After years of development hell, a surprisingly quiet production, and a series of release date delays, the big screen adaptation of Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower is finally hitting theaters this August. The first trailer arrived this morning and it…well, it’s certainly not what this book fan expected. Everyone who loves these novels is going to carry their own baggage into this movie, which is already going to be a weird sell for normal folks.
So, in the interest of coming to terms with this movie as book reader, and to explain to newbies what the hell is going on, it’s time for a Dark Tower trailer breakdown.
Welcome to Mid-World, a dimension very much unlike our own that has seen far better days. What was once a thriving world is now in the midst of its own post-apocalypse, a collection of towns and settlements strewn across a violent landscape filled with monsters and magic. As you can see, a community of some kind has sprung up in the shadow of a ruined castle and it feels like it could be one of three places: Tull (a troubled town visited in the first Dark Tower novel), the Manni village (which we see for sure later in the trailer), or Algul Siento, a location introduced late in the actual books where the villainous “man in black” is housing psychic “breakers” who he is forcing to destroy the Dark Tower. Knowing that this film is effectively a remix of the novels and not a direct adaptation, I’m going to assume it’s the latter for now.
Meet Roland Deschain, the last of the gunslingers. In Stephen King’s books, Roland is very much a cowboy, described as a Clint Eastwood type, complete with a hat and western attire. We’ll talk more about the gunslingers themselves in a bit, but it’s worthy noting that the film adaptation seems to have really stripped the western out of The Dark Tower. While he still wields six-shooters and his clothes seems inspired by older styles, that long coat can come from a number of different eras and locations. For better or worse, Idris Elba’s Roland is no cowboy – he’s a completely different fantasy creation.
Portions of The Dark Tower were shot in South Africa, which seems to be an inspired choice to represent the beautiful and dangerous Mid-World. Plus, what genre-bending adventure movie would be complete with a sweeping shot of its solitary hero standing amidst the wilderness?
Meet the man in black. Otherwise known as Walter. Otherwise known as Marten. Otherwise known as Randall Flagg and the Walkin’ Dude. The chief villain of the Dark Tower series haunts the Stephen King multiverse, a powerful, scheming warlock with a habit of destroying entire worlds. In addition to his work in the Dark Tower stories, he’s also served as chief baddies in novels like The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon. To put it in terms some of you may understand, he’s the Thanos lurking above the entire Stephen King bibliography.
Here’s our first look at an action scene we see several times throughout the trailer: Roland, a pistol in each hand, fires upward…
…at a CGI beast that is moving too quickly to secure a clean screen shot. We’ll revisit this guy in a bit, but in the meantime, note its slightly-too-human-for-comfort face.
But first, let’s meet Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who awakes to find himself in the middle of an earthquake. Wait…an earthquake in New York City? The ground shaking has nothing to do with tectonic plates and everything to do with Walter, who is attempting to bring down the Dark Tower, the pillar that upholds all of creation and the many worlds, dimensions, and universes therein.
And Jake is no ordinary kid. He’s been having dreams of the Dark Tower, alternate worlds, and a host of mysterious people he has never met. Naturally, his psychiatrist thinks he’s just nuts. We know better, though. After all, those shadow sketches on the right…
…clearly depict Walter, played by Matthew McConaughey. This is the point where I’ll moan a little and say that I have a hard time buying this character in a modern suit – I always pictured him doing his evil deeds in a medieval cloak with a hood. Then again, this isn’t my take on The Dark Tower. This isn’t even Stephen King’s. This is director Nikolaj Arcel’s, and if he wants to put the man in black in a black suit, that’s his call. I’ll just grumble about it for a moment.
“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” The famous first line of the first Dark Tower book comes to mind with this shot, which sees Roland staring across a vast, desolate landscape. He’s in hot pursuit of the man who destroyed his world and now threatens all of existence, but it’s a big journey and there’s a long way to go.
Here’s another look at Jake’s dream drawings, many of which depict the Dark Tower in various stages of distress and several of which feature a sky with two suns or two moons. Others feature strange creatures, like the picture near the top center. Are these the Taheen, animalistic beings that traverse our world wearing masks that let them pass as human at a brief glance?
Since the Dark Tower novels connect Stephen King’s work into one sprawling literally universe, it’s only right that this trailer (and presumably the film itself) will be filled with Easter eggs. That right there is the Overlook Hotel, as seen in the film version of The Shining.
Speaking of evil buildings, one of Jake’s dream drawings take him to the house on Dutch Hill. It looks like a perfectly ordinary place where nothing bad could possibly happen, right? Wrong.
And here we are inside the house, which has seen better days. As we will soon see later in the trailer, there’s a lot more going on in this house than meets the eye. Interestingly, the house on Dutch Hill and Jake’s trip there occurs in the third Dark Tower book, The Waste Lands, which gives you an idea of how this movie is picking and choosing events from across all seven books to tell this story.
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