“The Dark Tower” Is Heartbreaking For Fans Of The Books – BuzzFeed News
Perhaps the biggest misstep of all is how much of the movie rests on Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor). The Dark Tower should be Roland’s story, but the film sidelines the gunslinger in favor of giving more screen time to the youngest member of his ka-tet. Instead of an epic battle between good and evil — or even a much simpler showdown between Roland and the Man in Black — we get a generic story about a young boy who discovers he has special powers. That’s not only derivative — it also reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what made the Dark Tower series work. Much like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, King’s books work best when they’re subverting familiar tropes, whether the genre is Western, fantasy, or sci-fi. Instead, in an effort to make the material more accessible, the writers of this Dark Tower have regurgitated the blandest of YA plots.
The half-assed storyline might be somewhat forgivable if the film at least had a stronger sense of the characters that grounded King’s opus. When his story went off the rails — and that happened more often than books fans might like to admit — we had compelling, richly developed characters to keep us from losing interest. But aside from his iteration of the gunslinger code (“I do not aim with my hand…”), this Roland bears little resemblance to the book version. He is motivated not by the Tower, but by revenge against the Man in Black. And while he appears hardened by his past, his trademark stoicism quickly melts away as he bonds with Jake. One of the most memorable moments in The Gunslinger comes when Roland lets the boy fall to his death — the film’s Roland will stop at nothing to save him. That, coupled with Elba’s natural charisma, might make him easier to root for, but it also renders him unrecognizable to book fans.
And if this movie isn’t for fans of the book, why include so many deep-cut references? A commercial with talking raccoons leads Roland to ask Jake if the animals in his world still talk, an oblique reference to billy-bumblers that means absolutely nothing to nonreaders. We see roses and the number 19 scattered throughout. And there are nods to the Crimson King but never any explanations as to who that is, or how he relates to the Man in Black. If these in-jokes were an attempt at appeasing fans, they backfire, serving only to remind readers of what might have been: a billy-bumbler reference just makes Oy’s absence that much more keenly felt. Meanwhile, The Dark Tower makes a point to include Sayre (Jackie Earle Haley), Pimli (Fran Kranz), and Arra Champignon (Claudia Kim), characters even those who have read the series probably only vaguely remember.
Rather than try to be a perfectly faithful adaptation or the clusterfuck that we ended up with, The Dark Tower could have learned valuable lessons from Game of Thrones. The HBO series has made plenty of diversions from Martin’s novels, but it has at least captured the themes and broad strokes of his story. But The Dark Tower has more in common with the dreadful 2007 adaptation of The Golden Compass, which also flattened a rich, complex narrative into completely forgettable pablum. That, too, should have been the start of an expansive series but turned out so disappointing that book fans were grateful the project was DOA. The Dark Tower may actually continue — the prequel series appears to be going forward — but don’t expect book readers who suffer through the film to tune in. For us, the Tower has already fallen.