Adaptations walk a hard line. On one side, they have the long-time fans of the source material, anxious to see what characters and plot points are cased aside and changed. While simultaneously creating something appealing to the public. Appeasing both the ravenous fans, and blockbuster devoted public, in an attempt to make back their money, and win the summer box office.
Adapting Stephen King’s work to the big screen, is nothing new. Starting with Brian De Palma’s Carrie in 1976, up to The Dark Tower, Gerald’s Game and the remake of It in 2017. Many have been exposed to the work of King, without ever picking up a single brick sized novel. King’s storytelling, and worlds have become well known and treasured to many, through multiple mediums. While many of his stories, such as The Shining, Christine, and The Green Mile are all celebrated works, none are more praised than the world and legacy of The Dark Tower series.
Born of seven original books in the series, followed by an eighth in 2012, and a series of prequel comics, written by Robin Furth and Peter David, with stunning art by Jae Lee. The Dark Tower is a celebrated series, mixing the genres of dark fantasy, science fantasy, horror and westerns. King has described the series as his magnum opus. With legions of devoted fans to the series, the thought of a big screen adaptation is both exciting, and nerve racking.
When adapting such an expansive and well-loved work, it may well be best to take a more lenient approach to adaptation. Carrying the tone and spirit. Conveying what captured the original fans attention. An example of this can be seen with the two adaptations of The Shining. The Stanley Kubrick adaptation is highly praised, and adored the world over. However, it breaks away heavily from the source material, only carrying the soul and characters through to the end. Years later, an adaptation was created as a two-part series, that stayed as faithful to the source material as it could. This version is universally panned for its extended and unnecessarily excessive dialogue, and poor attempts at horror. The Dark Tower is in no way a completely faithful adaptation. Instead, it takes its cues from the Kubrick version of The Shining, and takes the characters and spirit in a somewhat different direction.
The film takes place in two worlds. In modern day New York, and the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is home to the Gunslinger. In our world, the film follows the young Jake Chambers, as night after night, he experiences dreams of another world. A world where children are strapped into a machine, their screams combine, energy bursting out of a machine. A dark tower suffering damage. Faceless men. A Man in Black, and a Gunslinger roaming the desert. The more the dreams happen, the stronger the earthquakes that hit New York. As his mother and stepfather attempt to send him away to get help, he finds himself pursued by the faceless men of his dreams. Finding an old house he sees in his dreams, he is transported to the world he has been dreaming of, and the Gunslinger. Roland Deschain of Gilead.
Ultimately, The Dark Tower is a thoroughly enjoyable film in its own right. From it’s opening moments, it sucks you in, and keeps your attention throughout. Something that’s rarely seen lately. Acted well throughout, with the obvious stand outs of Idris Elba as Roland, and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black. Though the young Tom Taylor does a fine job of emoting in the role of Jake, a demanding role, that he carries well. Idris Elba plays Roland as a warn and scarred man. One who has clearly been burdened by his past, carrying the weight of being the last of the Gunslingers. McConaughey’s Man in Black comes off at times as a 12a version of Jessica Jones’s Killgrave. Especially when giving commands to random strangers in the street. However, the character is still engaging, and makes for a compelling and truly threatening villain. Together, with a memorable, and strong supporting cast. They greatly anchor the film.
Enjoyable throughout, and highly engaging, with numerous Easter intertextual references. The Dark Tower takes the dense and expansive world King created, and provides a thrilling and satisfying film.