I heard about The Dark Tower series nearly a decade ago but only got around to reading the first in the series, The Gunslinger, earlier this year. I was an avid reader of King’s other works and decided that with the movie coming out, the time was right.
After watching the first trailer it became obvious that the movie is not following the first book closely. A quick search online also confirms the film is taking parts from the first book, but also from books 3 and 4.5. In essence, this adaptation is its own amalgam of the series’ events. In short, I think the trailer makes the film look amazingly generic, but Idris Elba still motivates me to see it in theaters. If you haven’t watched Luther, I highly recommend it.
Before I get into the trailer itself, or the general plot of the series, I have to bring up something this film illustrates. As I have discussed before, there is a huge double standard when it comes to race-changing in adaptations for television and film. If you change the race of a minority (e.g. black, Asian, Indian, Native etc.) character, and make him white, people are quick to argue “best actor for the part, it’s not about race”, “it’s more marketable/relatable” or that they are “colour-blind”. These criticisms come flying out whether the character’s race is central to the story or not.
Now, when a white character is changed to a minority, people suddenly aren’t colour-blind. They don’t like the “political correctness”.
Or maybe people avoid bringing right-wing buzzwords into the argument. They don’t like the fact that the character is not portrayed as described in the book. They’re not racist for saying the characters should be portrayed as intended. Funny thing is, these same arguments are thrown out to protest white-washing, but they always fall on deaf ears. The Hunger Games (2008) incident proved that people might even block out information that reveals a character isn’t white, since many “fans” took to twitter to complain about Rue being black (even though she is described as having dark-brown skin in the books). I have no doubt that some of the people criticizing this casting choice also supported the casting in The Last Airbender (TLA) and Ghost in the Shell.
Idris Elba is no stranger to this controversy since he also received criticism for his casting as Heimdall in the Thor series. Of course, Asgard is a fictional world but people say that Heimdall should be white since he is from Norse mythology. However, the fictional world argument was used to defend the whitewashing of Sokka and Katara in TLA, a world that the creators said was inspired by Asian and Inuit cultures.
Katara and Sokka were Inuit characters that were even drawn with brown skin in the show. Some people argue they must be white if they have blue eyes, but white people don’t have a monopoly on blue eyes. I have met a black man as dark-skinned as I am with blue eyes. Would you say he must be white due to his eye colour? Additionally, the blue eyes are a symbolize their water tribe affiliation. The same way the Earth Nation inhabitants have green eyes, and air nomads have grey eyes. In the film, we get two white leads (with a white grandma) mysteriously surrounded by Native American villagers.
Despite all these arguments people still defended TLA since “it’s just a movie”. Then The Hobbit added black EXTRAS (non-speaking actors) and people complained that black people didn’t belong in a world inspired by Ancient Europe. Point being, this double standard is nothing but a result of racism that people refuse to admit or to address. What they should really say is: “I don’t mind race-changing as long as it leads to more white people.” I am not saying that race-changing is right in either case, white-washing or vice-versa. I am just unsympathetic to cries of “blackwashing” since the concern for character integrity clearly doesn’t go both ways.
Moving on. The Gunslinger, focused on Roland’s perspective as he travelled through Mid-World, a world similar to the Old West, in pursuit of the Randall Flagg. Flagg is often referred to as The Man in Black and is also a villain in King’s novel, The Stand. The Gunslinger does imply that this Old World is actually an alternate timeline or dimension. The film’s trailer seems to confirm this. Since the film doesn’t follow the first book alone, it will likely also contain spoilers for those who haven’t read up to book 4.5. Since I have only read book one, I also can’t judge how closely the film follows the plots of the other books.
With that said, some of the dialogue makes this film sound like hundreds that have come before. The line about protecting the tower so that both worlds don’t fall just screamed cliché. There is nothing wrong with the concept itself, it’s the delivery of it that can make it somewhat fresh, or downright stale.
Aside from Elba, I am excited to see Matthew McConaughey as Randall Flagg. I have yet to see Dallas Buyers Club but McConaughey was spellbinding as Rustin Cohle in True Detective. The biggest question mark is Tom Taylor, who’s character will apparently be the film’s true lead.
I find that slow-motion is sometimes overused in promotional shots, but I actually like its use in this trailer. Roland’s gun-slinging is a visual treat, but I am hoping it isn’t all that the film has to offer. I also hope that the film doesn’t go into 300 territory and give us battles where we see slow-motion more often than not. I am more excited about The Defenders than this film, but King and the cast will still motivate me to see it in theaters when it comes out in August.