Well, I liked it.
This movie reminds me a lot of Suicide Squad. I went in knowing about the bad reviews, expected to like it anyways, and I did. It was a fast paced movie, Idris Elba shoots people, McConaughey wields the Dark Arts, it was pretty funny at times, and it kept a surprising amount of details from the books. The plot was a big divergence from the books in that this movie is a very quick take on books 1, 6, and parts of 7.
I like the books. But here’s the thing, especially that first book, it’s not that good. The plot and story are buried under a thick crust of world building and navel gazing. The first book is a series of vignettes. Roland flashes back to murdering the entire town of Tull where we get our first look at what he is. Then he finds Jake at the way station in the middle of the desert. Then they finish crossing the desert and Roland encounters an oracle/demon. Roland flashes back to becoming a gunslinger. Roland and Jake encounter Slow Mutants. Roland sacrifices Jake to reach The Man in Black. The Man in Black tells Roland’s fortune and it’s pretty much the same shit that the oracle said. The Man in Black leaves. Proceed to book 2.
The movie cleans up some of the book’s ambiguity. In the book, it’s never really clear why Roland is seeking The Man in Black or The Dark Tower. And that’s not a little issue. The situation is presented as this sort of destiny/tragedy that Roland must do these things. He must catch The Man in Black in order to reach The Dark Tower. Roland must reach The Dark Tower because Roland must reach The Dark Tower. The reason is almost an afterthought. Roland must reach the Tower because the tower is under attack by The Crimson King. Which is an idea that didn’t really enter the story until the 5th book. Or maybe Roland needs to get to the Tower before The Man in Black because The Man in Black wants to enter the tower and whoever controls The Tower controls the universe. It’s never spelled out clearly. There is no Dumbledore character saying that Roland has to kill the bad wizard. Roland isn’t bringing the One Ring to the Tower in order to save Mid-World. It’s just, Roland is the Gunslinger, he seeks The Tower, and he has to find The Man in Black to get there.
The movie does away with this. Roland is seeking The Man in Black to stop him from destroying the Dark Tower and for killing Roland’s father. The Tower being destroyed will allow demonic beings into our universe. It would be difficult to explain to someone who didn’t read the books that The Point, the Big Why, is never really spelled out. I appreciated that they saw this as something worth fixing in the story. The first book is very abstract but at the same time stark. It’s very simple without being spelled out. The movie spells out things but then moves past everything extremely quickly.
Also, you might be wondering why the hell the number 19 keeps popping up in this series. Stephen King was struck by a car and nearly died on June 19th, 1999. After this he realized Valar Morghulis and wrote the last three books in the series in the next five years with Book VII being published in the autumn of 2004. It’d been a few years since book four, Wizard and Glass, was written.
Even though I liked it, the people out there telling you all the bad things about this movie are not wrong. It’s guilty of feeling chopped down, probably should have been an 8-12 episode series. There are definitely some things that could’ve been done better or differently but the changes that I would want are all things that would add five minutes of exposition each. I wish the movie had opened with Star Wars style “The Man In Black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed.” Except, the bad guys have portals to take them everywhere so he doesn’t need to flee across the desert. I would’ve liked Jake to reach Mid-World by dying except then they wouldn’t explain the portals, 19, or his psychic powers. I didn’t need the opening text they did use explaining the tower or the shots of the Tower itself. I kind of liked the illustration of the Tower in the Gunslinger, this giant building that eclipses the sun itself, which doesn’t actually look anything like the Tower when Roland reaches it in the seventh book and it’s really not that tall. The idea that Roland’s vision of the tower is so much grander than the thing itself.
My final thought is that I dug it, I’m sure there will be a director’s cut, maybe I’ll like that more. I wanted more content, the kind you’d probably get from a TV series. I don’t hold out much hope that we’ll get more content as Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey have to be getting more lucrative offers than this. If you see one movie this week, maybe go see Detroit which seems to be a far better and more important story. If you want to kill some time though and you were a fan of the books…it could’ve been worse John. A lot worse.