Friday, August 4, 2017

The Dark Tower: Perspective #2 - He Who Hath ACTUALLY Read The Books

 --Written by Guest Reviewer Matthew Martin-Hall

EDITOR'S NOTE: I asked Matthew (and he offered as well) to write a review from the perspective of someone who has read (and loves) The Dark Tower novels (as well as graphic novels) for those of you who have read them also, or would like a review from that perspective. I did not discuss my views of the film with him beforehand, and he did not discuss his views with me beforehand. Both reviews were written blindly of one another and published as-is. Enjoy!

First and foremost, I did not see the same film you did, nor was I under any illusion that I would. I have been around the Tower three times with Roland and his Ka-Tet, twice with the additional book The Wind Through the Keyhole and I have been long into his past up to the fabled last stand at Jericho Hill, by way of the graphic novel collection published by Marvel (Bleh...). I know this story better than most. That being so, I didn't come to the Tower on its Last Time Around (Ka is a wheel) with any expectations. I came to it by way of the same compulsion that draws Roland to his Tower, something described in the books as more powerful than a heroin addiction. I came to look Roland in the eyes and watch him remember the face of his father one last time. And Roland, as he's prone to do, broke my heart.

Now, this is no critique of the film. If you want that, I'll pull out that toolkit real quick and tell you it had about as much of an arc as one of Roland's bullets and spent too much time force feeding the audience "on the nose" lines for it to be anything remarkable. Also, let's be clear... it's called The Touch. Not Shine. What the fuck is Shine, if not something out of a bathtub still that could potentially make you go blind? That word bugged me more than anything else in the film to be honest; when it comes to canon, at least. I digress...

Roland broke my heart. Not because they did anything wrong with him; In the land of Mid-World (or with anything involving the Tower, really) one gets used to the creation of new rules that make believing in the notion of wrong an exercise in futility. Such qualifiers really hold no water in this... Multiverse? Omniverse? Whatever... let's just say one gets so used to being confused that the shit just stops penetrating and one is forced to realize (as with most things) the path of least resistance is best. Anyhow, Roland broke my heart because he lost his way. The existential crisis he had in the film so nearly tore me, I almost didn't stick around long enough to be as confused and bloated with theories as I am now.

Let's be clear, in the books, there is not one time EVER that Roland is not, in every way, shape, and form, an absolute Gunslinger. The quintessential King Errant whose very goal is to keep a quavering... Hyperverse? Megaverse? from crumbling upon itself, guns forged from Excalibur in tow. The pursuit of the Tower literally IS Roland. Every decision he makes, every person he kills, or lets die, or sacrifices, or uses, is in service of the beam that leads him to his Tower. He questions this in the books at times, but never once does he falter from his station. He wants to, and at times needs to, but he never does. He is The Gunslinger, through and through, and it is what defines him. So, suffice it to say that when he sat at that table and denounced every existence before the tribesmen and women, something inside me churned. Again, not in a way that would compel me to qualify the film as good or bad. But more so in the way that we anguish when we see a good friend or family member make a terrible decision with lifelong consequences. When a favorite poet or playwright moves on. When we're told one of our pets has a terminal illness. That was what happened when I saw Roland blaspheme so tragically, and it physically hurt.

Once that pang subsided through a flurry of creative trick shots and speed loads as I got to see Roland's hands go to work (a personal moment of triumph, don't ask me how) I was left to wonder, where does this all fit?

Okay, I guess this is somewhat of a spoiler alert, but it's really not because I'm a huge proponent of the whole "it's about the journey, not the destination" philosophy. But skip this paragraph if you're reading the books and are a shitty traveler. I'll try to keep it as ambiguous as possible, just the same.  Ka is a wheel (Ka also isn't mentioned or explained once in the film which was about as troubling as the whole Shine thing, but I digress again). The series ends with the same words that it opened with. The Man in Black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed. As all things in this... Parallel universe? Paniverse? it is cyclical. All that being said and understood, when I went to bed last night pondering the question as to whether or not this film can be considered canon, I came to my answer and (as most things revolving around the Tower are) it's contingent upon something. That something is what Roland does and doesn't know/remember. If Roland is aware of the cyclical nature of his existence and in some way remembers the events that took place during the books in some form or fashion... that completely explains both his existential breakdown as well as his rather moot pursuit of the Man in Black for revenge. I sincerely hope this is the case, for this is the story's saving grace.

We'll all have to wait and see. But as we wait, we know something very important... Roland has something that he didn't have in the books: We know that this time around, he has, in his possession, the Horn of Eld!

Should he make it to the base of the Tower, through the field of roses (Can'-Ka No Rey) just outside the clutches of Dandelo (IT!) on Odd Lane in the White Lands of Empathica, by way of Fedic (thanks to the Mani) outside of the Calla, all to cry the names of his fathers, his mothers, his friends, his Ka-Tets, his lovers (and maybe a few gillies) in a single herald from his horn last blown at the fall of Jericho Hill... I would very much like to see what happens.

Say thankee-sai big big.

To conclude: I'm sure a lot of fans of the books will see this and cry it the product of the Crimson King himself. But I would staunchly argue that they have forgotten the face of their fathers. This film is as much all of the books as it is none of them. And in that way, it truly is a spirited installment to the canon, should it make the cut. To fellow readers, if you came to this expecting to see the genocide of Tull, the Weigh Station, Muties in the mountains, and Tarot card reading in a talking circle with Roland ending up on a beach somewhere in Mid-World, then I advise you find your beams again and be true.

You've lost your way, and it isn't a Dark Tower film that got you there.

To everyone else: was the film bad? No. Was the film good? No. Should you go see it? Yes, if for no other reason than to give them some motivation to continue making this series. If for no other reason than you all getting to meet Susannah (both Delgado and Dean), Eddie, and (of course) Oy! They are worth your time and effort.

If this film was to give us our Gunslinger (and I suspect it was), we have him now. Let's get him to his Tower, so we can all watch him stand, and be true.

If I were to give the film a grade from A to F, I'd give it a big, fat...



  1. Having only ready The Gunslinger, I understood almost none of this, but wanted to compliment your writing.

    1. Hahahaha. Asshole never compliments MY writing. ;)