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Those adults who are wholly ignorant of Stephen King’s iconic, dimension-hopping masterpiece, The Dark Tower, are about to get a crash course in epic weirdness on August 4, when Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey take on the lead roles in the first major motion picture adaptation of the series. A film event literally decades in the making, The Dark Tower promises plenty of thrills, and plenty of scrutiny from those fans expecting an entirely faithful leap to the big screen. Whether people love it or hate it, The Dark Tower promises to be one of the most talked about (and yelled about) films of the summer. If you’re entering into the whole thing without having read the books or followed the film’s production, here are some big takeaways you should know before walking into theaters on August 4. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger is a big deal to a lot of people, and here’s why.


1. A Super Brief (and Spoiler Free) Synopsis of ‘The Dark Tower’

Without intending to ruin anything or presume which narrative direction the film will take, you can expect the basic plot of the film to revolve around a man named Roland, the last existing member of the order of Gunslingers, a kind of mash up of a medieval knight, a samurai, and a cowboy. Roland the Gunslinger is chasing after this real a-hole known as the Man in Black. The character goes by many names and is able to pull off a bunch of dark magic shenanigans. The man in black is looking for this mystical nexus point at the center of existence called the Dark Tower. And Roland wants to put a bullet into the Man in Black. Of course, what begins as a standard revenge tale soon expands into a mind-bending journey through dimensions and Universes. It gets weird, folks. Weird, but awesome.


2. The Film Series Is a Sequel

If you’ve read the entirety of The Dark Tower series, then you’re in for a treat. The film series is technically a sequel to the seven book series. In other words, the film begins where the books technically end … which is sort of at the beginning, only with a twist …


3. Expect a Lot of References to Stephen King Himself

Since the sprawling narrative of The Dark Tower reaches out and envelopes several characters from King’s other famous work — The Stand, Insomnia, Hearts in Atlantis, ‘Salem’s Lot, etc. — you can expect the film version of The Dark Tower to include prominent and subtle references to the grand master himself.


4. Stephen King Loves the Man in Black

In The Dark Tower, Matthew McConaughey plays the Man in Black, the dark-hearted turd at the center of Roland’s strife. The Dark Tower isn’t the only one of King’s novels to put the Man in Black as the primary antagonist. He transcends many stories and goes by many names. He’s an agent of chaos who ascends to the top of a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, for example. In The Eyes of the Dragon, he’s a meddling wizard. In Hearts in Atlantis, he’s an activist. Also known as Randall Flagg, Richard Fry, the Dark Man, the Tall Man, the Midnight Rambler, the Walkin’ Dude, the Monster, and a whole host of others, the Man in Black is a nasty fellow who gets off on sorrow.


5. Idris Elba Almost Didn’t Get the Part

In the lead role of the stoic Gunslinger is Idris Elba, a man whose starring role in a major franchise has been way too long in the making. Of course, before he got the role, Daniel Craig, Christian Bale, Javier Bardem, and Viggo Mortensen were also considered.


6. ‘The Dark Tower’ Was Inspired by a Robert Browning Poem

It was called “Childe Rolande to the Dark Tower Came”. Written in 1855, Browning based his poem on both an 11th century knight’s tale and a line from Shakespeare’s King Lear. It’s worth noting that the term “Childe” refers not to a kid, but to a novice knight and that Browning’s poem is filled with just as many imaginary dangers as it is real ones. King’s Dark Tower series is filled with similarly dangerous illusions.


7. King Says The Narrative Style of ‘The Dark Tower’ Was Influenced By Two Major Works of Fiction

Anyone who has read The Dark Tower series can see the obvious fingerprints of King’s two most prominent inspirations: Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Leone’s visceral action is knitted with Tolkien’s sense of scope and depth of world building.


8. They’re Planning a ‘Dark Tower’ TV Series

Assuming The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger goes well, producers have a whole lot of potential content planned for the future. In addition to a series of films, there’s a planned TV series based on the series’ fourth novel, Wizard and Glass, an origin story that tells of Roland’s training and the events that lead up to the end of his word.

Wizard and Glass

9. So Meta Your Brain Might Swallow Itself

You will be able to watch The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger without worrying about knowing the in’s and out’s of Stephen King’s entire expansive bibliography. For those people who have read some of King’s classics, though, there will be plenty of treats in store. Here’s one example for movie geeks and horror readers: one of the film’s minor characters, Lucas Hanson, is played by Nicholas Hamilton. Hamilton is also starring in the King reboot of IT. In the trailer for The Gunslinger, there is a visible reference to Pennywise the Clown, the most fearsome manifestation of the antagonist of IT.


10. The Author Is a Fan of at Least One Part of the Adaptation

At the end of June, The Dark Tower author himself went on the record about his opinion of the film. Now, keeping in mind that King once panned an adaptation of one of his books by Stanley Kubrick, it should be something of a relief to note that King was impressed with the finished project. In particular, he praised Elba, saying that it was “really incredible” to see Roland brought to life by the actor.




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