‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.’
That’s the first line from The Dark Tower, a series of novels from the unrestrained imagination of Stephen King, which traverses fantasy, horror and Western genres of storytelling. A screen adaptation of King’s eight epic novels has been in the works for the past decade – having been shelved twice and passed between various studios and filmmakers including JJ Abrams and Ron Howard. After being picked up by Nikolaj Arcel (writer and director of A Royal Affair), it’s finally seeing the light of day, with the film encompassing elements from several of the novels, and continuing the story after the last book.
Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is an eleven year old boy with ‘the shine’ – a special psychic ability to see into other worlds. He is plagued with visions of a man in black and a Dark Tower, which eventually leads him to a ‘doorway’ in an old abandoned mansion, where he stumbles into Mid-World. It’s here he meets 200 year old Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). Roland is the last of the Gunslingers, knights issued with protecting the Tower, following the desecration of their home by the seriously evil Crimson King. Deschain and Jake team up to stop the man in black, Walter Padick (Matthew McConaughey), an ageless sorcerer working for the Crimson King, from razing the Tower to the ground. The Tower is held up by blue beams connecting to the many different worlds of the universe, including our own; and destroying the Tower will dissolve all realities into Hell. Aside from the evil Padick, their mission is beleaguered with terrifying hellbeasts, vampires, witches, and demons, but they also have allies such as the Manni, a religious group of villagers who specialise in travelling between worlds.
McConaughey plays the self-assured supernatural bad guy with ease, and Elba epitomizes the definition of a hero as the formidable cowboy/knight that you’ll be rooting for. Fans of King’s work may be disappointed that the film deviates from the structure of the novels, but should be won over by the impressive special effects and fast-paced action sequences.
All being well, we’ll soon be seeing more of Roland and Jake with The Dark Tower set to continue as a TV series.
The Dark Tower enters our world on 17 August 2017.