On August 4, 2017 fans of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series held their breath, I assume they did because I did, with the release of the movie The Dark Tower. It’s been around eight years since I put down the last book, The Dark Tower, in the series of seven books and five years since an “eighth” book, The Wind Through the Keyhole came out. Now I was hesitant to see the movie but for curiosity’s sake I committed myself to seeing it. I knew, which is to say I had an inclination, a feeling, that the movie wouldn’t live up to any expectation I had and that needed to be okay. And it was. It is. So I promised myself to empty my head and heart and go into the theater with an unbiased heart and mind and take in the movie as is, removed from the literary world I cherish. And so I did…for the most part.
I avoided all reviews, I didn’t want my experience to be tainted or swayed, but I know that most of the reviews were negative. My Mother always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” With that in mind, I’ll start with the positives. The Cinematography of The Dark Tower is wonderful, especially when Roland and Jake are in Mid-World. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey both do an excellent job in filling the shoes of two very simple yet ultimately complex literary characters. Idris Elba is intelligent, strong, confident and sincere as the stoic Roland. And I believe Matthew McConaughey has a whimsical fun playing the Man in Black, Walter. Tom Taylor pulls big emotions and plays ‘crazy’ with brilliant tension as Jake Chambers. All three actors succeed with the limited script (I’m assuming here) that they were provided. The big payoff is the battle towards the end of the movie where Roland “remembers the face of his father” and rescues Jake from the clutches of Walter, the Man in Black. The battle at the Dixie Pig we witness Roland is true Gunslinger glory. Roland reloading his gun mid fire fight or running his revolver and thumb across his belt to individually chamber each round is something to behold. The fire fight was exciting, tense and overall fun. It didn’t disappoint. This is not to say that The Dark Tower doesn’t make mistakes, because it does.
When tackling something as grandiose as an eight book series I think keeping it simple is the best way to go here. Keep it simple and take it slow. Unfortunately the Director Nikolaj Arcel (also one of the Screen Writers) and the Screen Writers, Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner and Anders Thomas Jensen try to do too much with so much content. This reminds me of the 1978 animated film The Lord of the Rings. Both parties and instances involved here try to cram a lot of material into a very small time slot. Unfortunately for the viewer this doesn’t pay out. It creates a convoluted mess.
It now makes sense to me why they (Director, Studio, whomever) decided to call the movie The Dark Tower, they pull a little bit from every book in the series. What confirms this thought/assumption even further is that earlier this morning I was at a local Barnes & Noble and while browsing through Fiction, specifically Stephen King’s section, I noticed that the current re-issues of The Dark Tower series all have the words “Now a Major Motion Picture” printed on them.
Instead of The Dark Tower being from Roland’s perspective and his journey to reach the dark tower we’re given a movie as told through the perspective of the supporting character, an important one but a supporting one nonetheless, Jake Chambers.
What I would have liked to see is instead of the movie being called The Dark Tower, it should have been called The Gunslinger. The movie should have had Idris’s Roland chasing Matthew’s Walter through the desert of Mid-World. The movie should have been the Western the author created with the first book in The Dark Tower series. The movie should have been simple; one man, Roland, chasing another man, Walter, looking for answers, a solution, a means to an end. And along the way Roland should have met Jake and then lost him in the Mines. And the movie should have ended with Roland sitting with Walter and having a discussion that spanned centuries. It should have Roland discovering the three doors on the beach and in doing so discovering the next steps in his journey towards the Dark Tower. This would have left the audiences in the theaters excited to find out what awaits Roland behind those doors and in doing so it would have made them excited and impatient for the next movie. Hopefully the movie The Dark Tower does well enough to constitute a sequel, The Drawing of the Three, and with it a chance for redemption. If not “may we meet again, in the clearing, at the end of the path.”