Does a Black Gunslinger Matter? Thoughts on The Dark Tower Adaptation.

Note: This article will contain major spoilers for The Dark Tower novels, so unless you’ve read them or don’t care, you may wish to avert your eyes. 

If you are not a reader of The Dark Tower series, your answer to the headline question would most likely be a “no”. But for a lot of the book fans, they take some issue with the controversial casting of Idris Elba, followed by a lot of grandstanding from those who not only don’t care but actually like the casting decision. One amusingly ironic tidbit out of all the hubbub over this is how a lot of the people praising Elba as Roland will then (probably) go whine about all the “whitewashing” in anime live action adaptations. Ah, double standards.

Personally, I remain ambivalent. Now that the trailer has been released and the details of the plot are becoming clear, the biggest objection can be laid to rest: Detta Walker will not be part of the script. Any story arc specifically reliant on Roland being a white man will not be present, so this is no longer a point of contention (although some still don’t seem to realize this fact).

This, however, leads to other problems (other than the risk of such drastic deviations from the source material) I have with the route the production team has chosen to go. This is sizing up to be a “requel” (sequel/reboot) of the series instead rather than standard adaptation, meaning the very premise of The Dark Tower movie has a built-in spoiler for the books!

For anyone cruising the comment sections of TDK related posts online (especially on King’s FB), the above dilemma of Detta Walker will inevitably be brought up and then rebutted with “well, this is a continuation of the books!” This will, in all likelihood, lead any uninitiated who might have picked up the books to have the ending spoiled. And since, in my humble opinion, it’s not a particularly good ending, (it’s basically a variation of “and he woke up to find it was all a dream”) they may decide to not even bother.

Another issue, specifically for the novel readers, is that Idris Elba, quite obviously, does not look the part. To be fair, ever since Clint Eastwood got too old, I lost enthusiasm for the Gunslinger being given an accurate onscreen depiction, but even so, I shouldn’t have to force my brain to accept Roland as someone so completely different looking from what was in the mind’s eye. Could you imagine Elba cast as Aragorn? Please.

Now, all these being said, the fact remains that it’s just a movie and hardly the end of the world. I’ll still give The Dark Tower a chance – maybe not in theaters but I’ll definitely be renting it online at some point. Admittedly, part of me does want to see how an ending might pan out with Roland possessing the Horn of Eld – but Stephen King apparently couldn’t think of a proper ending, will TDK’s screenwriter come up with anything better? I guess we’ll find out one way or the other.

Long days and pleasant nights.

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