There have been all kinds of movies that I have looked forward to seeing in my life.  Several of them have come out this past year.  I was excited for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.  I couldn’t wait to see what they were going to be doing with War for the Planet of the Apes.  Kenneth Branagh taking his turn at Hercule Poirot intrigues me, aside from the incredible cast that he has put together.  And I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t chomping at the bit to watch The Last Jedi.  (Will it reach Empire Strikes Back’s awesome heights as the second movie in a trilogy?  Only time will tell.). But one movie this summer ties my stomach in knots with excitement and nervous anticipation.  The movie is The Dark Tower.

My Introduction To Mr. King

Why should I be so invested in this movie you ask?  What makes it more nerve wracking than any other sequel that comes out?  Why should it put me on edge?  To understand why I have to go back to my childhood.  Stephen King’s books had been spoken in hushed whispers throughout my home.   As a person who grew up in a very conservative background, we did not watch or read scary horror stories with demons or the like.  (With the exception of the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia . . . but that’s a whole other story.). One just did not do those sorts of things.  So when my friend Reuben introduced me to Stephen King when I was in the seventh grade it was in hushed tones and silent whispers.  I dare not let his name cross his lips at my house.

Of course, my parents weren’t quite the prudes I made them out to be.  Just ask me sometime about my first time watching the movie Aliens with my mother, and you would know.  But they had seen how Mr. King could affect me with some of his television dramatizations.  Be honest.  Who among you (if you were young like me) when the TV miniseries It came out with Tim Curry didn’t at the very least want your lights to remain on the next few nights?  And if you could deal with turning the lights off, you couldn’t get yourself to sleep because you were jumping to every shadow.  Steven King could be frightening to a child.

Stephen King Horror Master

And for the most part, the things I was tangentially exposed to were mostly living, breathing nightmares as well.  Even the Running Man which was about as tame as King got had its scary moments.  But imagine the list that included the following: It, Cujo, Carrie, Christine, Pet Cemetary, etc.  They were all living breathing nightmares.  And yet my first experience with King was none of those.  Because my friend didn’t give me any of his horror books.  That could have landed me in the dog house with my parents.  My friend had me read The Gunslinger.

The Gunslinger was different than all of the other books that I had read previously.  It wasn’t horror in the strictest sense.  In fact, it was much more like fantasy.  But my one experience with fantasy in high school with a teacher who could drone out monotone sentence after monotone sentence with the best of them was reading the Hobbit.  And with a fourteen-year-old hormonal boy who wanted to sleep half the time as it was, dealing with Mr. Monotone didn’t help.  So fantasy outside the Chronicles of Narnia did not catch my imagination.

My First King Book

So I picked up this book with nervous trepidation, wondering what I would find behind its well-worn pages.  There was a Gunslinger and a man in black who he was chasing. He was seeking after the man who had sent his life spiraling downhill.  And he searched for a dark and mysterious tower to resolve all of the mysteries of the universe.  There was magical forces, twists and turns, plots and subplots and some interesting reveals.  The novel was Stephen King at his finest.  He hooked me from the start.

What I would later learn was that this was also Stephen King before the advent of the word processor.  Or at least before the advent of a very good word processor.  He began this novel back in the early 1970s.  He wrote it as several short stories that he would later piece together into one book.  So it was a time when every word on a page counted.  You couldn’t just write for ages about nothing.  And if you made any mistakes or errors, you couldn’t just go back to correct them.  Fixing them might take hours of work.  So it made the work more important.  Stephen King considers it his magnum opus.And as far as genres go The Gunslinger made it hard to classify.  Was it the beginning of a Dark Fantasy series?  Was it the advent of Magical Realism and Roland the Gunslinger was tucked into what was

Why The Gunslinger Is Beautiful

And as far as genres go The Gunslinger made it hard to classify.  Was it the beginning of a Dark Fantasy series?  Was it the advent of Magical Realism and Roland the Gunslinger was tucked into what was a world that echoes our own.  And he eventually would find himself in New York, in the real world.  I found the story relatable as well as beautiful.  There was magic in its pages.

Of course, I would then go on to eat up the rest of the series, devouring every word like it was a last supper.  I needed to find out what happened in this quest of Rolands.  He would attach himself to more people.  Would he sacrifice all of them so willingly for his quest?  What was the measure of their importance?  And how would Roland ultimately deal when he arrived at the Dark Tower of his dreams?  I just loved it.

Reading More King

I would go back and read all kinds of Stephen King novels from then on.  In addition, I would be running off to the library to devour the books of this man who had so caught my imagination.  I would read his short stories like the one that inspired Stand By Me and the Shawshank Redemption.  And I would read some of his incredible novels like Misery and Delores Claiborne.  And I ate up his series of books that would eventually become the movie The Green Mile.  But nothing so struck me as that original series of books with Roland Deschain and that Dark Tower.

So when I heard that they were attempting to produce The Dark Tower I was all at once nervous and excited.  I remember what I felt like Hollywood had done with my favorite novel, The Count of Monte Cristo.  I had so much emotional energy and investment in that book that I was highly disappointed with the adaptation.  Eventually, I would find better ones than the first one that I saw.  But nothing that caught my imagination like the book.  And that book was a classic.  So it had more opportunities for Hollywood to take a crack at it.

My Trepidation

This series, as much as I love it, I am afraid will never be considered the classic that Dumas piece was.  So I feel like for it to have eternal resonance, it has to get this movie right the first time.  And for Stephen King pieces, that presents an eternal challenge.  His short stories seem to make masterpieces.  The Shawshank Redemption is one of my all time favorite movies.  And Stand By Me displays a brilliance of its own.  But his full-length novels often disappoint me when made into features.  Somehow they don’t catch the brilliance of the author.

So this leaves me extremely anxious about the prospects of the film.  Of course, knowing that the project has passed through multiple different creative teams, multiple creative studios, and multiple directors would make one a bit wary as well.  Nevertheless, I have a few reasons that make me hopeful about the prospect of the picture, and why I will be there opening weekend.


Five Reasons Why I Am Excited About The Dark Tower Film

1)  It’s Stephen King’s Finest Work –

I know for some that might not mean much.  But consider the movies you have liked that were created from his source material.  I believe The Dark Tower is his richest work.  It contains the most complex characterizations. And it has characters you cannot help but love.

 

2)  Ron Howard Is Still Attached To The Series

Whether all the way back to Opie or in the middle of Happy Days, the name of Ron Howard makes me smile.  And he has become an amazing director in his own right.  Features like Apollo 13 and Cinderella Man and Far and Away are told with beauty and grace.  The fact that he still ties himself to this project after struggling to get it off the ground for 6 years shows that it is a labor of love.  This encourages me.

 

3)  It Will Move From Theater To TV And Back Again –

It will be one of the first projects of its kind.  The opening act will begin in the theaters.  Then it will move to the smaller TV screen in 2018.  And it is supposed to make its way back to the big screen once again after that.  Of course, I have heard so many iterations of this.  But how many films actually take on this kind of challenge?  Yes, it makes me nervous.  But it also makes me totally pumped.

 

4)  They Cast Some Amazing Actors –

I would never have imagined Idris Elba in the role of Roland before finding out he was cast.  But he has one of the most incredible screen presences.  And just his voice alone commands respect.  Definitely inspired.  And I relish seeing Matthew McConaughey become a villain.  Not because I hate him.  But because he constantly surprises me about the depth of his acting talent.  Far too often I write him off as a pretty boy.  And far too often he proves he is so much more.  I can’t wait to see some smaller actors get shots at a bigger film with Fran Kranz and Dennis Haysbert (Possibly the only actor outside of Keith David I could see playing Elbas dad.) among them.

 

5) The Amazing Effects –

Far too frequently, people attempt to make movies and it doesn’t turn out nearly the way that we would have wanted them to.  We have visions in our heads of these books and the vision is spoiled by some director out there with his set choices or choice of stars.  I have had visions in my head of this series for 30 plus years.  And the trailers have not made me disappointed.  This movie looks like the visions from my dreams.  I am pumped.


Continue The Conversation

What was your first experience with Stephen King?  What is your favorite of his novels?  And have you heard much or read about the Dark Tower movie before it came out?  Or if King isn’t your guy, what books have you read that you liked turned into movies?  And which books did you love that you were highly disappointed about the movie they made it into?  Why did you like it or why didn’t you like it?  I am always curious to know the reasons why we like or don’t like books made into movies.  I do have a theory about this but I will save it for another time.

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Until next time, this is me signing off.

David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life