To say that reading The Dark Tower changed my life is far from an understatement. It’s a fact. I never read Lord of the Rings. I haven’t gotten into Game of Thrones. No, for me, it’s only been Roland Deschain and his quest to get to the tower that holds all worlds together.
Seven years ago, I was commuting from my home in Toronto to a crappy job about 90 minutes via subway away. What kept me going through the first few months of 2010 was reading The Dark Tower on my little Sony e-reader. While I had picked up the original trade paperback edition of The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger when it was released back in 1988 (and I was just 11 years old), and read subsequent instalments including The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands, the wait time between novels had killed my interest in the series, and it lay unfinished. However, in that winter of 2010, I was determined to read the books I’d already started, and finish the series.
And so I did, reading for three hours, five days a week, immersed in Mid-World, Roland and his Ka-tet, the Man in Black and the Crimson King. I travelled through thinnys and baronies and encountered breakers and booksellers. I read with my heart and I felt it break several times throughout the months I spent with these beloved characters. And when I came to what was then the final words of Stephen King’s epic, I nodded. It couldn’t have ended any other way.
This Friday, The Dark Tower looks to ascend to new heights, as its long-troubled road to the big screen finally reaches its own summit. Idris Elba is Roland. Matthew McConaughey is the Man in Black. The film is directed by a first timer named Nicolaj Arcel, who has proved in interviews that he is a Constant Reader himself devoted to preserving the tower. There’s fear amongst fans – that with a running time of 95 minutes, the story and mythos will be poorly served. That Elba isn’t the Roland many saw in their mind’s eye. That The Dark Tower is unfilmable, and even trying is an exercise in futility.
Maybe all of these fears will be founded. But, hand on heart, I don’t really care.
If The Dark Tower is entertaining, I’ll be happy. If it gives me even a quarter of the feelings I had reading any of the books, even better. And true, if it’s a disaster, I’ll be let down somewhat. Though really, a bad movie won’t stick with me for very long. I have the books. The books will always be there. The affect they had on me won’t ever be diminished. I hope that my fellow travellers can find it in their heads to watch the film in the same way. There’s a lot of anger out there already, directed at King, at Arcel, at the film’s stars. Who needs it?
Life is too short, and a movie is just a movie.