J. W. Donley

Writer, Photographer, Programmer

Category: Reading

Dark Tower Re-Read – Part 2: The Gunslinger

Part 1: The Movie

I have fond memories of reading The Gunslinger way back in college. It was one of the first books I read for myself after a very long break from reading for my own enjoyment. AP English courses in high school had killed any interest I had in reading. There was too much analysis and not enough just reading for the fun of it.

What drew me to this book was a mash up of a few traits. I’d not read any Stephen King yet, and was interested to try something of his. Also this looked to be a mix of western, horror, sci/fi, and fantasy.

Now that I’ve re-read this over a decade later, here are my thoughts on Stephen King’s The Gunslinger:

The Good

It was awesome getting to meet Roland and Jake at the beginning of their journey again. Roland’s control of his guns and the Mid-World dialect were like stepping into a well worn pair of comfy shoes.

The Bad

But, this book was no where near as good as I remember it being. Back when I read it the first time, the extra weight of it being my first real Stephen King book may have influenced my opinion as I read it.

The Fugly

This time around it felt rather disjointed. There was no real character building. This probably has roots in the fact that this really isn’t a novel, but a woven together collection of short stories. Originally these stories were published in the Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy in the 70s. In the early 80s SK put them together as a book. Then, again when he was finishing off the last three books of the series, he revised it again to add in references foreshadowing to the later story.

 

It was awesome going back into this journey once again, but I was let down by this first installment. I’m still looking forward to the next book in the series though, The Drawing of the Three. Lots of other readers claim that the series gets much better after this first entry. I do remember book three, The Waste Lands, being my favorite.

Next up in the Dark Tower Re-Read is a few books that aren’t in the series, but are other SK books connected to the series. Next up will be The Talisman by SK and Peter Straub.

Dark Tower Re-Read – Part 1: The Movie

Hello people and porpoises of all the world’s proliferated provinces.

Today, I have something new for you. I’m going to write a movie review. But not just for any movie.

I remember way back in high-school getting the first glimpse of behind the scenes footage of the brand new Lord of the Rings movie. This was a very big deal to me. Those books were my very favorite. I’d already read the Hobbit and the full trilogy at least twice through by that time. What sucks, is that when I saw this footage, it was still another couple years before the movie finally came out. And…

IT WAS AMAZING!

They were able to capture the same feeling of the books and somehow pack the trilogy into 10ish hours of movie over the full trilogy. Since then, I’ve had ridiculously high standards when it comes movie adaptions of books I love.

Another set of books that I came to love back in college were Stephen King’s (SK’s) Dark Tower books. These were great, because they were a mashup of epic Tolkien style fantasy, spaghetti western, and terrifying horror. Really, these books were my first foray into horror. These books were something new and I was hooked from the the first pages until the last.

And guess what…

Holy Saskatchewan! They Finally Made a Movie

There have been rumors on and off over the years of a movie. Everyone in the forums would argue back and forth over who would be the best Roland, who would be a good fit as Walter O’Dim/Randall Flagg. But the conversations would always boil down to the books being too out there. This, apparently, was one of the few unfilmable SK stories.

Some ignored this notion and decided to make a movie anyways. When I saw the first trailer I got really excited. I was ready to see these books brought to the screen. So, the family and I went to see it a day or so after opening; it being a PG-13 movie, my 8 year old was able to go. My son liked it.

Here are my thoughts.

The Good

First let’s talk about the best part of the whole movie. That would be Idris Elba. Putting aside the controversy of his race and any implications that may have down the line if they make future movies or television shows, he was amazing as Roland. SK had been inspired by old Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, and many of the die hards would have preferred the part to be played by ‘the’ Client Eastwood, but Mr. Eastwood is a lot older than he was in the 60s and 70s; the heyday of his westerns. Idris was the perfect fit. His stoicism and coldness were spot on.

The best scene, hands down, was when Jake took Roland to the hospital just after they left Mid-World and entered New York City. The doctor was amazed at all of the diseases riddling his body, and Roland just brushes it off and, after being stitched up, decides it’s time to go. Rips out the I.V.s and demands for Jake to ‘get my guns.’

Great stuff.

The Bad

One thing I would love is if they had spent the time and the money, as they had done for The Lord of the Rings, and made this into the 10 hour trilogy it truly deserves. The movie was too short. I was only an hour and a half long. This is pitiful considering all of the amazing content they had to work from.

I know that movies are a different medium than books, and that they must be treated as such. For this reason, I tend to avoid all trailers before going in to see any movie. I want the movie to be as much of a surprise as possible. But this movie was just too forced.

Book Spoilers Ahead

The director explained this by using how SK ended the last book. Roland makes it to the top of the tower, and, because he failed at his quest, he is again set back to chasing the man across the desert to try again. The director claims that the movie is Roland’s next attempt on his quest. It is a continuation of where the books ended.

End of Spoilers

I like this idea, but I also feel that it is a real cop-out. It is just an excuse for the script-writers and director to do whatever they want with the movie, leaving us fans still wanting for a real adaptation of the books.

The Fugly

But the worst aspect of the movie with no other competition within miles, is Matthew McConaughey as Walter O-Dim/Randall Flagg/The Man in Black. Now, don’t get me wrong here, Mr. McConaughey is a top notch actor. I absolutely loved him in season 1 of True Detective. But in this movie his character was flat and boring. The Man in Black is supposed to be this dark zany evil wizard that will murder you or crack an inappropriate joke at the drop of a hat. But here he was never funny, and his lines are just delivered with no style. Plus, they put way too much makeup on him. The only thing that would have made is complexion more face would be twilight style glitter.

Takeaway and Inspiration

All in all, I still did enjoy the movie. It was fun, just short lived. Idris Elba as Roland almost makes up for all of the movie’s other lacking qualities. Though, this movie could’ve been something truly amazing if it had been given the same money, time, and love that the Lord of the Rings movies received.

One huge thing that came out of this for me is the inspiration to read the book again. But this time I want to read SK’s other related books as well, since I’ve not read much of SK’s work other than the Dark Tower books and wondered if I’d get a different experience. I found a quality list to follow here: http://thetruthinsidethelie.blogspot.com/2016/11/a-suggested-reading-order-for-extended.html If you’d like to follow along, I’m reading the ‘Essentials Expanded’ list, not strictly in order, and I’ll probably leave out a couple of the more obscure short stories (like Reploids and The Dark Man).

And I want to drag you all along with me. (evil laughter booms across my apartment)

As I read each book on the list I will come here and write up a little review. Next up will be the first Dark Tower book: The Gunslinger. So keep watch, I’ll be posting Part 2 soon.

Until next time,
May you have long days and pleasant nights

Joe

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