It took over 10 years but the film adaptation of The Dark Tower is out. I will admit that even though the trailers made me hopeful, the initial reviews scared me a lot. Not that I read them, but I saw they seemed to be quite dismal.
I still went to see it anyway, not on the release date but the following day. As a Tower junkie, there was something funny about going to see this film on the 19th, at 7pm wearing my favourite Dark Tower t-shirt as well. So what do I think? Read on to find out!
“I do not aim with my eye. He who aims with his eye has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my hand.”
The film is not a proper adaptation of the books. It mixes elements from several of the books and it changes things from the story. All in all, this is considered a sequel to the books, which was an interesting concept.
The beginning of the film is a bit odd. It doesn’t start with ‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslnger followed” as I expected, but the line still features in the film. This beginning felt jarring to me. It focuses too much on Jake Chambers and we don’t see Roland until about 20 minutes into the movie.
I like Jake, but I wasn’t a fan of the changes made to his character and backstory. I get that we spend more time with him here so that Roland’s introduction has more impact, but that’s not necessary. Roland Deschain is already a larger-than-life character, there’s no need to see that through someone else’s eyes when he does a great job himself. And there’s also the fact that they decided to give him ‘the Shine’. I get that they’re tying with everything else Stephen King has written (there are plenty of easter eggs), but the books imply that the Shine and the Touch are the same thing.
There’s also a weird continuity thing going on. There’s a flashback showing Roland and his father at a time that he’s supposed to be dead (at least according to the comic books) and that confused me. However the positive thing from this is that Dennis Haysbert will probably reprise that role in the TV series and I’m fine with that.
“I do not shoot with my hand. He who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind.”
As for the cast, Idris Elba is great. I was going to address the controversy behind his casting but I’m not going to. I’m tired of arguing about it and I’m also tired in general. I’ve always believed he could be great in the role and he delivered. He nails the physicality and stoicism. Seeing him doing those reloading tricks was pretty cool. And, excuse my language, he has a fucking awesome coat! The books describe Roland as ‘old, long, tall, and ugly’ so I laughed when Walter describes him as ‘tall, dark and handsome.’
Tom Taylor was good as Jake. Seeing Jake and Roland bond over the film was one of my favourite things. Especially that change from “I’m using you as a means to an end” to “I genuinely care about you.” This is important for both characters, especially for Roland.
I expected more from Matthew McConaughey as Walter, though. He wasn’t bad, but I expected him to be much more compelling than he was. But then again, the character was like that in the books. He comes across as arrogant and all-powerful, only to always screw up in the end because of that arrogance.
And I also have to mention the music. Tom Holkenborg has been on a roll for the past few years and he’s crafted a suitably epic soundtrack that has been stuck in my head ever since. An example here.
“I do not kill with my gun. He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.”
There are many weird choices made in The Dark Tower script, like giving Walter the last name of Padick. It’s a name that appears in the book only one time, and the character usually goes as Walter O’Dim, among other names as well. The taheen and the can-toi look weird, and adding Devar-Toi so early is strange. There is also the matter of the Horn of Eld.
Some promotional materials made a big deal of the fact that Roland has the Horn of Eld, a relic from his family. You can see it on his gunna but the film never addresses that he has the horn. Considering its significance, that he can redeem himself if he avoids making the same mistakes, I thought that we’d get at least a mention of it in a scene or something.
Despite its many flaws, I enjoyed the film and I didn’t think it was as bad as people were making it out to be. I geeked out at many things and I left the cinema quite happy. However, if Sony still has plans of going forward with the franchise, alternating TV miniseries and movies, there’s one thing they should do. Akiva Goldsman has to go. I’m still baffled the man who wrote Batman & Robin has won an Oscar and keeps getting work on the regular.
The point of this new turn of the wheel is that the Tower gives Roland a chance to redeem his mistakes. And my hope is that any potential TV series or films redeem the mistakes made with this film. I want to see the rest of the ka-tet in action. And Roland reaching the top of the Dark Tower one last time.
Angry Spaniard, adoptive Irishman. Writer, reader, tea drinker and video game player/designer.