Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Man in Black Fled Across the Desert . . .

. . . and the Gunslinger followed.
The trailer for The Dark Tower released today, and it’s something of a mixed bag.  The theme offered is, “There are other worlds than these, Gunslinger.”  That’s certainly a part of the book series, but here it’s clear that Nikolaj Arcel—who has directed nothing you will have heard of—is shouting his caveat emptor to the fans of the series.

Viewer beware indeed.

Go ahead and give it a watch or three.  I’ll wait here:

All set?  Groovy!

But . . . what does it mean!?
For those who haven’t followed as closely as some of us (ahem—me!), The Dark Tower is actually something of a strange sequel to the books.  Within the scope of King’s series, readers learned that Roland, the titular gunslinger, has actually been wending his way through these events before (several lifetimes at least), trying to set everything to rights.  In mid-2016, as part of the marketing for the film, King himself tweeted out a picture of the Horn of Eld, with the caption “Last Time Around”.

In some ways, this is a really smart maneuver.  King’s original novella, The Gunslinger, was a collection of five short stories that had previously appeared as a magazine serial.  As a standalone, it’s an outstanding piece of work.  As the gateway to Roland’s world and the rest of The Dark Tower series, it had certain flaws.  Lovely, beautiful flaws, but flaws nonetheless.

The trailer makes it clear that this is another of those trips around for Roland.  The first half hedges very closely to the original The Gunslinger.  Chills and goosebumps accompanied my particular viewing.  Even thinking about the gunslinger’s “reloading trick” as visualized makes the butterflies in my tummy go flitter-flap.

Yeah, that’s what it would look like.  Yeah, it’s amazing!

The second half of the trailer . . . well, fans of the books will likely be less interested in watching the Gunslinger run around New York City in “our world”.  To some, it may feel like a cheap cop-out to save money on what should be a long, dark trudge through a post-apoc “world that has moved on”, a world eerily similar to our own.

Stand true, Gunslinger.
That still might be ok.  Arcel seems to have captured one of the key story elements—the relationship between Roland and Jake.  That relationship, without offering any spoilers, impacts and shapes many of the events throughout the series, and it appears that’s the case in The Dark Tower movie as well.

Unlike Aliens: Covenant I’m cautiously optimistic.  I’m not yet certain if this movie is worthy of one of my rare trips to the theater, but it certainly has made the shortlist.

If you haven’t read it, you should.  At least read the first book, The Gunslinger which is more of a novella at just over 55,000 words.  It’s a damned fine piece of writing, and encapsulates a whole story on its own.  For my money, I recommend the 1988 Plume trade paperback version with the excellent illustrations by Michael Whelan.  This also avoids the "corrections" that King provided in the 2003 revision.  They're relatively inexpensive to pick up just about anywhere.  Nothing at all like trying to track down a Grant first or second edition (which you are welcome to get me for my birthday).

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