November 24, 2017
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  • Idris Elba is marvelous as Roland Eld in “The Dark Tower,” but the adaptation of Stephen King’s series leaves many questions unanswered.
    Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures
    Idris Elba is marvelous as Roland Eld in “The Dark Tower,” but the adaptation of Stephen King’s series leaves many questions unanswered.

“Dark Tower” Adaptation Urges An Interest In Reading The Book

Audrey Ruppert
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September 6, 2017

“The Dark Tower” is best summarized as a one-hour-and-35-minute teaser trailer for its source material, the “Dark Tower,” a series of novels by Stephen King. It was (at times, painfully) obvious that the film was condensed in order to meet an acceptable blockbuster runtime, downsized from an epic with complex backstory and intricate lore into bite-sized, simplified plot points. What would happen if “The Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter” or “Game of Thrones” had to be shortened to an hour and a half? While I have not read the octet of novels that encompass “The Dark Tower,” I imagine that something similar has occurred here; viewers were given only a cursory sneak peek into what must be a vast, expansive fictional world.

The plot is suspiciously simple: A dark tower protects the universe, which has stood since the beginning of time, and can be taken down only by “the mind of a child.” A sorcerer known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) is attempting to destroy the tower by strapping children to some sort of device and channeling their energy in the form of missiles against the tower in the hopes of knocking it down. As is typical of Stephen King, the story does not focus purely on the supernatural, but rather on where the supernatural meets the real world that we know and live in; we see this in “Carrie” and “The Shining.” The attacks on the tower have effects on the earth, causing massive earthquakes around the globe. We are introduced to a pubescent child as protagonist (another theme of King’s), Jake Chambers, a New York City resident who has been dreaming about the Dark Tower, and whose mother and stepfather are convinced he is mentally ill and needs treatment. Jake is eventually targeted by the Man in Black for his supernatural abilities, known as “the shine” (running out of ideas, Stephen?), and Jake seeks help from “the gunslinger,” Roland Eld (Idris Elba).

This leaves us with many, many questions. Why does the tower protect the universe? Who built it? How does it work? Why does the Man in Black want to take it down? Why are his minions faceless and forced to steal faces of others? What exactly happens if the tower falls down? Who were the gunslingers? Where did they get their guns from? Why are bullets rare in their universe? What happened during the war prior? What does Roland mean when he says his world has moved on?

I do not believe the film deserved as vicious a panning as it received from critics (at the time this article was written, the film sat at 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes); the director seems to have done the best job possible given the enormity of the task he was given. It may have been better to have made a proper, fully detailed first installment of a fantasy franchise with the risk of no sequel than to try to condense such a work into one film and face certain criticism from both diehard fans of the original series and complete novices to King’s universe. However, the film was good fun for what it was — Idris Elba is marvelous as Roland Eld, and Matthew McConaughey is surprisingly convincing as the sinister and clever sorcerer, despite his previous typecasting as a rambunctious, womanizing everyman with a penchant for saying, “All right, all right, all right.”

If you’re already a fan of King’s books, this film will likely leave you feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. If, however, you are like me and not yet inducted to the franchise, prepare to leave the theater with a desire to visit your local bookstore.


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