Sound Off! The Dark Tower

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, aim with your eye and discuss The Dark Tower, which premiered in the United States on Friday, August 4, 2017.

Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.

Now, join Venessa Giunta and Casey Price as they talk about The Dark Tower! [Note: No spoilers.]


Venessa: If you’ve read The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, the first thing you must do prior to seeing the movie is to put out of your head that you’re going to be watching a movie version of the books. If you have any sort of expectation along those lines, you’re going to be heartbroken. Because this is a different story altogether.

There’s a reason for this. I wrote a little bit about why back in June here on Speculative Chic. But the short answer is that this movie is meant to be a sequel to the books, not an adaptation.

So I went into the theater putting aside the idea that I knew what this story would be. I think that helped me to enjoy it much more than I would have had I expected it to follow the books in any way.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It’s definitely an action flick versus a dark fantasy or horror flick, which was pretty clear from the trailers. (I consider the books to be dark fantasy, myself.) I found the acting to be well done, especially Tom Taylor, who played the boy Jake Chambers. I’m looking forward to seeing him grow up, because he’s already a fine actor; he’s going to be a talent, for sure.

I loved the little shout-outs to folks who had read the books or who are Stephen King fans. From the framed poster of the Overlook Hotel (The Shining), to the dilapidated amusement park sign that read “Pennywise,” to the psychic powers being called “shine” (also The Shining), to the female voice that recites the first sentence of the book about fifteen minutes in: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” There were several little things like that throughout the movie, which made it fun on a level just past regular movie-watching.

One thing that did strike me as I left the theater was that the movie was very…quick. I mean that even if someone hadn’t read the book, the movie feels, at least to me, that it’s all only the tip of the iceberg. Every scene felt like there were things about those people, that place, that we needed to know, but we didn’t, as if we’re just on the surface.

This makes sense, considering The Dark Tower books span 6,000 or so pages and the world itself encompasses all of Stephen King’s works. But I think if I didn’t already have all that depth from having read the series (and most of King’s other books), it would bother me. That feeling of not having the whole story, of only just shaving the tip off the iceberg.

I’m not entirely sure I’d have been 100% satisfied.


Casey: “Well, that happened.”

That was my first thought as the credits began to roll on The Dark Tower. Upon reflection, I have a few other thoughts. I enjoyed hunting for Stephen King Easter eggs (personal favorite was probably the portal numbered 14-08, with a second prize going to the red and white model car that Jake’s friend played with — I choose to believe it was a nod to Christine). The visuals were almost as impressive as I thought they would be. The acting was great. Otherwise, I felt like this was an extremely superficial glossing over of something that could and should have been so much more.

I realize that this is a new story and not an adaptation, but it doesn’t stand well on its own for people who aren’t already familiar with Roland, Jake, and Walter. Spouse and I saw this with a friend. Our friend said that it didn’t really leave him with anything more than a lot of questions. I can understand that. It’s not a story for the casual moviegoer. This is definitely a film for fans of The Dark Tower book series. Too much was simply stated and left to the viewer to figure out what was going on. I’m not done with the book series, personally, but I know of the Crimson King, the portals, and what it means for a world to have “moved on.” I knew exactly what Walter was referring to when he taunted Roland in the gun shop.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good movie and I hope that people watch and enjoy it, and then seek out the novels. I’m just concerned that this outcome won’t happen, and we won’t get a chance to see Roland on the big (or small) screen again as a result. Either way, despite my misgivings, I’m glad I saw this on the big screen and look forward to watching it again after I finish the book series and can fully appreciate what’s going on.

6 Comments

  • Shara White August 8, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Ugh! How disappointing. I was looking forward to this, and I have yet to see anything that’s really positive. And it’s a shame. I feel like this is a case where I’m really better off starting with the books, because I feel like this one is just a shadow of what it could be. Who knows? But I take to heart that people who aren’t familiar with the source material don’t have a clue as to what’s happening, and the only Stephen King book I’ve read is BAG OF BONES, so…..

    Reply
    • Casey Price August 8, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      I would suggest reading the books first.

      Reply
  • Lane Robins August 8, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    So far the people I know who’ve seen it have fallen into the category of “know the books–were disappointed by the movie” and “don’t know the books–thought it was a fun action movie”

    Reply
  • Venessa Giunta August 9, 2017 at 2:23 am

    I agree with Lane here. If you haven’t read the books and want to see the movie, see the movie first. There will likely be some references you won’t get, but it’s nothing that’s integral to understanding the movie. It feels disappointing when you’ve read the books, because you then have an understanding of the ridiculously huge scope of the series. But, in reality, there really is no way they will be able to capture the series in a movie. Even if they broke the series up into multiple movies. It’s simply one of those things that only really is done justice through the written word. It just doesn’t translate to the screen well at all.

    It was fine as an action movie and I think even with the feeling that there was a lot more there, that I think you’d have not having read the books, it’s still not a bad movie. But I suspect you’d be more inclined to read the books after you’ve watched the movie to really understand the world. (And then you’ll be disappointed with the movie 😉 )

    Reply
  • Kelly McCarty August 10, 2017 at 12:09 am

    I’m disappointed that all of the reviews that I have read for this movie have been kind of “meh”. A lot of reviewers have said that Matthew McConaughey was miscast. I really hope that the It adaptation is as good as I’m hoping it will be.

    Reply
    • Venessa Giunta August 10, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      I think the reviews are “meh” because this could have been amazing. It would have been hard, because there’s SO much source material and it’s such a huge story. They ended up going for the action slant in a big way, which automatically means they have to dump a lot of the nuance. And that can be really disappointing.

      For those of us who read the books, I also think that when we hype the books to people, if they’ve seen the movie, they might expect something they won’t get with the books. The Dark Tower isn’t a Tom Clancy series with a dystopian worldview, like the movie might make it seem. And so viewers of the movie could be disappointed by the books, which is hard for those of us who are King fans to “combat.” (not that it’s our job, but don’t fans always try to defend their author/actor/show/whatever? 😉 )

      I am REALLY excited about It. That’s the genre of Stephen King’s work that I love best and It is one of my favorite books (despite the lame and somewhat annoying ending). My hubby doesn’t do horror, so I’ll either grab a friend to go with me or just go myself. I don’t care either way. I don’t like going to theatres in general, but for SK stuff? Yeah, I’ll make that 😉

      Reply

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