The Dark Tower: an impossible adaptation that does some things right

The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.

That’s how the The Gunslinger starts. The first of an 8 book epic saga by Stephen King. The Dark Tower movie has a really different start. Fans and non-fans will certainly be confused by the first few minutes. Let’s be honest, anyone that has read the books knows that this story is probably unadaptable in a movie format. It’s too complex. There are constant changes of genre. Too many references to other material, some of it from King himself; some from other authors.

Be aware that there are some minor spoilers of the movie in the following text

A re-interpretation of The Dark Tower

The route taken by the Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinker, Anders Thomas Jensen and Nikolaj Arcel in the script is probably the only one possible. Re-interpret the original story, reference the material for the fans and just touch wood. The problem is that this interpretation of the material is not the best possible.

There are a number of changes that are more or less fortunate. For example. the idea of using Jake’s point of view is not bad at all. It gives an even more mythical aura to Roland and Walter. It also accompanies the viewer as an outsider to this complex world. On the other hand, taking concepts and ideas from the whole saga to present it on the movie is not the best. We’re talking about a literary world that expands over more than 4,000 pages – And a movie that barely gets over the 90 minutes mark. This adds complexity to the movie, making it difficult to understand to the newcomers. I can imagine someone going to the cinema and not understanding anything.

The Gunslinger and his nemesis

The election of Idris Elba as the gunslinger was received with a lot of noise and complains by the fans. The literary Roland is based on ‘the man with no name’, the character played by Clint Eastwood in the ‘Dollars Trilogy’. I tend to not care so much about this things. It is true that the character is clearly described as a white man with light eyes. And that the eyes of the gunslinger is a recurrent topic through the saga. But to be honest, who cares? Elba does a magnificent work. He takes his role very seriously and plays it really well. The way he looks, his ‘poker face’, etc. gives the character much needed old school vibe. My only complain regarding Roland, is that the writers have changed Roland’s motivation. As much as he hates Walter, he is always true to his mission to save the tower, what is not depicted that way on the movie.

The Dark Tower - Walter o'Dimm
Walter o’Dimm, the man in black

And speaking of the devil. Matthew McConaughey. does a great job portrays Walter o’Dimm. If I have to guess, McConaughey had a great time with his his role. On the movie, Walter is a wicked character who rejoices in his own evil. This is really well shown on screen multiple times. He’s acting on the movie has been criticized by the press, but couldn’t disagree more.

Lastly Jake, portrayed by Tom Taylor, sees his role expanded compared to the novels. But, though we follow him through most of the movie, his character stays on the background, being most of the time and spectator of the action.

Now that I mention action, the movie has its quota of action scenes, some of them depicting to perfection how us readers imagined the gunslinger in action. The problem comes at the end of the movie. I’m pretty sure that the last 10 minutes of the movie are full of ‘studio decisions’. I’m not gonna get into details, but in my opinion is awful and stupid. It’s something that we’ve been seeing for a while on blockbusters. They try to make and spectacular ending with, usually, bad (or plain dumb) results.

Easter eggs for the fans

Being a fan of The Dark Tower myself, I was able to accept the fact that this is no adaptation of the books, and I was able to enjoy the movie for the most part. I think there is true love for the original material in the people that worked on the movie. There are dozens of references to the books scattered through the movie, that I’m sure a fan will enjoy. But I’m also aware of the issues that the movie has, and I doubt that it will be a massive success.

The Dark Tower - All hail the Crimson King
There are a number of references to topics that are not discussed on the movie

In my opinion, the reviews have been very unfair, with a current 18% in Rotten Tomatoes. I believe The Dark Tower movie could move around the 6-6.5 out of 10. It’s an entertaining movie and something different to what people is used to see as fantasy on the big screen. Let’s see if they solve some of the issues in the hypothetic sequel.

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