The Dark Tower – a brief review

I cannot tell you what the DT series means to me, not really. Not fully. It’s the same with the Talisman and with Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. You know some philosophies say that there is no true self, that we are a sum of our experiences and our experiences a sum of us? In that sense, whatever happened to me when I read and re-read these series became enfolded as part of me. They color the way I see values like friendship and loyalty and the fight against evil. Yet I wouldn’t say I’m a fan in the usual sense of the word. It’s just part-of.

I watched the Dark Tower last Thursday and Idris Elba is a gunslinger. I think he can be Roland. It’s just that the film was too short to bring it out fully. Even the hubs thought it was too short. World-building is an essential element of storytelling and I’m afraid that’s the bit they really, really skimped on for this movie. The thing is, this time, Roland has the Horn of Eld so I know this means that the story won’t be the same as in the books. But I wish they kept some elements because it’ll make for more compelling storytelling later on because aside from world-building, the other thing that makes a story come alive is conflict. Because we’re asses.

— SPOILERS —

What I liked: Portrayals of Roland, Walter O’Dim, Jake Chambers, the external of the Dutch Hill House, the desert, the Manni village, the depictions of Ta-heen, the creepy twin village

What I didn’t like:

I didn’t like that Roland didn’t get his fingers on his dominant hand chewed off by lobstrosities on the western beach. It was supposed to be this huge thing that’s supposed to disable him (and it did for some time) but doesn’t. This is the reason he had to reluctantly let Eddie use one of his guns before he could trust him completely. This was a conflict in his identity until of course we realise that gunslinging goes much deeper than merely the use of guns. A possible save for this is that the poison the thinny-monster infected him with could still take out the use of his hand.

I didn’t like that the birth of Jake into Mid-World was so easy. It was supposed to be difficult. And Roland was supposed to let him die first, in his pursuit of the Tower. So the eventual reunion is more heartwrenching because Jake actually asks him “You won’t let me drop this time?” because Jake knew, at that very moment when Roland chose the Tower over him, that Roland chose the Tower over him. That’s why he uttered “Go then, there are other worlds than these.” And that’s when that internal conflict that was only solved by the rose the key the door happened. Mid-World isn’t supposed to be easy to get to.

I didn’t like the inside of Dutch Hill House. That place was evil. You should read the paragraph with the descriptions of the peeling wallpaper that had elves on it. That monster of a doorkeeper was boss-level. Not that thing in the movie that stopped just because Jake yelled at it to stop. Again, that birth into Mid-World was supposed to be like childbirth – painful, bloody, effortful. I’m not sure how they would have filmed it, since Susannah helped by Detta Walker that bitch was supposed to be fucking the spirit in the speaking stones when they drew the doorway in the dirt in the rain with the key that Eddie carved out of Ashwood, all the while hearing his dead brother teasing him about his affinity for whittling. This was the key that stilled the voices in Roland’s head when he had the overlapping realities (there was a boy; there wasn’t a boy) threatening his sanity. And Jake had a real key on his end too that also helped him with the voices (I was dead; I wasn’t dead) and both of them had to get the keys exactly right in order for the doorway to materialise. And when the door flew open on Jake’s side and it was filled with mud, his wail of despair was something my teenage heart could not bear. And then Eddie steeled his gunslinger’s heart and realised that the shape of his key was wrong. He had to fix it. He had to fix it or Jake would be stuck mid-birth. And when he did and Roland asked Susannah to release the demon so it could go wrestle with the doorkeeper and they yanked Jake through, I swear, I could have cried. And then Jake asked the gunslinger if he would drop him again. Seriously, lots of crucial storytelling moments there.

Let’s not mention that Jake met with Calvin Towers in the Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind and saw the rose and the key.

I didn’t like that Jake Chamber’s father was a stepdad and his mom cared about him. And his dad was a 9/11 firefighter so the Tower made sense to his shrink. Jake’s parents in the books barely noticed him. His nanny only did because she was paid. Jake was a stranger in that house. His dad was a high-strung ad exec who wanted Jake to go to some branded school and his mom, well, I think she wasn’t really present emotionally either. So when Jake found his father figure in Roland, only to have him betray him, that’s conflict.

I didn’t like that Jake lived in the end. They could have made it that Roland left Jake to die again (but maybe not in the chair because then there won’t be a tower) and woke up on the beach, with the lobstrosities (did-a-chik? ded-a-chek?) near him, and a door glinting in a distance. But really, I didn’t mind. Because they can go find Eddie and Susannah now and maybe he can drop Jake somewhere.

But I really really want to see the doors. And I’ll tell you why the doors are so compelling – because they are just standing there. Here’s the extract in the Drawing of the Three (book 2) when he first encounters the one leading him to Eddie Dean who is currently on a plane in the air:

The gunslinger could hear a low droning noise. At first he thought it must be the wind or a sound in his own feverish head, but he became more and more convinced that the sound was the sound of motors . . . and that it was coming from behind the door.

Open it then. It’s not locked. You know it’s not locked.

Instead he tottered gracelessly to his feet and walked above the door and around to the other side.

There was no other side. Only the dark gray strand, stretching back and back.

Only the waves, the shells, the high-tide line, the marks of his own approach—bootprints and holes that had been made by his elbows. He looked again and his eyes widened a little. The door wasn’t here, but its shadow was.

He started to put out his right hand—oh, it was so slow learning its new place in what was left of his life—dropped it, and raised his left instead. He groped, feeling for hard resistance.

If I feel it I’ll knock on nothing, the gunslinger thought. That would be an interesting thing to do before dying!

His hand encountered thin air far past the place where the door—even if invisible—should have been.

Nothing to knock on.

And the sound of motors—if that’s what it really had been—was gone. Now there was just the wind, the waves, and the sick buzzing inside his head.

The gunslinger walked slowly back to the other side of what wasn’t there, already thinking it had been a hallucination to start with, a—

He stopped.

At one moment he had been looking west at an uninterrupted view of a gray, rolling wave, and then his view was interrupted by the thickness of the door. He could see its keyplate, which also looked like gold, with the latch protruding from it like a stubby metal tongue. Roland moved his head an inch to the north and the door was gone. Moved it back to where it had been and it was there again. It did not appear; it was just there.

He walked all the way around and faced the door, swaying.

He could walk around on the sea side, but he was convinced that the same thing would happen, only this time he would fall down.

I wonder if I could go through it from the nothing side?

Oh, there were all sorts of things to wonder about, but the truth was simple: here stood this door alone on an endless stretch of beach, and it was for only one of two things: opening or leaving closed.

The gunslinger realized with dim humor that maybe he wasn’t dying quite as fast as he thought. If he had been, would he feel this scared?

He reached out and grasped the doorknob with his left hand. Neither the deadly cold of the metal nor the thin, fiery heat of the runes engraved upon it surprised him.

He turned the knob. The door opened toward him when he pulled.

Of all the things he might have expected, this was not any of them.

The gunslinger looked, froze, uttered the first scream of terror in his adult life, and slammed the door. There was nothing for it to bang shut on, but it banged shut just the same, sending seabirds screeching up from the rocks on which they had perched to watch him.

You know, after reading the Drawing of the Three, as a teenager, I had an urge to open any door that I found in the hope that it will open to the Mohaine Desert, in the hope that it will open to where he is., where they are. (Yes, like most teenagers, I was disgruntled and looking for adventure.)

But ok. The film was ok. I just don’t know how they are going to continue and I hope that bringing Eddie and Susannah into Mid-World will at least be so difficult as to make up for the ease with which they brought Jake into it. Maybe Jake dies and has to go through the Dutch Hill house for real and this time the Doorkeeper is really boss-level.

That said, I’m looking forward to the TV series if it comes out. I hope HBO will take a shot at it. And then I hope it will be in animation form because I have no idea how they are going to film the sequences in real life. DT earned 19.5 million over the first weekend. Out of the 60 million budget, it’s not good. But it still topped the box-office that week.

Ka.

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