The Gunslinger

Sean is back as a Stephen King expert to review The Dark Tower (2017).

“The man in black fled across the desert. And the Gunslinger followed.”

I’ll go to my grave believing this to be the single greatest opening line in a piece of writing ever.

It opens “The Gunslinger” the first of seven books that comprise Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series.

“The Dark Tower” is a film adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Gunslinger”. While many may get confused and ask, “But isn’t ‘The Dark Tower’ a seven-book series?” Why yes, yes, it is. And if I were involved with making the movie, I would have pushed to call it “The Gunslinger”.

But, titles aside, “The Dark Tower” is a fine film which does a fair job of bringing to life the fascinating literary character, Roland Deschain, aka “the Gunslinger”.

Idris Elba is a tremendous actor who doesn’t get enough leading roles in mainstream American films. Anyone familiar with the BBC will tell you his show, “Luther”, is a masterpiece, and Idris’ performance is magnificient.

His brilliance is on display in “The Dark Tower”. Roland is a mix between a Western’s gun toting protagonist, a loner traveling by himself for reasons he keeps to himself, and a medieval knight, expertly trained to battle his foes and charged with a sacred duty. And Idris blends these characteristics seamlessly.

But what happens when the loner-knight sets aside his sacred duty, believing it to be a lost cause, and focuses solely on revenge? People still see a knight and believe he represents hope. But he’s not going to deliver hope. He has none himself.

That is until he meets a young boy, from another world, who knows things about the Gunslinger’s foe that no one else could know if they aren’t Roland.

Maybe the boy is a sign that Roland can still fulfill his sacred duty? Maybe he isn’t.

The film’s villain is the aforementioned “Man in Black” aka “Walter.” Mathew McConaughey does a fine job with this character. But, herein lies the film’s greatest shortcoming: the Man in Black is an extremely intricate character. His backstory, and more importantly, his relationship with Roland is not something that one film can possibly accommodate in a 90 min run time.

If you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge fan of “The Dark Tower” novels. And I understand that they probably can’t commit to seven or more films at this point, so they tried to make it a both a standalone film and something that could be built upon with more films.

Sadly, I think they missed the mark.

Nevertheless, I would recommend going to see it. Without the weight of comparing it against the books, it’s a very good sci-fi/western with great acting.

P.S. the film does do a wonderful job of incorporating the Gunslinger’s creed/motto into a few different areas of the film, including the climax.

“I do not aim with my eye; He who aims with his eye has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my hand. 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”

Noms: none.

All '07, '12 and '17 in film.

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