The Dark Tower, Stephen King’s self-declared magnum opus, is finally making its way onto cinemas after years in development hell. Whether you’re new to the franchise or just in need of a refresher, here’s a spoiler-free crash-course on what you need to know before going to see The Dark Tower come August 4th.

    1. The tale primarily follows Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last gunslinger from a post-apocalyptic world not unlike Earth called Mid-World. On their journey, Roland and his ka-tet travel through various universes and dimensions, all the while getting closer to the eponymous Dark Tower, the nexus of time and space.
    2. It is Roland’s hope that by reaching the Dark Tower he will somehow be able to reverse the destruction and decay endemic in the desolate Mid-World.
    3. But there are those, like Roland’s nemesis Walter Padick (Matthew McConaughey), who would see the Dark Tower brought down and reality itself torn apart.
    4. At least, that’s how the books tell it. The film has made some big revisions to make the story easier for newcomers, of which King said, “I’m 100 percent behind it — which doesn’t mean it necessarily will work, just that it’s a good way to try and to get into these stories.
    5. So what’s different? For a start, Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower won’t actually begin until after he encounters Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who is plagued with visions of the tower and enters Mid-World through a portal, as seen in the trailer.
    6. Prior to Jake’s “drawing”, Roland will be pursuing Paddick for revenge, and not for leads on how to reach the tower like how King wrote it.
    7. Likewise, while Roland chases Walter, Walter chases Jake, whose telepathic powers can be used to break the beams that support the Dark Tower.
    8. While many of these changes will doubtless give fans the pre-adaptation jitters, Roland’s possession of the Horn of Eld, a key item from the last book, from the onset has the potential to change the series’ hugely controversial ending for the better. I won’t say why, but fans of the books will note that this technically makes the film a sequel to the books, even though the story will remain roughly the same.
    9. Regularly crossing the lines of traditional genre boundaries, The Dark Tower is what you might call “slipstream fiction.” The story, peppered as it is with post-apocalyptic landscapes and busted up robots, follows gunslingers who arguably have more to do with knights errant than the taciturn cowboys that first impressions belie.
    10. The books openly reference and bring together characters from everywhere and when in King’s bibliography; most notable are Father Callaghan and Randall Flagg from ‘Salem’s Lot and The Stand respectively. The keen-eyed among you will have already spotted Overlook Hotel (The Shining) at 0:40 in the trailer.
    11. There are currently eight books in the series: The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, Wizard and Glass, Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, The Dark Tower and The Wind Through the Keyhole.

      The Gunslinger was the first volume of the ‘The Dark Tower’ series, published on the 10th June 1982.

    12. The saga officially concluded in 2004 with the release of book seven, The Dark Tower. However, The Wind Through the Keyhole, a side story set between books four and five, was released in 2012.
    13. There might be more books to come. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2014, King said: “I’m never done with The Dark Tower. The thing about The Dark Tower is that those books were never edited, so I look at them as first drafts. And by the time I got to the fifth or sixth book, I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is really all one novel.’ It drives me crazy. The thing is to try to find the time to rewrite them. There’s a missing element—a big battle at a place called Jericho Hill. And that whole thing should be written, and I’ve thought about it several times, and I don’t know how to get into it.”
    14. From The Drawing of the Three onwards, Roland is accompanied by his ka-tet, a trio of New Yorkers from different “whens”. Only telepath Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is slated to appear in the film, however. Eddie, a recovering drug addict, and Susannah Dean, a wheelchair-bound schizophrenic, will not be introduced until subsequent films. Oy, a dog-like creature native to Mid-World, has also missed the cut, sadly.
    15. Previous attempts by Universal and Warner Bros. to adapt the books involved a trilogy of films and two seasons of a TV show to tie-in the backstory. Ultimately, these plans failed to gain enough momentum and the project fell apart.
    16. In early March last year, Sony announced that they had picked up the rights to the property, that Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman would produce, and that Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel would write and direct. Sony’s eagerness to get the film out the door was perhaps too ambitious, causing it to be delayed twice, from February 17th to July 28th to August 4th.
    17. The TV tie-in idea hasn’t been entirely scrapped: a single season is currently planned for 2018 and will include the backstory provided by book four, Wizard and Glass. Any future films, meanwhile, will depend on the success of this first film. So go see it and I’ll “say thank ya big big!”
    18. While a progressive piece of casting, Idris Elba was a controversial choice for Roland, a white man in the books. Roland’s pale blue eyes are a big part of his character, but according to King, “the colour of the gunslinger doesn’t matter. What I care about is how fast he can draw…and that he takes care of the ka-tet.
    19. In the series’ mythos, a supernatural force called ka permeates everything Roland and his ka-tet do. The number 19 is an omen of sorts, its regular appearance in the latter books a constant reminder that “ka works and the world moves on.”


    Gavin McHendry
    whatever forever

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