When it comes to development hell, no other property in Hollywood knows those two words as intimately as Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. It’s a franchise that has spent most of its life stuck in some form of limbo, like a Olympic event haunted by the ghosts of a dead Jamaican team of athletes, bouncing around between studios and ideas. Script changes here and there, casts being announced and then buggering off. Man, it has been a long road.
But that road is finally leading somewhere, with a proper movie adaptation featuring none other than Idris Elba as the gunslinger Roland Deschain as he hunts after Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black. The biggest challenge with bringing The Dark Tower to the big screen however, has been the sheer volume of work that Stephen King has written for his universe of future west cowboys and magicians on a warpath.
It would be impossible to properly, faithfully adapt all of that content into one movie. So it’s not going to. Instead, The Dark Tower is actually going to be a sequel. Kind of. We initially thought the movie would serve as a remix of the best bits of the various novels, to create a unique first film that isn’t too beholden to the source material. Just like comic book movies do these days. But as we recently thought it would, this film will indeed serve as a sequel to the original books, which actually makes perfect sense if you’ve read them, because MASSIVE FREAKIN’ SPOILERS HEY I’M WARNING YA DON’T MAKE ME FLEE ACROSS THE DESERT:
Right, as I was saying, this makes sense. If you’ve read the books, you know that each time Roland finally reaches the Dark Tower, he discovers that he has been stuck in a time loop. The final book in the series laid down a revelation that Roland has made this journey many, many times already, with his destination resetting his mind, boy and memories each and every time he arrives. And director Nikolaj Arcel has now officially confirmed to EW that this is exactly what is happening in this movie.
According to EW, the upcoming film could chart his final journey, as he holds in his possession the Horn of Eld that signals the end of his quest and the beginning of a new one as he seeks to finally stop the warlock known as the Man in Black (Or just Walter), from destroying the tower and all order in the multiverse. To do that, Roland has to protect a young psychic boy, known as Jake (Tom Taylor), who has an ability known as “the Shine”. Not “The Shining”, because we don’t have to worry about being sued this time.
“Until he meets Jake, he doesn’t have anything to believe in, really,” Elba said to EW.
He’s really pent up and releases his soul through [defending] the boy.
One other difference between the film and the novels, is that Roland is a white guy, whereas Elba is not. None of that actually matters, because I don’t want to live in a universe where Idris Elba doesn;t play Roland because he’s a properly kickass actor as it is. And as Elba himself explained, what’s more important is the character beneath the skin than the actual colour of a fictional gunslinger:
It’s better just to treat it like no big deal. There should be no difference. The character that was written in Stephen’s imagination, it could be any color. It just happens to be me and, you know? In the artwork, it just so happens to be a white guy, but I don’t think that makes any difference. … I think what’s great about it, if I want to say anything about it, is that it is a sign of the times in terms of a colorless society. People go, ‘A good actor is a good actor,’ you know?
And I agree completely. Fictional characters and all that. Elba also explained that Roland has been walking the planet for decades now, fine-tuning a connection with the supernatural and becoming more acquainted with the history of the world. “There’s a mystical element to him,” Elba said.
He’s about 200 years old. He’s been around for a long time, and has a deep-rooted connection with the [supernatural] nature of the film. Roland’s completely tuned into that. When you meet him, he’s very much a stoic man, doesn’t want to talk. But when you get to know him, he really knows quite a bit about the world and his world’s history.
As for his nemesis Walter, McConaughey explained that he’s bringing a very human touch to the man in black who has been behind the scenes as a force of evil in any Stephen King novel:
Well, he is a man, actually. They wanted to go very human and grounded with this. Obviously there are mythical proportions of good and evil in Walter. But we didn’t want to go overly fantastic. That would drop the humanity. So Walter, for me, is a man who exposes hypocrisies.
The Dark Tower is currently shooting over at Cape Town. According to EW, they got to see a scene that featured “Taheen, demonic, half-human creatures with animalistic qualities — but they are currently in our world. They disguise themselves as human beings with rubbery masks, but their true identities are given away by a scar-like red seam running down the sides of their necks.”
Roland emerges into a room dangling with what appear to be hundreds of scalps — the long clusters of hair drooping down and swaying in the breeze like spider legs.
Donnie Yen in a Star Wars movie and Idris Elba slapping iron in the Dark Tower. What a time to be alive. The Dark Tower opens on February 17 2017.
Last Updated: July 15, 2016