Is it possible to enjoy something and be disappointed by it at the same time?
The answer to that question must be yes, because that is exactly how I feel about my experience last night watching the Dark Tower.
WARNING: There are some spoilers below. Nothing major that would ruin it for you, but if you’re a purist you might want to stop and come back after you’ve seen it.
I enjoyed the movie. I really did, and people who criticize it too harshly are either elitists who refuse to have a good time or who decided they didn’t want to like it before they ever sat down. The Dark Tower movie was far better than the Guardians sequel, yet another Spider Man movie, or anything else out there. I haven’t seen Dunkirk, but that is probably not a fair comparison, either. Dunkirk is Oscar bait. The Dark Tower movie is a fun summer film.
I enjoyed the movie because Idris Elba was amazing. Except for a single moment in the very end when he smiled too much, I was buying him as Roland. I never bought the story arc they told in the story for Roland, but I bought him, the actor, as Roland.
I enjoyed the kid playing Jake Chambers. The Dark Tower in the novels is not about Jake, but in movie he is the star, he is the protagonist and he is phenomenal.
I enjoyed Matthew McConaughey’s sleazy lizard lounge Man in Black. Sure, they put too much of him in the movie, but that was okay because I thought he captured the cheap sorcery and flippant caprice of the literary character pretty well.
I enjoyed the gunfights. I wish I could have seen more of those epic guns themselves, like a close up or a still shot or something, but nevertheless I loved those scenes.
I enjoyed that the movie didn’t answer all the plot elements of the breakers, and I enjoyed that they changed up the way they operated inside Algul Sient.
I enjoyed Jake making fun of Walter’s name.
I enjoyed the theme park.
I enjoyed hearing Roland say, “You have forgotten the face of your father.” Thank you big big.
I enjoyed all the homages to King’s other works, which are likewise part of the Dark Tower Universe, such as The Shining, Cujo, Salem’s Lot, and It.
I really enjoyed the opening screen that included the Ka-Tet Corporation with the turtle emblem as a maker of the movie. Way cool.
But I was also disappointed. My perception is that a tinge of sorrow accompanied most people who loved the books as they watched the film play out, because the film was not the same epic story we’d fallen in love with. It is hard to even put into words, because its more about the feel of the movie than anything specific.
I was disappointed that they tried to distill several characters into Jake. I missed very much Eddie and Susannah and Father Callahan. And Oy. I really missed Oy. For those of you who haven’t read the novels, leaving out these characters would be like going to watch the Harry Potter movies and discovering that all the Weasleys had been written out, as well as Neville Longbottom and they were all added to Hermione’s character. Or you went to watch the Lord of the Rings and discover Frodo was the only Hobbit around and that Sam, Merry, and Pippin were added to Frodo’s character. It is that disappointing.
I am disappointed that Roland’s motive was changed. Roland is all about the Dark Tower, not revenge on Walter. Walter is in his way and is his enemy, but all Roland cares about is the Dark Tower.
I am disappointed in the beginning. They start the film in New York. The story should have started with King’s epic first line. I really wanted the movie to open with Roland on horseback chasing Walter in the desert.
I am disappointed in the lack of musical allusion. If it was there, I didn’t catch it. For me, in reading the novels, the first hint that there is a connection to this weird world the Gunslinger inhabits and ours is when he hears the song Hey Jude in the bar in Tull. TDT has a soundtrack of wonderful songs–from Someone Saved My Life Tonight to Velcro Fly to Crazy Train. Zip, Zilch, Zero on that in the movie. If you’re interested, there is an awesome Spotify playlist for the Dark Tower songs.
I am disappointed in the ending. It felt like Back To The Future, and it was too much of a happy ending. There is never a happy ending for the Dark Tower. Never. It is a sad, tragic tale.
I am disappointed in the lack of connection to other works of literature–Asimov, Rowling, Browning, etc . . .
I am disappointed in the idea of Roland as a fallen gunslinger. He is not. He deals in lead.
I am disappointed I never got to see if Roland was drinking a Nozz-A-La on the bus.
I am disappointed the movie was only an hour and a half. Really? There is a bazillion pages of source material here, and we get an hour and a half? Come on, man!
I am disappointed that the Dixie Pig shootout was moved to the front, instead of the back where it should be. Not to mention that Roland wasn’t even at the Dixie Pig shootout in the novels, unless you count his todash type appearance.
I am disappointed that all the mysticism in the novels is encapsulated with the one element of “the Shine”, which it is not. The touch (as it is called in the novels) is only part of this mystical universe.
However, I do have hope. Perhaps a new director, better screenwriting, and a revamped approach can redeem the franchise for a second installment. Just think of the difference between Star Trek The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. But for now I am content with the knowledge that the books are still there, and they are the kind of story that gets into your blood, and the characters become people you know, and the language, say thankee-sai, even worms its way into your head.