The Dark Tower: a spoiler-free review by a former adaptation naysayer

dark_tower_ver6_xlgThe long, long-awaited movie adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ opened this weekend. I was there. Twice. Here are my thoughts….

I first read The Gunslinger, book 1 of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series when I was 19, which is a notable number in the later Dark Tower books. Coincidence? I think not because as we know, and know very well, all things serve the Beam.

As anyone who knows me is aware, I used to be vehemently opposed to the adaptation of this series because come on, Hollywood, you jack up most of King’s stuff, admit it. And as much as I’ve always loved this series, I didn’t want it to suck on the big screen. 

Note that I once had quite the fangirlish chat with Michael Whelan on this very topic. We were of the same mind and I’m intensely curious about whether he’ll go see the film and if so, what he thinks of it.

Fast forward to the announcement of Idris Elba being cast to play Roland Deschain of Gilead, last of the Gunslingers and the line of Eld. To my disgust, many fellow fans on the internet had little temper tantrums regarding the actor’s skin color–I think these are the same kind of people who boycotted the new Star Wars movies and Wonder Woman because eww, icky wimmens and brown people. Well… all I have to say about that is fuck those jerks.

Anyway, back to me. *ahem* I saw that Elba had been cast and I became excited. Finally, I was looking forward to this adaptation—to see my beloved Gunslinger on the big screen. And my anticipation began to build.

Learning details about the project, such as the fact that it wouldn’t be mimicking the first book of the series, or really any book of the series, but would rather be a separate story which would incorporate many aspects of the series, made my anticipation even more intense. We all know how the book series ended, right? (Note that if you do not know, be warned that while this review doesn’t feature spoilers for the movie, it will definitely feature them for the books.) 

other worlds

Groundhog Day for Roland Deschain, yes? Destined to begin his journey anew, again and again until he gets it right. So… perhaps this movie is another of Roland’s journeys. Perhaps it’s one of those “other worlds than these” which exists on some other level of the tower. 

We know of some major differences between the series and the movie from the trailers, so let’s start  with some of those before I go on to fan-girl out about my feels.

  • Jake is obviously not the child of wealthy, indifferent parents as we see him in a normal bedroom and at one point, hugging his mother. Also, he seems to have a talent for drawing and he’s seeing a shrink.
  • Jake enters Mid-World intentionally, through a portal, rather than as a result of his death at the hands of Jack Mort. Further, though he visits the house (which he even finds differently) from The Wastelands, he isn’t pulled into Mid-World through a doorway opened with Eddie’s carved key, as when he arrives for the second time in the books.
  • Eddie and Odetta/Detta/Susannah are not featured in this adaptation… and, of course, there’s also no Oy.

But knowing the nature of this film ahead of time helped me to avoid disappointment at any possible changes. I was able to open my mind and enjoy it for what it was—a glimpse. A snapshot into the story of Roland’s quest for the Tower.

And I was not disappointed. Sure, there were some issues with the film, did you SEE their budget? I feel that they did a good job of not only capturing enough of Roland and Jake’s stories to satisfy fans of the books, but that they did a good job putting together a film that could also be enjoyed by non-readers, as well.

My boyfriend doesn’t read (yeah, I know) and he enjoyed the film. He had some nitpicks but we talked earnestly about what worked for him, and what didn’t, as someone utterly unfamiliar with Mid-World and gunslingers and ALL OF THE THINGS. Though he said it reminded him of films like Mazerunner and The Hunger Games franchise, he said that overall, “it wasn’t bad.” That’s relatively high praise from him, I assure you.

Anything else I want to discuss would spoil things for any who have yet to see the film so I will wrap up after a couple of general thoughts and hopes for the future of this franchise, namely the possibilities included here.

Despite the much-changed face of the story and the dramatic differences in Roland’s ka-tet, this film felt like the books. It felt right. Roland’s reactions to Jake’s world were very reminiscent of The Drawing of the Three and Jake was… well he was Jake. And I adored each moment with him on the screen. And the Easter eggs… guys, so many wonderful Easter eggs! Keep an eye out, many of them are easy to miss.

I have a great deal of concern that this adaptation won’t generate enough interest (or money) to continue with the plans for a sequel and/or a series for television as outlined here, but I hope that it does. I hope the series happens, I would adore seeing Wizard and Glass on the small screen. And Walter’s mention in one of the trailers that everyone Roland has ever loved has died by his hand gives me hope that we’ll see what happened when Roland took his test using David as his weapon; when he went to Mejis with Cuthbert and Alain; when the war was lost. I want to see it all.

Long days and pleasant nights, sai.