Note: This post contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen The Dark Tower, you may want to keep reading.
The Dark Tower series has been hailed as Stephen King’s magnum opus. It is the brilliantly written story of the last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and his quest for the Dark Tower, the pinnacle at the center of Mid-World that holds all things together. To tell the story, King penned seven epic novels (eight, if you include The Wind Through the Keyhole, but Dark Tower purists might balk at this.):
- The Gunslinger
- The Drawing of the Three
- The Waste Lands
- Wizard and Glass
- Wolves of the Calla
- Song of Susannah
- The Dark Tower
With the groundwork having been laid, let’s turn to the film adaptation of this massive, oh so carefully crafted, series. I don’t know if the screen writers (Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel) actually read the series or if they were simply given a synopsis and a few catch phrases to work with. Whatever process they used, they missed the mark.
Sure, Roland (played by Idris Elba) repeated the Gunslinger’s Creed—I do not aim with my hand…—and the writer’s snuck in “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,” but both were from The Gunslinger, and used out of context.
And speaking of context, yesterday my wife and I had lunch with a couple who had seen The Dark Tower, but hadn’t read the books. Our friend, Janet (not her real name), said that she liked the movie because it showed the conflict between good and evil. Her husband, in comparison, said that while he liked the like the action, the film left him with more questions than answers—like, who were all those people with the zippers in their heads?
And therein lies the real problem with The Dark Tower adaptation. The screenwriters provided inadequate backstory for those unfamiliar with the novels to explain the action, and not enough story for those who are Dark Tower disciples to make it credible. At the end of the film, I just sat there, slack jawed, wondering if I might have fallen asleep at some point and missed all the salient plot points that made the novels epic. I have been assured that what I saw is all that there is.
I guess what really disturbs me is what has bothered me about almost all of King’s adaptations: How, in good conscience, could someone with King’s stature—especially considering that this is his self-proclaimed masterwork—buy off on a rendering that is such a poor reflection of the master’s craft. I just don’t get it. Was it about the money? Is King so struggling financially that he must settle for giving his fans a bone and not a steak?
Well, I guess we can just file this under an opportunity lost. Maybe in a couple of decades the story will be remade properly, a seven or eight film saga that it deserves. Lord of the Rings got it and even Harry Potter. (And, yes, I know that certain liberties were taken with both series to get them to the big screen. But even so.) Certainly, The Dark Tower deserved better.
And with that being said, I’m trying to decide whether to see It in the theater or wait for Netflix. My head says to wait, but my heart tells me that the remake of It must be better than the 1990 TV Mini-series with Richard “John-Boy Walton” Thomas. But that is a story for another day.
© Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh