Sunday Sesh: Let’s Just Not Watch The Dark Tower


Warning: probably mild spoilers, maybe, I dunno. I don’t really care because I’m mad. So how about this. Warning: very angery butthurt. That should do it.

Keep your eye on the ball.

It’s coming in, don’t take your eye off of it.

You’ve got the plan down. You know when to swing.

Keep your eye on the ball.

Everything comes down to this. 

All the work you’ve put in. 

Keep your eye on the ball.


And so begins a film franchise over a decade in the making, the first installment of Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower series. The books are a must-read for fans of basically anything–with traces of western, horror, sci-fi-fi, dystopia, and fantasy all playing equal parts–but the first movie that was released this weekend is a maybe-see only for those who haven’t read the 7-book series. I’m really not intending to be snooty here, but it genuinely feels as if screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and director Nikolaj Arcel took every book of the series, dumped the words into a big heaping pile, set that pile on fire, plucked out random words that didn’t get too badly burned, and tossed those into a screenplay and script.

The book series centers around Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger in a ruined world who relentlessly and obsessively moves toward the Dark Tower, a powerful structure that holds every parallel dimension and alternate world together. If the tower falls, the universe falls. His deep complexities in his relationships to others and to his own past drive the story forward, culminating in powerful ways throughout the books. The movie centers around Roland Deschain, a guy who’s real mad at another guy and wants to shoot him up real good. His unconvincing beef with the man in black doesn’t do much for the story you want to hear, boring the audience in powerful ways throughout the movie. I guess there are some good shooting parts and decent visuals.

Look, I hear all the time that you need to take movies separately from their books. I tend to think that’s a load of garbage, but I was honestly more ready to do that with this movie that any other adaptation I’ve seen (those who have read the book and understand the horn know what I mean). Even then, the mark is way too far off to ignore. Matthew McConaughey‘s Walter came across like a sleazy Vegas casino boss rather than the intensely enigmatic and frustratingly elusive Man in Black from the books, and his completely out-of-order association with the low men and Taheen at this point stripped him of his mystery and independent power. With far more time spent in New York than in Midworld, Roland’s hard-chiseled mystique is only barely hinted at, with a flimsy revenge plot being his sole motivator (gimme a break with Walter’s “stop breathing” hand gestures). More than anything else at this point, Roland should be motivated by the tower. He brushes that quest off for much of the movie, only returning to it because Jake’s mom died, I guess? Then Jake shoots a can, Roland shoots a machine and saves New York, and now Jake is a gunslinger. Put a Hollywood bow tie on it and never make another one, please.

I have way too many issues to name with this adaptation, and I didn’t want this post to turn into a novel on its own for which Arcel would butcher a movie adaption, but I want to strongly suggest that fans of the books should just leave this one alone.  It just really felt like the studio didn’t want to commit to a long and drawn out franchise à la Harry Potter, so it took cluttered aspects of each book and crammed them into a stuttering 90 minutes. Based on this movie, there is no Wolves of the Calla, and The Drawing of the Three apparently happens after The Wastelands and portions of Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower. And The Gunslinger, which could have been adapted to an excellent first movie with a little extra exposition, was hacked to pieces until you were basically left with the desert. No speaking ring, no palaver at the Western Sea, no under the mountain, no “other worlds than these.”

So go see it if you want, but keep your expectations aggressively low. You may enjoy a good portion of the action, but a botched order and stunted attempts at way too many things have utterly ruined any hope I have for long-term success here. Maybe it’s time for round three through the books. Talk Dark Tower below with me, or just go for an open swim.

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