It is a well-known fact that it’s extraordinarily difficult to watch a film adaptation of a story you love, especially when it’s as intricate as a high fantasy. When I heard that a movie adaptation was being made of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, I was so excited. Beyond excited – I was elated.
Of course, the problem was – the more details that were released about the story, the less inclined I was to see it. These things piled up and up until the very mention of The Dark Tower made me cringe. Ultimate, I didn’t see it in theaters. In fact, I didn’t see it until this summer, nearly a year after its release.
I waited. I waited for my husband to finish the books, and I’m glad I did. Without him sitting next to me, I would have shut off the movie and carried on with my life. The Dark Tower was a film filled with disappointment and Easter Egg-style Stephen King references but ultimately? It felt unrelated to the story.
It’s Nozz-a-La to Coca-Cola, mes amis.
The more I think about it, that’s the best I can come up with: change the names, and it feels like a derivative tale, like bad fan fiction. I have given myself 24 hours after viewing to write a less enraged post. For me, watching The Dark Tower was akin to seeing all seven Harry Potter books smushed into one with Ron and Hermione cut and Dobby yelling at Harry for being too afraid to kill Voldemort. This film stripped the best parts of the story and let us with a rotten shell.
But don’t take my word for it. Here are some examples where I felt the film failed fans.
- Eddie and Susannah have been cut. We knew this was coming pretty much from the beginning and I tried to not let it effect me, but it did. These two characters are amazing and it’s like cutting out your liver and right lung. Besides, it takes the trio – Eddie, Suse, and Jake – to humanize Roland. Without the three of them, he’s flat. And I don’t blame this on Idris Elba’s acting, I just feel like there’s no point for Roland to be doing anything. Which leads me to point two:
- This is Roland’s revenge story. Roland’s quest throughout the series is forever to reach the Dark Tower. I can elaborate a little more on how even with the “twist” of this being a different attempt (also, filmmakers, helluva way to ruin the biggest twist in the series?) how this just don’t make sense to the story King wrote.
- Jericho Hill was the most unimpressive thing. The choice to put a scene from Jericho Hill was entirely the filmmakers, but instead of showing Cuthbert and the massacre of the powers of John Farson vs. Gilead, it is just a foggy scene with Roland talking to his father (Stephen Deschain was never with Roland in this battle) and then Walter coming and being a dick and leaving like “kay then”.
- Jake’s family life went from a parallel to Roland’s to cliche. Jake was a smart kid from a rich – if negligent family – and they changed this in the movie to his being a momma’s boy, but mom’s in a bad marriage and dad’s dead. It reminded me of Percy Jackson, but not in the good way.
- All the bad guys are combined. I’m pretty sure the vamps were just cut, but the wolves and the lowmen have been merged into one (not so scary) monster. I’m 85% sure that Walter = The Crimson King w/ Mordred’s psychic powers. And since the New Plot was to take down the Tower, there were new dark beasties created for them to fight in the forest.
I can go on and on with the minutia. I can’t speak of the film as a standalone, because I’m so engrossed by the story I think I may be projecting. I felt like even as a story, the script was very phoned in. There was no character development, a lot of whining, and a lot of trust that the viewer would just accept what was going on. Sure, from time to time there’d be a fun little Easter Egg (19-19) but for the most part… the film was a mess. Structurally, the plot was super awkward. And it pretty much gave the middle finger to the subject matter.
I just don’t get it. Every once and a while, I see a review pop up saying “Just saw The Dark Tower and it was amazing”. I am happy for those people, but I truly don’t understand the appeal. At best, it’s action porn.
For myself, I’m still waiting. Still waiting to see King’s twisted epic fantasy only screen with all the grit and adventure promised in its pages.
Waiting for that true beginning: The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.