The Dark Tower Film Adaptation Aims With Its Hand

After decades, we’ve finally gotten a live-action adaptation of Stephen King’s epic novels of The Dark Tower. Unfortunately, as many of us feared The Dark Tower is a pale and hollow adaptation. Actually it is not even a faithful adaptation (never mind the casting of Idris Elba as Roland the last Gunslinger, he was superb as the Gunslinger) but a mish mosh of the seven novels in the series. As you can expect, it is impossible to do the sprawling storyline any justice with a paltry 90 minute screen time.

For those who don’t know the background, The Dark Tower novels are about a lone, Jedi-like Gunslinger from another dimension who is pursuing his arch foe, the Man in Black. This bad guy ¬†wants to destroy the mythical construct called the Dark Tower, a nexus point of sorts that connects and separates all the universes. Destroying the Tower will unleash chaos across dimensions and obliterate reality. Part Western, part fantasy, part sci-fi and part horror, the novels were some of King’s best works and actually revealed that all of the Stephen King works are interconnected. The wild and wonky storyline was complemented by memorable characters. Not just Roland but the small band of Earthlings from different time periods who join his quest. Too bad only one of them makes it into this film, young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor).

Roland and Jake

Of course, it is unrealistic to expect this one movie to cover the entirety of the novels, but as an introduction to this rich mythos, The Dark Tower cannot adequately do it. There is a popular line in the books “I do not aim with my eye, he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye.” This film commits the sin of aiming with its hand not its eye or heart. On the whole, the entire film is a barebones adaptation that lacks the nuance and for the most part, the epic scope of the novels. It does a just an average job of enticing viewers to want to learn more about Roland and his quest. We never feel the animosity Roland has with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), who is not well developed. The film just moves along so quickly we don’t have time to absorb any of the information given to us. And with the rushed editing and running time, there isn’t enough in the film to win over non-fans or satisfy die-hard fans of the novels. In fact, many of them will be enraged with the missed opportunities and the thin surface details.

Idris Elba as Roland

This does not mean that the film is a disaster, but a rather frustrating watch because there are nuggets of wonder that struggle to get through the film’s banal tone. For one, the actors in the film are quite good and it has several fine moments. We get glimpses of why Roland is to be revered as he wields his guns with near-supernatural precision. For Stephen King fans, there are more than a few Easter eggs of his other works and overall, the film is not dull. It’s just that so little time is spent on these highlights because the film is so intent on getting from point A to point B and in the end, we cannot enjoy the ride. The bottom line is that fans know that the source material is rich and enticing and most of that is missing in the film. This is beyond annoying for fans who have waited so long after so many false starts for a film adaptation. These novels have such sprawling stories with off-the-wall imagery that they deserved a film or a film series that would adequately adapt them. Unfortunately, this film does not accomplish this goal and instead of being a monumental film experience it is just your standard summer film.

The sad thing about The Dark Tower is that it will wind up being forgotten and unlikely to be a hit film. Meaning, that it is doubtful that future films will follow that will better explore Roland’s world and his epic quest. There are plans for a TV show that will tie-in to this film but who knows if that will ever come and the film’s reception will probably mean that it will be a long time before fans get a proper adaptation.

C.S. Link and Lewis T. Grove


Under The Dome Is Underwhelming

under the dome

After sampling the first few episodes of the CBS summer series Under The Dome, it’s very clear that the series strayed detrimentally from its source book. Based on the mammoth novel by Stephen King, Under The Dome tells the story about a small town, Chester’s Mill, that is suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the outside world by a huge, transparent dome. The novel focused on the townspeople trapped in the Dome and was about how they coped with this bizarre situation. Under The Dome raised obvious issues like what would be the environmental impact? How will people behave when the food supply dwindles? How long before chaos and anarchy take hold of normal law-biding citizens? The strange circumstance brought out the best and worst in the book’s characters.

deputy cut off

While the book was captivating and really explored the ramifications of the event, this TV adaptation feels formulaic. It does have some nice visuals, explicitly the shots of the Dome cutting off Chester’s Mill from the outside world. In a recent episode, the U.S. military launched a missile at the Dome to destroy it and it looked great, as was the aftermath outside the Dome.

crewYet, the TV show is a bit bland and bogged down with melodramatic developments. Some of those were covered in the book and were written expertly, but in TV feel mediocre. There is this storyline about a sociopathic creep called “Junior” Rennie (Alexander Koch), who is obviously insane and has a dangerous obsession over this waitress Angie McAlister (Britt Anderson). In the book, this obsession turned truly macabre, but in the show, it’s toned down and the subplot is now a tedious cat-and-mouse game. Junior catches her and imprisons her in a bomb shelter. Angie tries to escape and is eventually freed. Junior chases her and so on. Then there is the matter of character judgment. In the book, Junior was made a special deputy and started a reign of terror with his gang. It was believable because his father, “Big Jim” Rennie, a local politician, pulls strings for his son to be made a special deputy. This doesn’t happen in the show. Instead, the sheriff’s deputy, Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez), who is in charge after the sheriff dies early on, makes Junior a special deputy. Esquivel can’t see what a slimeball his Junior is and deputizes him with little thought. Talk about lack of judgment! Then he is hardly ever shown performing his duties, he’s too busy chasing Angie. Meanwhile, Esquivel complains every now and then about how he’s missing when he’s needed. Continue reading

The Dark Tower Returns

It’s been eight years since the final installment of The Dark Tower was released. For those who haven’t read them, Stephen King’s seven-book epic of The Dark Tower told a fantasy-science fiction saga with horror elements of a mythical gunslinger named Roland Deschain in the far future and his interdimensional quest to save reality from falling into chaos. Since the last book fans have been clamoring for more visits to the world of Roland and his ka-tet (or band of apprentice gunslingers). Based on the way the final book The Dark Tower ended it seemed as if the final word was written. But the ending, without giving anything away, had a cyclical nature. Fans pondered if there were more books or stories coming. In fact, King said back in 2009 regarding the series that “It’s not really done yet. Those seven books are really sections of one uber-long novel.” Well, now there is a brand new Dark Tower book to devour. The Wind Through The Keyhole has finally arrived and devotees can add this volume to King’s masterworks.

Many of the beloved characters from the saga are featured in this volume like Eddie and Susannah Dean, Jake Chambers, Oy the billy-bumbler and of course, Roland Deschain the last gunslinger. According to promos and samples released, The Wind Through The Keyhole takes place between the fourth and fifth volume of The Dark Tower saga. What is interesting is that while the book is promoted as a Dark Tower novel, it almost seems as if this novel can stand on its own while still taking place in the that universe.

When it begins, Roland and his ka-tet are on their way from the Emerald City (where the fourth book ended) to Calla Bryn Sturgis (where the fifth book takes place) but have to take refuge from a storm. While in their shelter, Roland recounts a tale to his friends that took place when he was much younger. In that story, young Roland is sent on a mission to investigate a killer shape shifter and meets a young boy. Hoping to calm him, Roland tells him a bedtime story-a story within a story. So in many ways, The Wind Through The Keyhole is like Wizard And Glass where that book went into Roland’s early days as well while using modern Roland and his ka-tet as a framing device. While the novel may not add anything to the overall story of The Dark Tower it promises to provide a fascinating look at Roland’s world.

Regardless of the book’s narrative, its release is a cause of celebration for many readers. Probably the biggest question they have is will there be more lost tales? Stephen King teased many with the idea that the entire saga hasn’t been revealed yet. Then again, he could’ve been alluding to the comic books released by Marvel that dwelled on his younger days. At this point there isn’t any way to know for certain if we’ve heard the last of Roland Deschain. Hopefully we haven’t.

Lewis T. Grove