Full disclosure, I haven’t read the series. Ask me about It, I got you. Questions about The Stand? Read it at least twice. Gerald’s Game? Check. I can keep going, but you get the point. So I’m well read when it comes to Stephen King, but not this particular series. I am not a diehard fan with encyclopedic knowledge of the Gunslinger, Roland, or the Man in Black, Walter. That said, this is a fun movie worth seeing in the theaters.
No Spoilers Here!
If you’re wondering how they condensed eight novels into a 90ish minute film, the answer is they didn’t. The movie, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, draws plot points from several—but not all—of the novels and is set after the conclusion of the series. Characters that are not in the novels have been added and others have expanded roles. If you’re a purist, this may not be the movie for you.
Adapting a well-loved book into a movie is always perilous. But when that book is actually an eight-book series that the author himself has called his magnus opus, well… let’s just say things are complicated. That likely is why The Dark Tower, out in theaters today, has been in some form of production for almost ten years with several directors and production companies involved with the project throughout.
Ultimately, the project found its footing in a partnership between Sony Pictures Entertainment and MRC. Nicolaj Arcel, co-writer of the screenplay for the 2009 novel adaption The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was tapped to direct. At the New York premiere of the movie he acknowledged that he has a “great responsibility” to fans but because he is “such a fan of the novel itself.” He felt that fans would happy with the movie.
If you like fantasy or westerns or Idris Elba, then this movie is worth the time and ticket. Let’s talk about the gunslinger for a hot second here. If you’ve seen even one scene from Luther, then you know Idris Elba brings the brooding anti-hero. If you haven’t seen it, get your life together.
Roland is alternately a somber and gruff companion to young New Yorker Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) and a fish-out-of-water who provides comedic moments as the straight man in the second half of the film. Taylor as Chambers manages to hold his own next to Elba and delivers a mix of dry humor and the awe of the uninitiated as he is drawn into Roland and Walter’s world. McConaughey’s Man in Black is fun, if only because the actor and the character seem to be enjoying being evil so much. And if all else fails, the quotables in this movie are fun. When Roland recites the Gunslinger’s Creed, the theatre went a little bit wild with cheers and people reciting along.
If you’ve read the book, don’t go in expecting to see your Roland or your Jake or your Walter. If you can do that, you might enjoy what the writers have done with the source material. It might help to think of it as inspired by the books instead of adapted from them.
If you haven’t read the books, but like westerns or fantasy, or Idris Elba being a badass and reloading his gun in every imaginable fashion, then go see this.
If you’re a fan of Stephen King but not familiar with this particular series (like me), then go see it if only for the easter eggs that pop up and point to other books and worlds in King’s massive life’s work.