The three Lord of the Rings films, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, were immensely popular in the early 2000s. They left their mark on pop culture, and fantasy epics attempting to capture the trilogy’s tone are still released regularly today. This summer, Hollywood will take another shot at recreating the Lord of the Rings hysteria with a similarly sprawling spectacle, but this time, the source material the movie will be based from has a decided advantage: it is written by the King of Horror, Stephen King, himself.
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The Dark Tower, which is to be directed by Nikolaj Arcel and released on August 4, is widely considered to be Stephen King’s “magnum opus” (basically, his greatest work), and it is split into seven books spanning a whopping 4,250 pages. King started writing it when he was 19 and did not publish the final book until he was 57. It is, in other words, the apotheosis of a sprawling tale, and it was omnipresent for a significant part of Stephen King’s life.
The amazingly wide scope of the world in which Stephen King’s Dark Tower series takes place is not the end of its similarity to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, though. In fact, a variety of sources note that the two series are connected by many similarities in terms of theme and more specific details.
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For example, the land a large part of Stephen Kin’s series is set in is called “Mid-World,” a name extremely similar to the Lord of the Rings setting of “Middle Earth. Just a few other too-perfect-to-be-coincidence examples of similarities include the following.
- In the first book of the Dark Tower series (SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK AND PROBABLY THE MOVIE), one of the central characters dangles off a ledge in a dark stone cavern beneath a mountain and utters a single-sentence phrase before slipping to his death. The character is reborn into Mid-World later in the series, courtesy of Stephen King. All this is very similar to Gandalf falling in the Mines of Moria during Fellowship of the Ring and coming back as Gandalf the White.
- The great evil force in the Dark Tower books, who is not human, is confined to a slate-colored tower from which he looks out on the world. The similarity to Sauron is striking.
- In Stephen King’s series, one of the powerful mortal antagonists has aspirations of climbing the dark tower and becoming all-powerful. It’s almost exactly the same as Saruman.
Of course, there are more than just specific details that make Stephen King’s Dark Tower series seem like a modernized Lord of the Rings. Stephen King himself has said the Dark Tower books were very much inspired by Lord of the Rings, along with Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns and the Robert Browning poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.”
Certain sources have even gone so far as to say that the Dark Tower movie will be the second coming of the LOTR films from fifteen years ago.
Forbes, for instance, published a piece entitled “The Dark Tower Could Be Hollywood’s Next Lord of the Rings.” The article does note that both series are similar in terms of structure and scope, but the other possible similarity it mentions between the two once they have both gotten adaptations is much more striking.
“It has the capacity to be our next Lord of the Rings,” the article declares. “It could well be our next great ‘new to movies’ franchise.”
What it means by that, explains the write-up, is that Stephen King’s series, when brought to the screen, could bring a fresh new cinematic experience. The stories and the worlds it takes place in are so vivid and so distinct that it will feel new, unlike so many big-budget franchises these days.
“So many of our current and future film franchises are basically reboots or revisitations of prior cinematic success stories,” the article notes. It is becoming the norm, and films structured in ways audiences have never seen are relatively few and far between, especially when looking at the world of big-budget franchises.
Thanks to Stephen King, though, the Dark Tower stories are like none that have graced the silver screen in recent memory.
“It is a gigantic and sprawling supernatural adventure story spanning eight books plus a host of short stories and comics,” says the Forbes piece. “It will presumably offer big-scale action, horror, and spectacle.”
That’s a fresh new combination of awesome story elements, undoubtedly something Stephen King was going for when writing the books.
“It won’t be the next Lord of the Rings but rather the first Dark Tower,” the article concludes.
Fingers crossed that Forbes and all the Stephen King fans who think the Dark Tower films can live up to the greatness of Lord of the Rings without actually treading the same ground are right. Above all, let’s hope The Dark Tower director Nikolaj Arcel can do right by Stephen King in the adaptation of his crown jewel.
[UPDATE: The trailer for the Dark Tower movie was released several days ago and can be viewed below.]
What other similarities can you spot between the details or themes of Lord of the Rings and Stephen King’s Dark Tower books?
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