you haven’t heard of Mike Flanagan, then you probably aren’t a fan of scary stories. The spooky series auteur joined the ranks of modern horror masters shortly after the debut of his first Netflix project, an adaptation of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game. Netflix wisely banked on Flanagan’s potential, and an audience hunger for horror that offers more than cheap thrills.
By 2020, Flanagan had back-to-back miniseries successes with The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. Then his multi-year deal with Netflix shifted into “cinematic universe” territory with the 2021 release of the vampire spiritual horror series Midnight Mass. Thus the “Flanaverse” was born.
Hot off the tails of The Midnight Club, yet another Flanagan miniseries, the filmmaker made a bold proposition in an IGN interview: He’s down to adapt Stephen King’s seven-novel Dark Tower series.
King’s 4,250-page, multi-genre behemoth, which blends dark fantasy, science fiction, horror, Western, and dystopian themes, is considered unfilmable given its narrative complexities and many metatextual references to the author’s other works. The story follows Roland Deschain, the last living member of a knightly “gunslinger” order heavily inspired by both Arthurian legends and classic American Westerns. Roland's world shares aesthetic characteristics with the Old West and the Middle Ages, but it’s also magical and high-tech. And it’s literally coming apart. Places on the map are disappearing, time is misbehaving, and the sun isn’t rising or setting properly. Roland’s mission is to find the Dark Tower, which could save his world from destruction.
The Dark Tower’s infamy only grew thanks to a 2017 film rendition detested and ridiculed by critics and fans alike for trying to squeeze nearly all seven books into one clunky, horrendously paced movie.
Amazon Prime Video bought the rights to the series in 2018 intending to move forward with a TV show, only to scrap the undertaking by 2020. The why behind Amazon’s decision was never officially disclosed, though Deadline alleged that executives felt it wasn’t on the same scale as The Rings of Power or The Wheel of Time. As far as we know, the series is still searching for a home.
Don’t expect any immediate announcements, but there is cause for optimism. Studios with financial resources and production prowess are tackling once unfilmable adaptations and making them, well, filmable. Dune was a thunderous accomplishment for HBO, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials finally got a dignified on-screen adaptation via HBO as well.
If Flanagan were to take on The Dark Tower for Netflix, then it would join The Sandman, Netflix’s hit graphic novel adaptation that was recently renewed for a second season. Neil Gaiman’s visually arresting and narratively convoluted tale was also deemed unfilmable for nearly three decades before the streamer took a gamble on it. Why not double down?
The Inverse Analysis— If there’s anyone who could tackle The Dark Tower, it might be Mike Flanagan. He’s been given a lot of support by Netflix, and the platform trusts him to make creative decisions. Flanagan has also proven that he understands Stephen King, having adapted both Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep, the latter with accolades from King himself. And, in his IGN interview, Flanagan noted that he’s already been thinking about how to produce the show.
“The first scene would be a black screen and the words, ‘The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed’ would come up in silence, and you’d hear the wind, and we’d gradually fade up to this Lawrence of Arabia-esque landscape with a silhouette in the distance just making his way across the hardpan. And we would build it out from there — in order — to the end.”
Again, this is just Flanagan saying that he wants the job, not an announcement that he has it. Even if Netflix is interested, Flanagan still has other book-to-screen adaptations on his docket, including The Fall of the House of Usher for Netflix, The Season of Passage for Universal Pictures, and potentially a second season for The Midnight Club. It could be years before his hopes become reality.
But we’re keeping our fingers crossed.