What happens when a seven book series is condensed into one adapted screenplay? You get The Dark Tower movie (and all of its crapness)
Yes I’m a “Tower Junkie”, the sad sap that waited for Wizard and Glass for so long and nearly fell to my knees when I held the 7th and final book of the series The Dark Tower at my local bookstore (remember those?).
Let’s face it, when news filtered through about casting for the movie and the rumour that the narrative was a continuation of the series in an alternate timeline and not the actual series timeline, alarm bells were ringing for Tower Junkies.
Neverthless, I was prepared to give the movie a chance. I was on board with the whole alternate timeline/universe thing, being a fan of Fringe. I also had not travelled on the Path of the Beam for a while, so my memory of the plots from Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower were a little spotty.
However the four screenwriters (Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinker, Anders Thomas Jensen and Nikolaj Arcel – who also Directed) and Ron Howard who served as producer were up against it when trying to adapt such a wonderful and rich narrative into a family friendly 95 minute runtime.
Unfortunately, despite our initial naive optimism, The Dark Tower movie adaptation has nothing on the books. But should we be surprised? The following reasons show why The Dark Tower series should never have been adapted into a movie script.Roland and his Ka-Tet. Source: The Dark Tower Wikia
1 – Cannibalising the source material
I’m a firm believer that no matter how good the casting, the visual effects or how skilful the director is, if the screenplay doesn’t stack up, then nothing can save a movie.
In the case of an adapted screenplay such as The Dark Tower, the major sin committed by the screenwriters was cherry picking certain plot points from the series.
Namely from Wolves of the Calla where children (specifically twins) were targeted by minions of the Crimson King (NOT the Man in Black) in order to break down the beams that supported the tower and The Gunslinger, the first novel in the series, where the Man in Black featured prominently.
The change to Jake Chambers’ backstory and current family life was too much of a cliche in comparison to his original, wealthy upbringing with distracted parents.
Also how characters “crossed over” to other worlds was edited severely with not much explanation on these so called electric powered doorways.
In many ways, the adapted screenplay became generic because of this cherry picking. It became a revenge plot where The Gunslinger/Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) hunts down The Man In Black/Walter (Matthew McConaughey) because Walter killed Roland’s Father; also Roland isn’t affected by Walter’s sorcery – not that there was an explanation for that either.
In many aspects this was the ultimate betrayal to Tower Junkies, changing Roland’s motivation to pure revenge and not even wanting to get to the Dark Tower.
2 – Deletion of major characterRoland and The Dark Tower Source: CinemaBlend
With a run time of only 95 minutes there were bound to be some changes, but deleting major characters? The second book in the series, The Drawing of the Three, was largely ignored; arguably it was also the best of the series.
It introduced us to Eddie Dean, Odetta Homes/Detta Walker/Susannah Dean and a much more wary and suspicious Jake Chamber – not to mention Oy of Midworld…
But to Ron Howard and co, these characters, their motivations and back stories weren’t necessary, which made the film narrative even more flawed and lacking in depth.
The missing characters were key to Roland’s character development, and without them, in the movie, he was just a cowboy with a fast draw bent on revenge against a sorcerer who wanted to rule a world full of monsters.
3 – Who are you?
When the script calls for a character to travel to another world, you would want some sense of wonder, fear even, perhaps a detailed explanation of this whole new world the character has stumbled in.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen in The Dark Tower. Jake Chambers continually dreams about both Walter, Roland and a haunted house which serves a doorway to Midworld (a plot device taken from The Drawing of the Three), and when he gets there, it feels like a bit of a letdown.
There’s not much exploration or reasoning for the state of the world it’s in. There was an opportunity and unfortunately it was lost.
But the worst aspect of the adapted screenplay was the initial interaction between Jake and Roland. To Roland, Jake just became another obstacle in the way of getting revenge on Walter, when there was an opportunity for the bond to be developed over their connection – The Man in Black.
This leads us to Jake’s ‘superpower’, “The Shine” (in the books it’s called “The Touch” and it had nothing to do with the elimination of the Dark Tower).
Because of this power he is hunted by Walter to complete his plans for the destruction of the Dark Tower.Roland and Jake in Midworld. Source: The Verge
4 – Any TV series spinoffs, sequels and prequels will be based on a false narrative
There was always also going to be a TV Series which will either be a prequel or a sequel. There hasn’t really been any concrete plan on what form the narrative will be, and that’s the problem.
It’s like starting off with a truly awful pilot episode and trying to write story arcs based untenable plot devices and lack of character backstories and character development.
From the outset, The Dark Tower series should have gone the route another popular series Game of Thrones went to – Cable TV series, instead of floundering around within the constraints of an adapted movie script.
The Dark Tower series was never thought of as unfilmable when compared to book series that have already adapted to screen, like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.
But the producers of The Dark Tower movie had no plans for multiple releases and it has lead to this doomed project.
5 – The Casting
The casting of Idris Elba caused much uproar from Tower Junkies. In the books the Gunslinger is Caucasian and clashes repeatedly with the Detta Walker character, who hates men – especially white men.
The producers explained that the movie was a continuation of the story in alternate timeline, it has something to do with the Horn of Eld that Roland carries around, although it is never referred to in the movie.
And I accepted this. It’s a different timeline, so there can definitely be changes to certain aspects of the characters. However, Elba was on a hiding to nothing with the material he had to work with.
The character he played had one objective: revenge, with the only grey area being a kid from another world begging him to help save his world by destroying the machine that fed on children.
All Elba could do was look grumpy, while relying on cool filming techniques to showcase The Gunslinger’s shooting and reloading skills.
Even how he reacted to being in “Keystone Earth” was reserved, to the point of genial. Perhaps it has something to do with how he and Jake crossed over from Midworld – boring compared to the elaborate and mind blowing set up in the books.
But the producers wanted to take the easy way out by removing important material for the sake of a family friendly movie length feature.Idris Elba as Roland. Source: Sciencefiction.com
With the success of Game of Thrones, which in book form is even more epic than The Dark Tower series, it could easily be transferrable to serialised form with an accurate adaptation.
Unfortunately, us Tower Junkies can only hope that a fan friendly reboot in 20 years will allow an accurate retelling of the Ka-Tet’s quest for the Dark Tower.
We listed The Dark Tower movie adaptation in our 17 excited films to be most excited for in 2017. We were wrong. But what do you think?