I’m not up on my high horse here (you’ll know when I am, I promise.), I’m not going to shame you or deny you your opinions. I’m not being a contrarian or affecting a quirky love of something unpopular. I’m not a blind but faithful Stephen King fanboy pulling a defense of anything bearing his name. But I am going to defend Nikolaj Arcel’s The Dark Tower movie. Please, put down your pitchforks and hear me out. When I’m done you’re welcome to chase me down with torches, but for now, just listen.
(Spoilers for the books ahead)
For context: I have read the books, and I love them, warts and all. A little meandering, sometimes uneven, sometimes taking odd digressions exactly when I need the story to focus up, sure, but still wonderful books. They not only tell the story of the Gunslinger (Roland Deschain) following the Man in Black across the desert, but lays out a massively huge world (and worlds within worlds), which intersects with many of King’s other work, and even King himself! Which was risky, but works. Mostly. They do a bit of lampshade hanging to fudge it when it wobbles, but it’s still great!
In the fifth book, Wolves of the Calla, robots dressed like Dr. Doom use lightsabers and Quidditch Snitches to steal children, but Roland helps the villagers defeat them, who use deadly plates.
My point is, the books are incredible, but not perfect. Not above critique, and certainly not above doing some very ridiculous, potentially very silly things. If you’re the type who watches movies and mutters angrily to yourself “But in the BOOK…”, keep all that in mind. Also, try very hard to separate the literary and cinematic forms of expression. They can never fully occupy the same space. (If you figure out a way to separate them in your mind and temper expectations, please let me know how you did this. I am still trying)
I know, I said this was going to be about the movie. It is, but now that I’ve gotten the book stuff out of the way, we can all agree that I’ve read the books, I love the books, my credentials are established. So let’s ignore the books entirely now, because I’m gonna talk about the movie!
(Spoilers for the movie ahead)
I’ve been yearning for this movie since they started waving scriptments around town and casually attaching directors and actors. Along with The Watchmen and Tristram Shandy, this was a book that seemed unfilmable, and I really really wanted to watch someone try. And holy crap, Idris?? I not only get a Dark Tower movie but Roland is IDRIS?? Don’t bother getting me anything for my birthday then, that’s all I need!
Then the trailer dropped, and I got a little antsy. Nothing wrong with it, really. But nothing exhilarating either. And it was clearly not the first book. It was some new thing. Okay, that’s fine. It’s a tricky book, I’m sure adapting it-…oh…90 minute runtime you say? I don’t…well okay. I’ve already pre-ordered my ticket so…
Here we go…
Honestly, I spent almost the entire run of this movie waiting for it to get bad. And it just never did. It never soared to the heights of reading the book (see how I’m still not separating the two?) but it never bored me, never lost my interest, and it spent most of it’s time doing really cool things. A 2017 version of an 80’s fantasy movie. A spiritual sequel to The NeverEnding Story.
(Remember at the end of book seven, The Dark Tower, when King addresses the reader directly, warning against disappointing endings? Keep that in mind as you read the rest of this article.)
The Dark Tower is a fun movie. The Dark Tower is well made movie. The Dark Tower is a good movie. If you wanted to see the books on screen, you didn’t get that, so fair enough if you had a bummer time. Other than that though, I’m not sure why this movie got so beat up. Smack dab in the middle of our 80’s nostalgia kick, with our Stranger Things, our IT, even a sweating, nervous eye towards Russia, why wouldn’t this movie click with people? I’m honestly asking, book expectations aside, personal quirks aside (sometimes, ya just don’t like a movie.) why didn’t this go over?? From ratpeople henchmen, so the unabashed, child menacing villain, to the adorable, hot dog wielding, walk into the sunset, “many more hardships and adventures before he got back”, magic portal ending. This from tusk to tail, felt like a pure 80’s throwback movie. Intentionally or not, that’s what I took away.
And that’s all. A trim, streamlined, fantasy sci-fi movie, that doesn’t do anything wrong, even if it maybe didn’t get everything right. At worst, a harmless genre movie you don’t have to watch again, at best, a throwback film that fits in perfectly with the current trends, if you let it take you there. I don’t think I can sway anyone’s opinion of the movie (I haven’t yet, anyway), but I promised you a defense, and there it is. You may pick up your pitchfork and chase me down with your torches now, if you like.
There are other worlds than these.
Some of those things are scripts he wants to produce or sell.
Some of those things are articles for this very website.
Many of those things are scripts for The Theatre of Tomorrow, a sci-fi anthology audiodrama.
His favorite food is still cheese pizza.
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- If No One Else Is Going to Defend THE DARK TOWER, Then I Will! - September 27, 2017