Friday, October 13, 2017

'The Dark Tower' Film Adaptation Has Forgotten the Face of Its Father

One of the most exciting and fulfilling moments I’ve had as a bibliophile is when I finally collected all (original) seven Dark Tower books.   As a reader and collector, the way I came upon them was ideal.  I got to find and purchase them in their chronological order.  Hence, I was able to read them in proper sequence.  I bought the first three books all at the same time.  As soon as I was done with The Gunslinger (book one), I became obsessed with it (in fact, if I remember it correctly, it’s also the first Stephen King book I’ve ever read, meaning it’s what got me into Stephen King).  I just knew by then I have to get and read the rest.  With books four and five, I got them one at a time, and it took a while before I found them.  It also took some time before I found books six and seven, but were fortunately side by side on display.  And great was my glee then.

So, yeah, I love The Dark Tower series.  It’s one of the best reads I’ve ever had.  I’m a huge fan, and have always wanted to see it adapted into film.  When it finally happened, I was beyond thrilled.  I remember learning the news from King’s Facebook page, and the feeling was almost the same as when I finally completed adding all Dark Tower books into my collection.  When Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey were cast respectively for Roland Deschain and Randall Flagg a.k.a. Marten a.k.a Walter, I thought the movie was heading towards a promising direction.  Along with It, I was extremely looking forward to see it.
Then, the promo images and trailer came, and one small detail had led me to believe that the movie was going to suck: Idris Elba’s Roland Deschain is wearing no cowboy hat!

Now, this may seem silly, but I thought that such omission means that the filmmakers don’t “get” the source material at all.  It’s in the collective charm of its various, random details – some of which are seemingly trivial, like a cowboy hat – that makes Dark Tower so, so appealing.  Next to the six-shooters, the cowboy hat is what provides the defining face-value mystique of a Gunslinger, which was intended by King to be basically the common romanticized depiction of Wild West cowboys/gunfighters, particularly Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” character.  At the start, it was set up as a “Western hero undergoing a gritty journey in a post-apocalyptic world.”  Then the series evolves with each new book – becoming grander, stranger, and more elaborate as the series progresses, and ending up as a whole as a terrific mashup of genres.
And as it turns out, my assessment based on the mere observation of an absent cowboy hat is proven true.  Indeed, the film adaptation doesn’t “get” the book series, and thus, fails to capture its charms, complexities, and nuances.   It’s critically panned, and fans of the books hated it.  Thus, I avoided watching it in theaters.  Waste of money.  I just waited until it became available, er, for free before I decided to watch it.

To be fair, I don’t think the movie by itself is godawful.  It entertains, and I might even have liked it if I hadn’t read the books.  However, if you have read the book series, and especially if it had an impact on you as much as it did on me, then you would have also immediately realized how the movie utterly feels like a bastardization.  It doesn’t even scratch the surface of the awesomeness of its source material.  The best way I can describe The Dark Tower series as a work of fiction is that it’s a “tragic epic” or an “epic tragedy.”  However, the film isn’t remotely like that in narrative, execution, or tone.  Rather, it simply takes elements from the books and assembled them into a completely generic movie.
“Generic.”  I guess that word completely sums up what I thought of this movie.  Actually, I have lots of gripes.  But I don’t have the patience to enumerate them in detail (okay, let me get one off my chest: Roland was shown carrying the Horn of Eld, and yet nowhere in the movie was it ever used or its significance explained.  Heck, its presence isn’t even acknowledged by any character.  All throughout the movie, it’s simply being shown being carried by Roland in his pack.  Arg!).  So let’s just leave it at that: the film’s greatest offense is turning one of literature’s weirdest, most fascinating, most unconventional pieces into something quite generic.  All of its other failings simply come as a result of that.

I really wish this gets rebooted as a big-budgeted TV series (a la Westworld) instead.

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