Thinking about this movie frustrates me. There is no sense in tip-toeing around that fact. Leaving the theater, I was very frustrated with the movie. I was not frustrated by the movie not being a straight adaptation of The Gunslinger, although that will come up later on. I was not frustrated by any of the casting, as this is a fairly well acted movie. What frustrated me was the fact that the movie got so many of the small details correct, that it felt they lost sight of the larger picture. I am frustrated because it seems like this is a movie made for no one.
Since watching the movie, I kept asking myself, “would I have enjoyed this movie more if I had never read The Dark Tower series?” At first I thought, possibly, but I am not certain of that now. Sure, had I never read the books, I would not have entered the theater with any expectations of what the story could have been. However, I also think I may have been lost for much of the movie if I did not have any prior knowledge about who was appearing on screen and what they were doing. (Spoilers ahead.)
First thing that frustrated me was that this movie was more of a story about Jake Chambers than it was of Roland Deschain. An unrecognizable Jake Chambers at that. The movie starts with showing Jake, living with his loving mother and uncaring step-father, having visions about everything going on with Roland and the Man in Black (Walter) in Mid-world. Jake’s father was a firefighter who died heroically. The movie focuses too heavily on Jake. He introduces the concepts. He is how we are introduced to Roland. He is the one Walter is after, because he has the power to bring down the wall. Roland’s fight with Walter is a rescue mission for Jake. It is all too much.
The Dark Tower series is not a story about Jake. It is a story about Roland and his quest to reach the Dark Tower. Which made scenes in which Roland said that he did not care about the tower nonsensical. Even in The Gunslinger, when Roland is chasing Walter across the desert, it is still all about reaching the tower. Walter is just a part of that journey. But, if you had never read the books, you would not know any of this.
Had you never read the books, you also probably would not understand why there were so many references to other Stephen King books in the movie. Maybe think they were just too many Easter eggs for the sake of being cute, when in fact, they are a large clue about the larger world The Dark Tower series exists in. Not that that larger world is ever truly explained in the movie, but it is too early for that.
Just like it was probably too soon to bring in the concepts of the beams, and the Breakers (loosely), and taheen. It seems like you wanted to introduce all of the cool things happening at the end of the books without ever actually doing any of the work to get there. They did not want to introduce Roland in the desert and build from there. Instead, they wanted to start in the middle of some story and go from there.
I fully believe that Idris Elba could have carried that movie. Picturing Elba as Stephen King’s copy of the “Man With No Name” character is what initially made me really interested in this movie, and he does excel when given the chance. Just like Matthew McConaughey made for an excellent Walter. But, they are not really given time to develop. Part of what I loved with the books was the ability to see Roland go from loner to the point where he truly feels he is part of a family, but that does not happen here. It cannot happen since we are introduced to Roland by Jake, rather than the other way around.
And that is probably enough rambling for this review. I know the movie frustrated me, but know that I don’t think it is a bad movie. It is a fine action movie to watch. It is just frustrating to me, because I feel like the movie could have been so much better had they treated it a bit more like an adaptation, and less like an original story or sequel to the books.