The Dark Tower seems to me like a film that was beat into submission by too many forces competing for creative control. From the beginning, making a book series filled with brutal, vile imagery PG-13 meant you were going to cut out a lot of what gave the book series flavor. Then to make an unholy amalgamation of all the books, seemingly mashing together set-pieces from book 2, 6 and 7, makes matters ever worse. Almost none of this movie occurs in the books and what does occur is changed so much that it is almost unrecognizable. But they gave themselves a major out by making this a sort of sequel to the books, which is bizarrely never mentioned in the movie at all.
I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who didn’t know anything about this world, or the long twisted history of the characters within it. So many scenes throw around phrases, special objects, or abilities that I’ve spent almost 5,000 pages reading about. So when Walter pulls out Black 13 from his cabinet and uses it to glamour Roland I know the importance of that item and the long bloody road it took to get into his possession (or rather Father Callahan’s). To the average viewer, Matthew McConaughey pulls out a magical ball from a cabinet and can suddenly teleport.
Another great example of this is the scene where Roland and Jake take refuge in what I guess is supposed to me a Manni Village though they never explain that in the film. The main Manni reveals to the tribe that Roland is Roland Deschain, Son of Steven, last in the line of Eld. Everyone is at a loss for words and can’t believe the last of the Eld, a true Gunslinger and protector of the White is here at their dinner table. That was great for me to see, it echoed back to Roland and his Ka-Tet meeting the kind folk of River Crossing. Roland promising to take a cross from them and lay it at the foot of the Dark Tower if someday his quest is fulfilled. I suspect everyone else in the theater was confused as to why this was so important and forgot all about it a scene later.
What really irks me about this adaptation/sequel is how far is strays from the soul messages of the series. The Dark Tower novels are not about crazy gunplay. Sure, fantastic action happens, but at the end of the day the series is about analyzing the concepts of destiny, storytelling, person bonds and purpose. None of that is conveyed in this film. Looking back I can’t remember a single time Ka is mentioned. What are we even doing here? If they get a shot at making a sequel or the series, I’d love to see them pull more from the messaging of the books and remember the face of their fathers.
BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD:
I would be remiss if I didn’t get super nerdy for a second and talk about the implications of this being a sequel to the books. The Horn of Eld is clearly seen multiple times in the film and bizarrely never mentioned or even touched upon. I found the addition of it to be a really cool way to get around the common gripe of the movie being different from the books. “Sure it’s different, it’s the next cycle in Roland’s Journey.” With Roland never getting to the Tower, I’m hoping a possible sequel will bring in Eddy, Oddetta/Detta, the Crimson King and even Oy. “Do animals still talk in your world.” King specifically said on Twitter that this is the last time around and Roland will reach the Tower and blow. I need to see that, no matter what. If I’m remembering correctly before the coda of the last book Roland hears a horn blow as he approaches the Tower. I never understood what that meant or symbolized. I’d love to see a re-done version of that scene.
Regardless how bad this movie was, seeing certain things on screen gave me shivers. When the “Tet-Corporation” production logo came up after the Sony logo I nearly lost my shit. So cool. Hearing Roland recite the Gunslinger’s Creed is inarguably amazing. I just wish the soul of the series was on screen along with the cool stuff.
by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/08/06/review-the-dark-tower/ on ScreeningClub.com.