My Journey with The Dark Tower Film and Why I Want it to Succeed
Stephen King and The Dark Tower series hold a very special place in my heart. The series has an importance to me not dissimilar to how many people feel about Harry Potter. Needless to say, I’ve been wanting a Dark Tower movie for many years. I got hyped when Ron Howard was going to direct, and I was disappointed when the film went, well, dark for many years. Then it finally entered production. Holy hell! It finally entered production! Matthew McConaughey as The Man in Black seemed a like a great decision. Idris Elba also seemed like a very interesting choice that I was all for, until I thought of the ramifications for important interactions between Roland and Odetta, a character in the books who is also black. The implications for them having the same race, changes their dynamic, making it a little less interesting, however, this didn’t bother me much either. I was excited to finally see my favorite books on the big screen…and then the trailer was released.
“I like it,” I initially thought. Obviously I was lying to myself. It was just okay. I was doing what Star Wars fans did when they initially walked out of the theater after seeing the Phantom Menace. I lied to myself about how good it looked. However, I did believe that the next trailer would definitely elicit some sort of emotion. After all, I’ve seen initial trailers for other films that left a bad taste in my mouth, only to be rectified by the follow-up. Unfortunately this didn’t happen for The Dark Tower. Instead, a teaser, complete with terrible CGI, was released. The trailer showed that The Dark Tower linked all of the rest of King’s works together, which was exciting but also worrying. Why release this slapped together teaser when there’s actual footage to show? Oh?! your hard R source material has been changed to PG-13? And 7 (8) books turned into a 90 minute movie? Oh no. No, no no no no. This can’t be! Well maybe they’re adapting just the first book…Oh? Elements from most of them in one 90 minute movie?
At this point I lost all hope. Then, I ended up doing something that hasn’t happened in many years. I picked up the series and re-read it. Starting from the very beginning with The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger. I got excited for the movie again. My hype kept in check by the current 18% Tomatometer, and I went and saw the movie at 7:19 the next day. For those that don’t know, 19 is a very important number in the books and I thought going to see it at this time was a sign that maybe some justice had been given to the source material.
I was right about that, well, slightly...barely...okay, almost not at all. I wanted to believe the film did some things right, and it certainly did, but it was lacking in too many areas. It lacked at least an additional hour of runtime and something resembling a soul. I didn’t hate the film. I genuinely didn’t. The final 20 minutes gave me a solid glimpse of what this film COULD be. While walking out of the theater, there was only one word to describe how I felt though: disappointed. Not just at the overall film, but every time there was a glimmer of something great, it was quickly squandered by a rushed plot and a need to recite the Gunslinger’s oath. The oath is repeated 3 times in a 90 minute movie, and it’s used mostly to poor effect with very little emotional resonance. Imagine if Green Lantern recited his oath in the middle of brunch. Pretty much the same effect here.
The show can explore Roland's tragic past. My favorite moments of the books.
You would think that with this many complaints about the film that I wouldn’t care what happened to the future of the series. That stance, however, couldn’t be farther from the truth. I am still cheering this film on. I want it to succeed despite being disappointed. I’m not cheering this film on for anything but selfish, naive, and optimistic reasons. The early promise that The Dark Tower would continue with a TV show that reveals Roland's’ past (my favorite moments in the books) is enticing. Not only that but more movies would follow. Which as a Dark Tower fan I have no clue where’d they go from where the story left off, and that is very interesting. As far as the movies are concerned, they have deviated so much that this could easily be considered an alternate universe than the one in the books. It could be handled like most comic book adaptations, vastly differing from their source material but keep the heart of the story intact.
Once could argue that the heart of the story was ripped out of The Dark Tower film adaptation, and while I wouldn’t put up much of a fight to this argument, I did see hints of what this series could be in some of the brief moments between Roland and Jake.
Additionally, I understand that if Sony managed to lobotomize a beloved property like this on the first try, the chances of success on a second or even third try are drastically lower. That’s where my optimism and naivety come into play. I’m hopeful that Sony will learn its lesson, but this is the same studio that forced Sam Raimi to create the debacle that is Spider-Man 3, which had a much stronger storytelling foundation than The Dark Tower.
One day it'll be done right. Hopefully sooner than later.
Worst case scenario: I have to wait another ten years to get a reboot of this story. Hell, maybe HBO or some other premium network will get ahold of it and give it the Game of Thrones/Westworld treatment that it really deserves. King’s Dark Tower series is a long, arduous masterwork, and I firmly believe it should be treated like such.