The phrase, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came,” first crept into my awareness through Robert Browning; it was a bit of a surprise when I encountered an earlier version of the phrase in “King Lear.“ When Stephen King appropriated the phrase as the basis for a massive series of dark fantasies, I recognized the allusion easily. Hollywood has finally tackled the series with what may be a new franchise.
I had misgivings about “The Dark Tower“ when I saw the first trailer several months ago, but, I am happy to report that the film is better than I expected. It is far from perfect, but I have to applaud the effort to contain plot elements from the first three of King’s massive volumes in about 97 minutes.
Part of the credit has to go to the cast, particularly Idris Elba as Roland, the last “gunslinger” in the world where the Dark Tower stands, and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, a figure who appears in other works by King, particularly “The Stand.“ There are strong whiffs of “The Lord of the Rings,” and there is a definite statement that Roland’s weapons were once part of King Arthur’s Excalibur.
There may be sequels; the film is self-contained, but there are numerous loose ends. If this film makes money, there will be sequels. Those who have waded through the entire saga will remember that King incorporated plot elements from some of his other novels; the best example would be the priest who lost his faith when facing the vampires in “Salem’s Lot.“ He is an essential part of the struggle in several volumes. I would really like to see a film version of the priest’s redemption.
*A side note: there was an interesting article in the Houston Chronicle (page B3, August 3, 2017) about the rapid decline of several theater chains. I have fussed frequently about declining service and rising prices at two of those chains; we may see the end of theaters in the next few years.