‘The Dark Tower’ – Reviewing The Beginning Of The End
“There are other worlds than these,” Jake Chambers, The Child.
If you want me to explain the title of this review, you won’t find it here at the start. I will say though, that’s not really a bad thing. Keep your eyes sharp, and your ears sharper. Especially those who think it’s a condensed replication.
Firstly, I’m going to make things easy and split this review up into three sections:
- For those who haven’t read the series
- For those who have read every word
- For everyone: The Dark Tower
I say ‘easy’ because, unlike other magnum opus films (eg. Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter), the film directed by Nikolaj Arcel has not yet been written by the original author. I would suggest all of those who have read the series to go immediately to their adorned section. Right now. For those who haven’t read it – and don’t wish to – please forget the middle section. And if you decided to watch a YouTube video condensing the story into a short few minutes, I would humbly ask that you forget everything you saw. Curiosity, in this case, would have definitely killed the cat.
So for those leftover, save for the one who has read every word of it and insists on reading this article linearly, I give you your section:
For Those Who Haven’t Read The Series
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,” Stephen King, The Author.
I’m going to lay it down as simple as I can: The story in cinemas is not a replication of the series written by Stephen King. I’m sure if you are reading this review, you have very likely read others. And I am sure some of those reviews are calling it bad, because they think it is a harshly-condensed adaptation. If I tell you how I know this, it will ruin the film. So all I ask is that you remember what I told you here when you watch the film.
Now that that’s done, please head to the final section for your awaited review of The Dark Tower. Unless you have read the books and insist on reading this article linearly.
For Those Who Have Read Every Word
“Did you tell them what happened to the old crew?” Walter O’Dim, The Man In Black.
The Dark Tower is the beginning of the end, because it will be his final trip. This movie was not a condensed replication, it was Stephen King’s investment policy. It was The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three rolled together, but told as the next round. He tweeted so himself:
The Dark Tower is close, now. The Crimson King awaits. Soon Roland will raise the Horn of Eld. And blow. pic.twitter.com/rqGSKM3dWL
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) May 19, 2016
If you remember from the books, the Horn of Eld was lost in the battle of Jericho Hill. According to The Dark Tower Wiki, “Roland had given the Horn to Cuthbert Allgood, who blew it until he died. Roland neglected to obey his friend’s final wishes and left the Horn at Jericho Hill… Upon the resumption of his quest to reach the Dark Tower, Roland is once again in possession of the Horn. In this iteration of the cycle (The Dark Tower book series), Roland remembered to retrieve the Horn at Jericho Hill. His possession of the Horn may be a sign that Roland is closer to his redemption.”
And you must remember the Man in Black gets killed by the gunslinger in the first book. There’s still so much story to tell.
Personally, it infuriates me that there are movie critics putting their two cents in without proper research. I see critic after critic calling the film a poorly-condensed adaptation of the books, when it is not an adaptation at all.
Even the film summary points at it:
“The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black.” Notice the words ‘eternal battle’.
The only guy I can see who did the proper research was Sam Haysom from US news website Mashable. To you, sir, I applaud!
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, I’ll review the movie for you. And feel free to dwell in the previous section – just don’t tell them I let you.
For Everyone: The Dark Tower
“What happens in one world, happens in others,” Roland Deschain, The Gunslinger.
Nikolaj Arcel is perhaps more distinguished as a screenwriter, not a director. Compared to his six directed films, he has written 23 others, which includes The Dark Tower and it’s 2018 prequel.
However, a quick glance at his history in directing films reveals that at least he is able to keep his head above the water. His strongest film would be ‘A Royal Affair’ (2012), which fetched an Internet Movie Database (IMBb) score of 7.6 out of 10 – his highest on the site.
His direction of The Dark Tower though, does fall a little short. It’s not horrible, but it’s not amazing either.
In many ways the 95-minute film seems so lacking, but on another level, it still managed to bring forth the most important facts from the book. Facts which members of the audience who have read the books would notice with satisfaction. And while I still felt a little disheartened by its withering size, I didn’t feel fully cheated. Because I know this film is just the beginning.
Looking at it from the perspective of a Dark Tower (DT) virgin, it is a riveting film. It’s quirky, original in idea, and edge of your seat. The casual and collected acting of the Gunslinger Roland Deschain, portrayed by Edris Elba, was reminiscent in how he acted in my head when I read the books. The lightning speed of his fingers as he flings bullets into his six-shooter guns. The loud crack of them. His cold personality that somehow held a little hope. Or even the way Jake Chambers, played by Tom Taylor, came across as a changing mixture of frightened, curious and strong – and this too was what I felt from the book.
And the way the story explained particular elements that would be confusing to DT virgins was quite clever. It gave up only what it needed to.
But, if I am going to be honest, it wasn’t perfect. Keeping my perspective through the eyes of a DT virgin, I could still feel myself wanting a little bit more. Some films work well on 95 minutes, because the story they tell requires only that amount of time. The Dark Tower though, needed a little more storyline. It needed a little more character development. And it needed a little more background.
Take, for instance, the opening of the film. It felt rushed in a way. It didn’t settle on the mood, and it didn’t allow the audience to really connect with the characters. There are plenty of scenes in the story where one would beckon for more. It only skimmed the surface in some way.
The storyline, albeit a bit rushed, came out pretty understandable. It kept itself as much to the story as it can, while changing certain areas to make it work. Perhaps one element that annoyed me though, was that the portals were not like in the books. But elements like that I can forgive, considering the circumstances.
On another level, there are particular elements that were carried over from the books into this film. Elements that DT experts would be happy to notice. And there are the secret artifacts even DT virgins may notice in the film, or as I call them: easter eggs (think easter egg hunt). Any fan of Stephen King will tell you that his stories have connections with his other books in some way, and the dark tower is the hub. In this movie, you can notice most of those crossovers from other Stephen King films. There’s references to IT, Shining, The Stand and others. You can see them if you keep your eyes peeled. For the list, click here.
In the end, though, I’ll always feel it lacked something. But perhaps that is it’s purpose. To draw us in, just enough, and hook us in the next movie
I’ll leave you with a little anecdote from myself about the time I finished the first book in the series, something which may serve you well. I found the first book interesting, but it didn’t really hook me. Curiosity and reviews pushed me forward. It wasn’t until the second when I was metaphorically pulled into it, and I became thoroughly and unmistakably hooked.
I hope this happens again, this time round.