***DISCLAIMER – By no means am I a movie reviewer or critic. What I am about to share is my opinion on a story that I am close to. There are spoilers about both the novels and the movie in this opinion, so if you’re planning on seeing the movie or reading the novels, please wait to read this after you have done so. Also, I am addressing the few negative reviews I’ve read for the movie and giving my perspective on why this is worth seeing.
Two weeks after opening day….
The Man in Black fled across the Desert, and the Gunslinger followed….
Ok, so I went out on opening day to see The Dark Tower. For those of you who don’t know, these books have been with me since 1991 when my friend Phil Tomasso introduced me to The Gunslinger. I was already a Stephen King fan. The first book of his I read was Night Shift, a collection of short stories that terrified me. Phil and I worked together at the time, and somehow King came up in conversation one evening. Phil started talking about The Gunslinger. I went out and bought it and read it in one night. It was short read, unlike so many other of King’s books. I was hooked, and immediately went and bought the other books available, The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands. The books engrossed me in this new world. Mid World became my new home, I found out, as Jake exclaimed in the Gunslinger, “There are other worlds than these.”
I’m not going to go into the marvel of the series here. I’m writing this to chat about the movie itself. However, I may get back to the books at a later time. Here’s a couple things you need to know. For the last few year at least (maybe more) I have re-read the series at least twice a year. Why? Well, to be honest, it started because I had a long commute and started reading audiobooks to pass the time away. Then I realized the story it truly epic. And I always get something different out of the story each time I read it. I’ve also read every graphic novel of The Dark Tower. Again, epic works. And to have imagery associated with the story was even better. You could see how King, and Robin Furth imagined the Dark Tower universe. I’m not going to call myself an expert on The Dark Tower, but I know a few things. I’ve been traveling with Roland for a while, and that’s another reason why I wanted to write a review. I wanted to palaver and give my two cents. Hear me, I beg!
With that being said, the first thing I will say about the movie is this. Whether you’ve read the series or not, you’re going to enjoy this film. It’s a futuristic, action packed western. You get the sum of what the characters are about in 95 minutes, and in my opinion, that’s perfect. No bathroom break needed. If you’ve read the series, you will be visually transported into a world you could only imagine over the last 30 years. You’re thrown into Mid World just as Jake is going through the portal, and then you’re immersed into the Gunslinger’s world and what it’s become and how it has moved on. I cry your pardon if I give some spoilers to the film as I go through this. Some of them can’t be helped!
I didn’t read any reviews prior to going to see the film, and only a few after, then decided to add my comments to whoever will listen. From the interviews I read, I could tell that the interviewers did not read the books. Here’s why. If they did, they would know that there was a little bit of each book in the movie. They wouldn’t have felt confused or questioned plot points. They wouldn’t have been upset at the shortness of the film. Let me talk about that. 95 minutes. Perfect for any movie in my opinion. I reference the long and boring Transformer movies, the last one being over 2 1/2 hours long(don’t get me wrong. I like the Transformer movies, but they could be shorter). Am I upset the movie wasn’t longer? Yes, but that’s because I wasn’t ready to leave Mid World. It left me wanting more. And that’s exactly what King did to us when he was writing the books. He would leave us wanting more. And more is coming!
The movie gave us a glimpse into Roland’s world, and how it effects our world. It told us what The Dark Tower is and what it stands for. It told us about Roland and his quest, first built on redemption of the worlds, then revenge, then back to saving the universe. It’s only a full package if you know the stories. But It’s something you want to know more about and come back to if you don’t.
TIME FOR SOME SPOILERS, SO IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOKS OR SEEN THE MOVIE CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!
The movie opens up on Algul Siento (Devar-Toi, or Blue Heaven). But I didn’t realize it at first. I was wondering if I was in the right movie. But you see all these kids playing and having a good time. You go past a set of twins. Most things I’ve read think that’s an easter egg for the twins from the shining. I think it’s a nod to the twins in Wolves of the Callas, and to how twins are used as brain food for the breakers. Cut to kids strapped to chairs. Some mind machine, and you realize ALL THE KIDS ARE BREAKERS. You see Tahine and vampires working around this machine, and then the Man in Black comes out of the shadows.
In the first 9 minutes you get a glimpse of the last 3 books. Then you get a beam quake. What’s that? If you read the books you’d know…Cut to Jake in his room, awakened by the earthquake. pictures of Mid World and Roland and the Man in Black all around the room, drawn by Jake. Jake has “The Touch” or “The Shine” as it is referred to in the movie. All of that in 9 minutes. My heart was beating fast, seeing what I saw.
Let me stop for a moment. I just read the synopsis of the movie:
Gunslinger Roland Deschain rooms an Old West like landscape in search of a dark tower, in the hopes that reaching it will preserve his dying world.
Ok. I can see why some may be upset. You read that, and you would expect this to be all Roland, all the time. Ok, point taken, but lets get back to why the movie is still brilliant in it’s delivery of the first glimpse into Mid World…
The movie is a version of Jake from The Waste Lands. Searching for the gunslinger. Searching for a door to Mid World. He’s crazy. He’s not crazy. So, going on that theory, we begin somewhere close to the middle in the middle of the story in the film. I still do not see a problem with that. The more I thought of it, the more I thought how brilliant it was to begin there. It skipped to the heart of the story, where, as we see in the Waste Lands, Roland is not complete without Jake. But, if that isn’t good enough, the movie still holds true to The Gunslinger, where it is Roland and Jake alone go after the Man in Black. Look, Constant Reader, the books are in the movie!
Even loved it the second time…
I went to see the film a second time with my friend Tony and his son. Tony has also read the books, his son has not. Both thought the movie was awesome. So why are so many people disappointed? I don’t want to offend anyone, BUT, what I’m about to say may do just that. This is just my theory….
I AM somewhat of a “Tower Junkie”, as Eddy once called Roland. I said I’ve read this series over and over again, as well as every graphic novel surrounding the books. I’ve stalked both StephenKing.com and TheDarkTower.com for years, not to mention other DT websites. And I even have played Discordia(if you don’t know what that is, maybe you should hand in your Dark Tower card!) Even in the last few lines of the book when Roland reaches the last room of the tower and opens the door to the desert as he’s realizing what’s happening but can’t stop himself…and when the reader sees him adjust the horn on his belt before beginning the quest again, it is revealed to us then what this story is all about. Redemption. And Roland plays this out over and over again, regaining a bit of his soul at a time. There are other worlds than these. We hear and see that ring throughout the books. The graphic novel side steps and gives us a different reality….See where I’m going here? If you get what King is giving us with this story, why are there so many down-turned thumbs for the movie?
Ok, I get it…
I’m not stupid. People wanted to see “The Gunslinger” page for page on the big screen. I understand. You want it to play out like the books. Really? Since when in the history of time has any movie followed it’s book counterpart to the letter? And this movie HAD ALL THE BOOKS IN IT!!!! We see The man in Black, The Tahine, The Breakers, all in the first few minutes! You’re gonna tell me you’d rather has seen Roland walking across the desert with a mostly dead mule on his way to meet a farmer? Come on folks. You wanted to see the battle of Tull, didn’t you? You wanted to see death in the desert. I think there will be a time for those events, either in the upcoming TV series or another movie. But for now, we saw who Roland is. Next up is who Roland was, and hopefully a continuation of who Roland is becoming.
See the film for what it is. An Epic tale. You have to keep an open mind going in, as you did reading the books. If you believe in this World as King created it in the novels, then cut the film some slack and believe in the alternate reality(ies). Do what you do when you read a Stephen King novel. Expect the unexpected. Don’t judge the film based on what you wanted to see. Judge it on what King and the filmmakers wanted to tell you.