So let us palaver (discuss).

I’ve always said that Book 1 of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series was a weird novel. Three read-throughs of the novel has done nothing to dissuade me of this opinion. It’s genuinely strange. King writes in an abstract style with lots of dialogue. Translating that into film is a large undertaking for any movie producer. Movies and their screenplays involve action, and the Dark Tower series doesn’t really have much in the way of it, overall.

But I was excited to see the Dark Tower movie, though I’d heard that it was not particularly well-received. After watching it, though, something felt off about it, and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what at the time. So I finished reading all seven main books of the Dark Tower series (I did not read The Wind Through the Keyhole, technically book 4.5). All told, I read 4,053 pages of writing just to figure out just what in the hell was going on here. Then I re-watched the movie, and after all of that, here’s my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly (in keeping with the cowboy theme of the novels).

First off, let’s get a couple things straight…

The Purpose of the Tower

We get some clues in the books (but not until Book 5) about what the purpose of the Dark Tower really is. Here’s what the purpose is according to the books:

  • Book 5: “He (Jake) saw the Tower itself in the burning folds of the rose and for a moment understood its purpose: how it distributed its lines of force to all the worlds that were and held them steadily in time’s great helix.”
  • Book 5, Pg. 481, Roland: “My quest—the quest of my ka-tet —is the Dark Tower, Pere. It’s not saving this world we’re about, or even this universe, but all universes. All of existence.”
  • Book 5, Pg. 555, Jake: “The quest was to save the Dark Tower…”

The Movie’s Placement in the Timeline

According to the Wikipedia page about the Dark Tower:

On May 18, 2016, Stephen King tweeted a photo of the Horn of Eld with the caption “Last Time Around,” referring to the end of the final book and revealing that the upcoming 2017 film is a sequel to the book series rather than a direct adaptation. In the beginning of the film, Roland has the Horn of Eld, which he received at the end of The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower.

Basically, the book series is set up to where Roland goes on his quest for the Dark Tower, reaches the top room, and is then immediately sent back to the beginning of his quest with his memory wiped, like this has happened a million times before and Roland is in some kind of torturous time loop. This is where the movie picks things up. So essentially, the movie starts us off at the beginning of Round 2, which is supposed to be a bit different now that Roland has the Horn of Eld, which he didn’t before. The books don’t tell us what the Horn of Eld does, only that it is a sigil and that this time things will be different. This is confusing as all get-out, and how’s a person ever supposed to figure any of this out???

This ultra-confusing Round 2 nonsense is what I attribute to the film’s general lack of success.

According to Wikipedia:

The film grossed $113 million worldwide on a $66 million budget and received generally negative reviews, with critics calling it “a dull disappointment without any set audience: incomprehensible to newbies and wildly unfaithful and simplistic to fans of King’s books,” though Elba’s performance earned praise.


  • What does shine in the film is the excellent choice of casting. I love seeing Idris Elba as Roland, Matthew McConaughey as Walter o’ Dim/the Man in Black, and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers. A+ to the casting director.
  • Book 1 contains a lot of violence, and it’s graphic and bloody. In the book, Roland doesn’t seem to be fighting for any specific purpose, at least not at first, and it’s a bit unclear as to why he follows the Man in Black. But the film seems to take the shortcomings of the book and smooth them over a bit, which is nice.
  • The film makes Roland look much more heroic than Book 1 of the series does while still giving him a bit of that edginess to his character.
  • I do like the scene where Jake draws the tower and the beams in the sand, and Roland explains about the tower and picks up a tarantula. That scene’s well done. The scene where Roland teaches Jake to shoot is also particularly good.


  • Fans of the book series will be sorely disappointed in the movie, as members of Roland’s faithful ka-tet (fated group) are missing entirely, namely Eddie, Susannah, and the billy-bumbler Oy. Also, Susan Delgado makes no appearance, nor Rhea of the Coos.
  • In the books, the number 19 is a Mystery Number, full of mystical significance. In the movie, the reason for the number 19 in particular is unclear, and no one even says that it’s a “mystery number” or tells us that it’s a “known unknown,” for that matter. In the movie, Jake puts in 19-19 as the code to open the portal, but how does he even know it?
  • It is unclear whether fans are supposed to draw on their knowledge of Book 1 of the Dark Tower series, or all of the books, to see where things are going.
  • Making the movie center on Jake in New York makes for an odd choice of setting for something based on a Western-themed book series.
  • No lobstrosities or giant robot-bears inhabit Mid-World? Instead, it’s these weird werewolf-monkey things?
  • In the books, it is clear that there’s the Tower and the Rose, which are two similar hubs of existence. In the movie, the only sign of the Rose is it being spray-painted on a garage door at the end.
  • In the film, the Tower takes damage right away. In the books, the first instance we get of the tower being damaged isn’t until the beamquakes in Book 6.
  • If the Horn of Eld is so very important to Round 2, why do we have no idea what it does, and why is very little made of it in the movie? Does Roland even have it in the movie? He carries something strapped to his back; that could be a horn, maybe. But it’s sure hard to tell.


  • The Second Time Around/Alternate Universe thing that this film was going for stinks big time. Fans of the books who haven’t finished the series have no idea what’s going on here and have to see their favorite characters either missing altogether or bumbling around in some kind of makeshift plot. People unfamiliar with the series will come away from the movie with only the vaguest of notions about what the Dark Tower is about.
  • The movie never tells us that this is Round 2, or gives us any clue of it.
  • As I watched the film, I thought, is the Man in Black some kind of pedophile? He and his robo-humanoid minions kidnap and mind-rape children to attack the Dark Tower. This comes off as way more hardcore to audiences,than dropping Jake off the cliff would have been. As I read through the books, I found no literary evidence of the child-mind-obliterating scene until I got to the very last book: Book 7, titled The Dark Tower, where this scene is recalled by Susannah as some kind of undercurrent of feeling about the tower.

Some Suggestions for Future Dark Tower Movie Creators

(ahem Don’t forget to kick me back a little cash for this…)

  • One of the best pieces of advice that I ever got in a Creative Writing class was that a story has to have a definitive place and time. In the movie, audiences don’t know what the place and time is in relation to the books. The movie never states that this is a sequel and that all of these events have already happened before. A sequel is a bad way to make an introduction. If the writers stick with it, they need to make it clear and also find ways to pull in new fans who have never heard of the book series. But if it is indeed geared toward the fanbase of the novels (as it should be, in my opinion), then starting at the very beginning of everything—and not Round 2—is the only logical thing to do, and you have to state which books you’re covering.
  • In addition, the movie needs to state right off the bat who Roland is, what words like ka (fate/destiny), ka-tet (fated group with a shared destiny), and palaver (meeting/discussion) mean, what the Dark Tower is, its purpose, who the Man in Black is, what he wants with the Dark Tower, and why Roland has to save the Dark Tower. Whew! Sounds like a tall order, but it can be done.
  • We never see Roland in Gilead, except for the brief scene with Steven Deschain being killed. Starting in Gilead would give audiences a sense of how the world has moved on since Roland’s time there.
  • In Book 1, Roland kills Jake by dropping him off the edge of that cliff. They don’t do this in the movie, showing that we’re not in Kansas anymore. Take the chance of alienating some people, movie-makers. Drop that boy off the cliff and have Roland say, like he’s supposed to, “Go then. There are other worlds than these.”
  • Clearly state the purpose of the Tower, Rose, Roland, and the Man in Black from the get-go. But I would take out the scene with the child mind-rape. Number one, it’s fucking creepy, which is guaranteed to alienate an audience, and especially one not familiar with the series. Number two, book readers don’t even get this info until Book 7, so you’re giving away all of the mystery in one go and creating a HUGE spoiler for people working their way through the series.
  • There are interesting parts of Roland’s personal story that the movie never touches on, like how Roland became a gunslinger and the duel where he deploys his hawk. These can be used in flashbacks, and instead of making Jake some broody character who’s lecturing Roland on the finer points of the modern world (“They’re theme parks,” “You probably shouldn’t talk to people here,” etc.), Jake could end up being respectful, looking up to Roland and wanting to be a gunslinger, too.
  • Tell us what the Horn of Eld does and why/how it is supposed to break the time loop!!!

Now, then, a bit about myself: When I was in middle school, we had a thing called Medieval Banquet, and for having good grades in History, I was knighted with a replica William Wallace sword. I went to Rio Linda High, where our mascot was a knight. In college, I had to read Le Morte D’Arthur. And as I am a true knight, I have travelled many a day and night, to reach the Dark Tower and write my review.

So hile, fellow knights/gunslingers! Long days and pleasant nights to you!

Click here to watch The Dark Tower.