Geiger's Culture Counter: ‘The Dark Tower’ doesn’t excite


I’ve spent the last few weeks glued to Youtube watching a variety of trailers on my computer. My browser history contains links for ”Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Thor: Ragnarok” “Wonder Woman,” “The Big Sick,” “Blade Runner 2049” and others. Even if I’m already familiar with the upcoming film I queue up the teaser to buy into the hype.

A good trailer makes one forget they’re watching basic marketing material. It should have enough information to immerse the viewer but not so much that it gives the entire plot away. Depending on a movie’s fan base size, articles all over the web can be found analyzing and dissecting frames for hints and clues.

Trailers for comedy are tricky. Audiences should know if they’ll enjoy the brand of comedy but it shouldn’t contain all of the best punchlines. The best trailers feature scenes and dialogue that aren’t in the feature film and that goes double for comedies.

Most of the time I only watch the first trailer, if I watch one at all. If I’m interested then I’ll add the title to my Netflix list in case I don’t make it out to the theater. After that I go into a media blackout to protect myself from spoilers.

Other times I watch the trailer over and over because I can’t wait until I can watch it on the big screen instead of my laptop screen.

The trailer for “The Dark Tower,” however, falls flat. It’s not the movie's fault. It has everything possible going for it. Idris Elba playing the rugged gunslinger Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey as the sinister Randall Flagg? Yes please. The setting combines westerns, Arthurian legend, science fiction, horror and fantasy into one mega-genre that sates nerds everywhere.

It’s instead the fault of the source material, started by Stephen King in 1982 and concluding in 2004. The funny part is I picked up the first novel when rumors of a movie surfaced many years ago.

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

Who wouldn’t be hooked by that opening line? I could read about Roland, maniacal monorails and ancient Gilead forever. Yet each paged turned disappointed me more than the last.

I first should have known things were headed south when Roland left Mid-World and went to New York. I let it slide because it’s not an uncommon trope in fantasy novels. Harry Potter and his friends spend time in London. The Pevensie kids take breaks from Narnia.

Though I should have seen the appearance of Father Callahan from “’Salem’s Lot” as another red flag, having ties to other books isn’t necessarily bad either. References like that initially intrigued me to read the series. I thought it was a fun Easter egg like “A113” popping up in Pixar films or how all of the Marvel movies and shows are connected.

By the way, spoilers for the books five through seven follow from here on out. They shouldn’t be read at all but it’s only fair to alert you.

There’s a difference between rip-offs and references. Legally-distinct-but-ultimately-the-same versions of Doctor Doom from “Fantastic Four,” lightsabers from “Star Wars” and snitches from “Harry Potter” show up out of nowhere in a convoluted brawl. That somehow wasn’t the worst of the series’ transgressions and I convinced myself to continue reading.

I almost threw my e-reader across my room when King himself appeared. He reveals that he created Roland and his crew and that they’re merely fictional characters. The main goal then becomes them saving King from a car accident in 1999. The contrived mess blends memoir and fiction into unappealing slop. Yes, it’s wrong to believe authors owe anything to readers, but I can’t help but feel betrayed at the drastic change in coherent plot.

Now, only a bad critic reviews media unseen and it’s entirely possible that the movie series will address these issues. Rather than be a normal adaptation it’s going to be a sequel of the seventh book that also rewrites some of the beginning. That means the parts with King and allusions to other works will most likely have been conveniently skipped over.

But you can understand why I’m reluctant. If there’s anything King has taught me, it’s that he can create great concepts and botch the follow through. Hell, in the books he warns the reader directly to not finish reading because he knows it’s unsatisfactory.

I didn’t listen. I regretted it.

This time I’ll heed his warning.

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