One of King’s best and most excruciating books will be made into a movie by the writer of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man.’
As more Stephen King books are either being newly adapted or rediscovered for a modern audience, a certain long-gestating project will soon see the light of day. The Long Walk is the next in a long line of upcoming King adaptations, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Although there won’t be any terrifying clown-shaped inter-dimensional beings in sight, the story itself is enough to leave one shaken to the core and fits perfectly into Hollywood’s renewed obsession with the author.
The premise of The Long Walk is simple enough. Set in a dystopian world run by totalitarianism, 100 boys meet for an annual race that has no definitive endpoint. The winner — that is, the last boy standing — gets a Prize at the very end, whatever his heart desires. Ostensibly, all these boys have to do is walk, but there’s a catch or several given the strict rules that the contestants, called “Walkers,” must follow. Specifically, the story tracks Raymond Garraty, a 16-year-old Walker, and the other teenagers that come in and out of his periphery as they quite literally walk to their demise.
“The Long Walk” is one of King’s most unnerving books, lending new, existential meaning to the phrase “survival of the fittest.” The characters in the book are put to extreme physical and psychological tests and even as they bond with one another, the eerie omnipresent reality that there will ultimately be 99 deaths out of the hundred of them remains salient. The vague nature of the Prize also unearths a plethora of motivations that the characters must own up to. Why would anyone willingly take part in a race like this?
The horrors in “The Long Walk” are character-driven and viscerally relatable, but this makes the process of adaptation a tougher nut to crack. Translating the physical hardship of “The Long Walk” from page to screen shouldn’t be too much of an issue, and we know well and good that dystopian fiction sells abundantly. However, the intensely depressing psychological aspects of the book could prove difficult to adequately capture.
Nevertheless, the challenge of bringing The Long Walk to life doesn’t negate the fact that King’s “unfilmable” books have been made into worthwhile onscreen adaptations in the past. IT and Gerald’s Game, both of which came out last year, are great examples of King adaptations that work tremendously well because they find the right balance between in-depth characterization and that quintessential King-esque atmosphere. The deeply unsettling nature of both those films mirror the books they are based on, even if certain details are changed in the adaptation process; for example, the timeline shift in IT. The core emotional beats remain the same, resulting in fulfilling cinematic experiences.
That’s exactly the kind of conscientious treatment that The Long Walk deserves, and whether the book successfully finds new life onscreen will depend on the team going forward. Luckily for us, the people on board so far seem promising. New Line Cinema, the studio that brought us the newest IT adaptation, now has the rights to “The Long Walk” courtesy of writer James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man) and producer Bradley Fischer (Zodiac).
Writer-director Frank Darabont — most famous for directing the King adaptations The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile — had been developing The Long Walk for some time before letting the rights go. But Vanderbilt and Fischer have apparently also considered the film a passion project for years. The former even began working on initial scripts for spec before the rights were properly secured. Vanderbilt knows the material and will hopefully come up with a thoroughly engaging script suited to follow up New Line’s triumphs with IT.
All upcoming King adaptations sport fabulous talent in one way or another, but The Long Walk feels like the most trepidatious venture to date because of the lack of bells and whistles attached to the story overall. This film likely won’t be as fun or exciting in the sense of popular dystopian fiction such as The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner. But by that same token, “The Long Walk” is a contained and confronting piece of fiction that remains impactful long after you put it down. It would make for a riveting and essential adaptation if done right.