After being closely guarded for months, more and more details about the upcoming Dark Tower film are coming in as fast and furious as Shardik rampaging towards Eddie Dean. Thanks to EWs coverage of the film, Constant Readers of the series, and curious newcomers, are finally getting a bit more of the entire picture when it comes to what to expect from the adaptation of Stephen King’s massive series of the same name. Today, new information was again revealed regarding the key players of the film and, even better, there are some new set photos that may encourage those on the fence about the film to jump to one side or the other. In addition, the stars of the film have now revealed a bit on the direction their characters will be taking in the upcoming film. Using these new photos and information, there is plenty to be learned about the direction that the film will take. From here on out, you are entering SERIOUS potential spoiler territory for the film and the book series, so continue onto those waste lands with that warning in your heart. Seriously, if you have not read the books, turn around NOW.
Still here? Alright, you’ve been warned!
While various unofficial photos of the filming have surfaced, as well as a couple of official photos, there really has been no context given with respect to the actual plot or direction of the film. That has finally changed. Not only are there quite a few to see but, even better, the photos actually reveal quite a bit about the film itself. Take a look.
First, that is definitely a desert and, likely, the gunslinger is following the man in black. For those that are unfamiliar with the story and the character, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) is the last gunslinger in a world that has moved on. One of the puppet masters who brought on the end of his world, Mid World, Randall Flagg, aka, The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), holds the key to reaching The Dark Tower, a structure at the center of the universe that holds existence in place. It takes a special type of man to take on a quest such as this and, for his part, director/cowriter Nikolaj Arcel seems to get that, as he describes the gunslinger as “supernatural”.
“He’s supernatural. He’s a knight of Mid-World. He has fast healing abilities. He’s not that easy to kill, and also, by the way, it’s very hard to get to him. He’s such a formidable fighter, gunslinger, and in battle it’s very hard to best the gunslinger.”
So far, so good.
The altar that Roland is standing against is an altar to the Crimson King, the creature pulling Flagg’s strings. The Crimson King is an ancient being who has gone insane since being locked on the balcony of The Dark Tower and whose sole purpose for existence at this point is destroying the beams that hold the Tower in place, in order to throw existence into darkness. Chances are, audiences will not see the King until at least a movie or two down the road but, hey, considering the changes that have been made from the source material, all of that could go out the window and the Crimson King could just wind up being a convenience store clerk, at this point. However, if the character remains intact, that altar is a beautifully macabre dedication to the creature and really hits the mark for “creepy”. Those revolvers he holds in his hand are much more special than your garden variety Colts. Elba (a man of few words) says of the guns:
“Forged from Excalibur. A very special weapon.”
For those wondering, yes, THAT Excalibur. In Mid World, the King Arthur myth is anything but myth, and (King) Arthur Eld melted down the fabled sword to forge the first gunslingers’ revolvers, which have been passed down from generation to generation, only to those worthy of drawing them. If you look closely at the revolvers, you will notice the Mark of Eld clearly displayed. Are the weapons as imposing as described in the novels? Not even close. However, according to the Gunslinger’s Creed, it isn’t the guns you have to worry about:
I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
I aim with my eye.
I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
I shoot with my mind.
I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.
I kill with my heart.
The next photo shows Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), somewhat of a surrogate son to Roland and, really, the gunslinger’s road to redemption. While the scene in question is actually taken from the third book in the series, ‘The Wastelands’, King has already warned fans that the film will basically start around the middle of the tale, so, it does make sense to see the scene featured in the first film. In the second novel of the series, ‘The Drawing of the Three’, after finding a door to Jake’s world and time, the gunslinger manages to stop the young boy’s death from taking place as it should (a death which had initially resulted in Jake being transported to Roland’s world, where he dies again), creating a paradox within Jake’s own mind – he has died and remembers dying but he never died, so how could he remember dying? As Jake’s mind begins to split, he eventually finds a way back to Roland through a test of courage and strength and, of course, being a King tale, that test takes the form of an old house which serves as both the gate and the gatekeeper to Mid World. When describing Jake, Arcel has this to say:
“Everybody around him thinks he’s crazy and he probably even thinks he’s a little bit crazy. He’s having visions of this big, grand tower that binds everything and holds all the universes together, and he’s having visions of this one man, Roland, the Gunslinger that’s calling out to him.”
Arcel continues, giving a bit more information on his vision of Roland:
“In the beginning of the story Roland is kind of a lost soul. All he’s thinking about is killing the Man in Black, his arch nemesis. He’s all about revenge. He’s all about trying to track down this man who has hurt him throughout his entire life. Taken away his friends. Taken away like his father, his mother. Everybody. The love of his life… So this is where we find him. He’s a man blinded by the longing for revenge. That’s where Jake finds him.”
The photos on the wall look brilliant, especially considering Jake has “the shine” and can see other places, other things. These pictures could either serve as sketches of his visions or, if the filmmakers follow the path of the novels (seems rather unlikely), the images that Jake remembers from his time in Mid World. You’ll notice the sketches of the man in black as well as a few towers but the most important drawing is that drawing of the rose on the bottom right. Those that know the story understand just how special that rose is and why it must be protected at all costs. For those that don’t know, well, you may as well have at least one or two surprises, right?
The South African set that serves as Mid World seems like the perfect landscape for the waste lands left behind after the world moved on. The photo shows Jake as he stands solitary in these lands and truly demonstrates the vast desert, likely the Mohaine Desert, which is the “apotheosis of all deserts”, according to the novels. This particular shot almost goes hand in hand with the first novel, in which Roland finds Jake hiding from The Man in Black at a way station that served as his entry point into this world. However, considering the next shot….
The shot shows Jake as he enters the house on Dutch Hill, the very same house that becomes a vicious monster, hell bent on keeping Jake from ever reaching Roland (and Roland’s mates, Eddie and Susannah, in the novels). Production Designer Christopher Glass wanted to take a very realistic approach to the monster, making sure to add to the feeling of terror that many readers felt while reading the story:
“We’re trying to have rules, basically, for the way the house becomes a monster. Wood shouldn’t suddenly become rubber. It should have particles and fibers and break. And when certain elements are not touching one another, things don’t levitate. Everything has to be touching for it to be alive. Otherwise it just falls, gravity takes over.”
Sounds like the perfect approach to take.
Onto the Man in Black. Of the photos that have been released (official and non), this is the first photo that does the character justice. The mark right above Flagg’s head is the Eye of the Crimson King, a sigul representing allegiance to the Crimson King. The figures bowing in Flagg’s presence are likely vampires and taheen (half human, half animal creatures that serve as footmen for Flagg and the King), and the location may even be The Dixie Pig, which plays as a major set towards the end of the novels. Flagg finally seems to fit with his surroundings, unlike the photos that have been seen before, and this is not a mistake. McConaughey truly made sure this fit was by design. When discussing the character, the actor seems to have had a specific look in mind:
“The Devil’s a handsome man. I’ve seen the pale Devil….No, no, no. I’ve seen the Nosferatic Devil — no. I said, ‘Black suit, black coat — let’s look really sharp.’.A crow-vibe. We’ve also got some [Dark Tower Producer] Brian Grazer in there. I said hair back, flames back, full face. I wanted to be completely exposed.”
The next couple of photos show Roland travelling with Jake, the first photo showing Mid World, presumably, and the next showing them in New York. Throughout the book series, the travelers are able to go back and forth between our world and Mid World through various doors, including even death. The fact that Roland seems almost at ease on the bus while Jake seems frightened is either an indication that at this point in the story, either Roland has acclimated to the new locale and ready to take on anything, or he is simply accepting the new landscape with his usual cold calm. For his part, co-writer Akiva Goldsman seems to really appreciate New York and explains why it is the perfect setting:
“The single biggest structural conceit is Jake as the point of entry. Doesn’t every kid at one point think that the things in the shadows are real? Doesn’t every little boy imagine that there is a world that you can’t quite see? New York is literally like that. There’s the feeling of a labyrinth behind the face of the city, and I think that’s really consistent with a child’s imagination and the sense of a magical world hiding just beneath the surface.”
That may be either the single best thing ever said about The Big Apple or the most terrifying. You be the judge.
There really is no way of knowing what’s going on in this one, other than some direction from Arcel to two of his stars but, hey, everyone like production shots, right?
Of course, while many of these pictures are right on point, there are still plenty of changes that have been made to the story that didn’t necessarily need to be made. The most puzzling of these changes, as mentioned before, is that Roland has already drawn two other companions by the time Jake manages to come through Dutch Hill. Sure, this is a bit of artistic license that really could be acceptable, considering Roland is carrying the Horn of Eld this time (a very significant indication that this is a sequel to the novels, not an adaptation) but the big problem is that the ka-tet itself is one of the driving forces of the novels. Their relationships, their hardships, the way that they grow together is an essential element of the novels and, in the end, the three drawn from our world (along with a billy bumbler named Oy) manage to be joined together, even after death seems to separate them all. The line that is left with the reader as they see their last glimpse of this family?
“And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not … But there was happiness. And they did live.”
So, sure, it would be ok to remove Eddie and Susannah and even Oy from the story but why include Jake if this is so? If you are a politician or a Hollywood producer, that last line could be twisted to be interpreted along the lines that the filmmakers are going but, really, why not find another character to bring about redemption?
Roland does eventually reach the Dark Tower in the novels, only to find that he has taken this path many, many times before, and each time, unbeknownst to him, he winds up right back at the beginning, chasing the man in black. Basically, Stephen King’s version of reincarnation. So, sure, this time things could be different for Roland, if during his last journey, he truly was redeemed, however, if that is the case, the Ka-tet of 19’s story has already been told. Why is Jake doomed to repeat the same path when he was not only redeemed but one of the sources of Roland’s redemption?
Of course, the other two may be drawn during the sequels, which would add a bit of sense to the inclusion of Jake but, if so, why is The Dixie Pig already a location in which the characters are visiting? The restaurant/scariest-vampire-hangout-ever is a major part of the last bit of Roland’s written story. Yes, the film will start in the middle of the tale that many of us know but throwing the Dixie Pig out there so quickly really means that the next two films planned will not go near the source material. This may be a great thing for those looking for a surprise but for those that have waiting for years to hear Eddie crack jokes while destroying Blaine the Mono, or have been praying to see Susannah fling those Oriza plates, maybe not so much.
Is all of it wonderful information for those diehard fans? Perhaps not. Still, love it or hate it, there is no stopping the wheel of Ka and every day, the Tower draws closer.
The Dark Tower hits screens February 17, 2017.
How do you feel about the new photos? What is the one scene in the series you are rubbing on that magic lamp to see on screen?