On The Dark Tower Movie, By Stephen King’s #1 Fan (book & movie spoilers abound)
I didn’t entirely hate this movie. I will probably see it one billion times. I actually wanted to see it again before writing this, but I couldn’t wait to talk about it.
For the last 10 years, I have been so hopeful and excited for this. There were so many plans and rumors (JJ Abrams, the Battlestar Galactica guy, Netflix, HBO) that I really believed would have worked out into a faithful, or at least excellent, adaptation. But I guess we should have known. No Stephen King adaptation has ever been both faithful and good.
To prepare for the release, I decided to re-read the books — for the fifth time. I started on April 5, figuring nearly four months was the right amount of time to read eight giant Stephen King novels. I finished on May 3. Because I love these books so much, it is no question to forsake sleep just to stay in Mid-World a little while longer. I have never read the graphic novels. I don’t consider them canon because Stephen King did not write them. But, since I wanted to make sure I had everything down, I read the internet Cliffs Notes on all of them.
I have a giant Dark Tower tattoo. I have read very nearly every Stephen King book — most of them multiple times. And so, here are 19 (of course) of my thoughts about this shitty asshole movie, which I still cannot bring myself to hate.
- If you so badly wanted a movie with Taheen and Low Men, you should have done The Regulators or Desperation.
- The casting in this movie was fucking excellent. Tom Taylor was perfect. McConaghey probably IS Walter/Marten/Flagg. I seriously hope he reprises the role in 100 more Stephen King films. Can I help you make The Stand? You will never find anyone who looks like a combination of John Wayne, Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood, and Stephen King, so you should find one with the chops to play a character like Roland. Idris Elba is him.
- I had a HUGE issue with “keystone earth”. That was NOT keystone earth. It couldn’t possibly have been. You appear to set this film in 2017. Jake Chambers would have been an adult man. You know, but for. Plus, Stephen King has already finished the books. Even though this is the “next” quest, whatever happens on keystone earth is for keeps. It feels like this film neglects all of the things that happened on keystone earth in the novels. Also wildly disappointing: the fact that he went to your “keystone earth” for medicine and you never made Roland try to pronounce “aspirin”. Shame on you.
- They are doors, not portals. Acutal fucking doors. Wooden-ass doors with hinges and knobs.
- You gave me Algul Siento in the first five seconds of the film, but you never actually told me anything about the Breakers. The way the Breakers think and work, and how their work is fueled, is crucial.
- Where were the bloody red dots on everyone’s foreheads?
- What city even was that? Was it supposed to be Lud? Tull? Some combination? This was a ripoff. There is NO city in Mid-World with a population that good looking.
- It’s the Touch. Not the Shine. Wrong books.
- What about the fields of Can’-Ka No Re? I saw the Tower very well. But I saw it only from halfway up. I would have preferred a 90 minute film where you just showed me the Tower standing in that field in End-World.
- Marten/Walter can’t kill you by just telling you to stop breathing. He literally has never done that.
- I loathed Jake’s backstory. The whole reason that Roland becomes Jake’s father is because Jake’s dad is an asshole and his whole family is shitbags. Also, even though Jake is strong in the Touch, he’s not a Breaker. The entire plot of this film seems predicated on the idea that Marten/Walter wants Jake in Algul Siento. Nevermind the fact that Marten/Walter is not even in charge of Algul Siento.
- Roland’s guns were great. I appreciated that you did not neglect to include the Sign of the Eld, and that you managed to squeak in the bit about it’s having been formed from the shards of Excalibur. I was also super pumped that Roland had the Horn of Eld. (Even though that’s kind of a non-sequitur. Like, didn’t Cuthbert lose the Horn in the Battle of Jericho Hill? So, if Roland reaches the top of the Tower and winds up back in the Mohaine Desert, didn’t all that stuff with his first Ka-Tet already happen? How would he get the horn back? Does the Tower give it back to him as some kind of reward, along with all of his fingers and toes? Wouldn’t just the fingers and toes be enough?)
- You mean to tell me, that after thousands of years searching for the Dark Tower, Roland decided that this time he doesn’t really care and he just wants to kill Marten/Walter? I honestly think that Idris Elba could have done it — to an extent, he DID do it — but I think this film got Roland entirely wrong. His singular purpose is the Tower. He has lost EVERYTHING on his quest. Even though this is supposed to be another iteration of the journey and not the one we shared with him in the books, it’s just not quite right. Supposing that on the last journey, the love he shared with the Ka-Tet taught him something, it didn’t change him entirely. After reading book seven, I never thought that that journey was the first one. I cannot imagine a Roland so fundamentally changed that he doesn’t care about anything but revenge on Marten/Walter. Even in the Mohaine, at his most desperate, the Man in Black is a side gig.
- The Steven Deschain stuff was crap. Roland’s father was so much more complex. I HAVE KNOWN FOR TWO YEARS. Even after Roland had taken up his father’s mantle, Steven was still a mystery to him. To boil it down to two minutes of Roland watching Marten/Walter kill his father is a disservice to the whole Line of Eld.
- I cannot believe that you just eliminated the faintest whisper of the rest of the Ka-Tet. Jake is brought into Mid-World through the house on Mission Hill without Eddie? And for the first time? Where did he get the visions of Roland and Marten/Walter and the Tower? It’s improbable. You’ve entirely precluded The Pusher. Hell, I’m pretty sure you’ve eliminated any possibility of anything that happens on the Western Sea. The Dixie Pig is just a place where the Low Men and Taheen just hang out; no deeper meaning there, O Susannah-Mio? The only mention of the Crimson King is graffiti? Erasing all this stuff like some kind of half-cocked Patrick Danville really made the story suffer. No Eddie, Susannah, Oy, Mordred? What are we even doing here?
- So, they go to the speaking circle, which was a super important thing. But it loses so much when Roland does not bone down with the demon. But you probably couldn’t have put that in because there is no Susannah, so the damn thing would be left unfinished. That was one thing that could have easily stayed true to the novel. You probably kept it in there to give some kind of glimpse into Roland and his endless surprises. But if he kept surprising Eddie and Susannah to the end, how can you condense his depth into 90 minutes?
- That was a sweet shout out to Pennywise. But IT does not appear in the Dark Tower. Stephen King was pretty clear that Dandelo is not Pennywise. He might be the same kind of being, but they aren’t each other. I was pretty pumped about a lot of the other easter eggs, though. Like Barlow & Straker. All the 19s were fabulous. And the yellow coat thing. I feel like that crazy old man in the street that accosted Jake was a bit of a hat tip to the yellow card man in 11/22/63.
- I did enjoy the look and feel of the movie. It had very good atmosphere. The Taheen and Low Men were so fucking cool. And Mid-World is a dark, broken-down place. You did a nice job capturing that.
- I cannot imagine for whom this film was made. Dark Tower super-fans will hate it, and anyone who has never read the Dark Tower couldn’t possibly keep up. They crammed roughly 1/8 of the significant highlights of seven (well, eight) books, totaling over 4,000 pages, into a 90 minute film. And let’s be honest, there is next to zero chance for a sequel. According to the internet, the show is still in the works, so I guess I can wait for that with breathless anticipation until I’m ultimately disappointed.