After years of false starts and near-misses, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series is finally making the leap to the big screen in February 2017.
With Idris Elba strapping on the sandalwood-gripped revolvers of gunslinger Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey set to don the cloak of the sinister Man in Black, fans are clamouring to find out what else from King’s magnum opus will make it onto the silver screen.
Fortunately, thanks to an Entertainment Weekly interview with King and director Nikolaj Arcel – not to mention a breakdown of a previous draft of the script over on Ain’t It Cool News – we can now make at least five predictions regarding what lies in store for Roland and his ka-tet next year.
(In case it wasn’t clear already, this article has been written with those who have already read The Dark Tower novels in mind; if you haven’t read the books and want to go into the movie unspoiled, you should probably wait for next month’s spoiler free Live From The Pop Culture Studio Dark Tower primer episode scheduled to land next month).
5. It’s going to start the same way as the books do
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed” – the opening line of the first book in the series, The Gunslinger, has since gone on to become one of the most iconic in the series. Surely, there’s no other way for the film version to begin?
Well, according to King, the previous drafts by screenwriters Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner planned to do just that, until he insisted that the original opening be retained. Whilst Constant Readers will no doubt be thrilled to see such fidelity being shown towards the source material, they shouldn’t expect too slavish an adaptation, because…
4. The rest of the plot is going to be very different
Well, maybe that’s a slight overstatement – but still, fans shouldn’t expect this first film to be a direct recreation of The Gunslinger and its closest sequels, The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands. Based off comments by King and Arcel – and judging from the script reviewed by AICN – after we open with Roland’s pursuit of the Man in Black, the story will actually jump forward to cover events from the latter two books, skipping over much of the source material inbetween.
This will also include a re-arranging of the order in which certain happenings transpire, and in the case of Jake Chamber’s introduction to the story, the streamlining of similar related episodes together into one scene. And speaking of Jake, although it’s safe to say you can expect to see Roland’s surrogate son on the big screen next February, you might want to prepare yourself for the fact that…
3. Several key characters won’t show up this time around
Specifically, don’t expect to see either Eddie or Susannah pop up during this outing. It might seem crazy to fans that a Dark Tower film covering material from the first three instalments in the series won’t include two of the core characters from those books (and the series itself as whole), but apparently the pair are only foreshadowed this time around, suggesting they’re being held back to be used in the event a sequel film/TV series gets the green light.
Turning our attention to the slightly wider cast, the jury is still out on whether everyone’s favourite talking dog-thing Oy will make an appearance (although my bet is he won’t), and the lack of flashbacks in the script suggests that none of the major figures from Roland’s past will be getting any screentime either. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of characters who only appear in the later Dark Tower novels, you might want to start rejoicing, since…
2. Several characters will debut earlier than expected
The virtue of scripting a Dark Tower film after King has already wrapped up the series is that the filmmakers have a pretty good idea of what characters, places and concepts from the later books they’d like to set-up earlier in the story.
Based off the recent casting announcements (as well as Goldsman and Pinkner’s screenplay), it seems highly likely that we’ll get to visit Devar-Toi significantly earlier than we did in the books, and that means we’ll meet Pimli Prentiss and Tirana, as well as the Taheen and the Can-Toi, much earlier than expected.
There’s also word that the Manni are set to make an appearance in this outing, and one wonders if Arcel plans to establish the Crimson King as the overall series big bad up front, in contrast to King’s more delayed reveal (this seems likely, given the inclusion of Devar-Toi mentioned earlier).
Whilst hardcore Constant Readers are likely pulling out their hair right now in reaction to all these changes to their beloved story, there’s really nothing to get stressed over, since…
1. Roland will be carrying the Horn of Eld
As book fans already know (and seriously, stop reading NOW if you’re new to the series), The Dark Tower has two endings. One is a happy ending that neatly resolves all the major plot threads. The other is a coda which King begs us not to read.
In it, we follow Roland into the Tower itself, where he is judged for the various crimes of action and (just as often) inaction he committed in order to further his single-minded quest. His punishment? To be sent back to the beginning of the very first book in the series, to relive his life all over again, with the faint hope that this time, he will make the right choices and break a cycle he has unknowingly been trapped in for countless years.
Whilst this might seem a bit of a downer (and it really is a haunting, brutal turn of events), the revelation that the next time around, Roland is carrying with him the Horn of Eld – something he had callously abandoned in his previous lifetime – gives readers consolation that this time, things might actually work out for the gunslinger.
Now, what does all this mean for The Dark Tower movie? Well, according to numerous sources, in the film, when we first meet Roland, he already has the Horn of Eld in his possession. This basically means that the film is able to work as a sequel to books – AICN aptly compares it to the soft reboot of the Star Trek franchise – meaning that any changes made to the characters or story won’t actually be contradicting the books.
It’s a smart choice and gives Arcel and his team a lot of freedom, but my only concern is that it means we might not ever get to see the original coda sequence brought to life on screen (unless another symbol can be substituted in place of the Horn of Eld), which seems like a big missed opportunity to me.