For a long time, it was thought to be impossible – a film adaptation of Stephen King’s fantasy horror epic about a Gunslinger traveling through different worlds to stop an evil Man in Black from destroying the fixed point that holds all of reality together: the Dark Tower. Yet, we’ll finally see this story on screen, as the man in black flees across the desert, and the gunslinger follows.
After suffering several setbacks through the years – getting this movie made has been a journey almost as epic as Roland’s – The Dark Tower is almost here. Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) directed and co-wrote the film adaptation. Fellow Danish filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen helped rewrite the script, which was originally penned by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner. The movie stars Idris Elba as Roland, Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers.
While the film has been delayed twice in the last few months, The Dark Tower has finally found a solid release date: Aug. 4 will be when fans will begin the journey to the Tower. And we finally have a trailer to make it official.
If you haven’t seen it already, check it out below:
Okay, so Idris Elba looks badass shooting bad guys with his widow makers, which apparently light up in the movie? (Someone remind me if these babies light up in the books. I don’t think so…) While the trailer is definitely action heavy, there’s just a bit to unpack in this first look at the movie. So: I’m going to break down this trailer, but not shot by shot. Instead, I’ll just point out some of the references, easter eggs, and interesting little things found in this trailer. I, of course, will undoubtedly miss something, which means that it’s up to the rest of you Constant Readers to let me know what I missed.
Here we go:
Roland Deschain, played by Elba, spends a lot of time shooting dudes in the face in this trailer – it’s clearly marketed for a more mainstream audience – but we do get a bit of story as well. The first shot in the trailer looks like the city of Gilead, Roland’s home before its fall to the forces of the Crimson King – the main antagonist of the book series, who is briefly mentioned in this trailer (we’ll get to that in a minute).
Steven, Roland’s father, who is also seemingly glimpsed in this trailer, was the leader of Gilead when it fell. He was also the leader of the gunslingers, knights and peacekeepers who protected the land. After the fall of Gilead, Roland is the last remaining gunslinger in Mid-World, one of the many worlds connected to the Dark Tower.
This is definitely Roland traveling through Mid-World. The opening of The Dark Tower series takes place almost primarily in the desert. While the movie will have more than its fair share of New York City, King has previously said that the film adaptation will open with Roland giving chase to Flagg like in the beginning of the first book, The Gunslinger.
We’re also introduced to Walter aka the Man in Black, the main villain, played by McConaughey. Walter works for the forces of the Crimson King. His mission: to destroy the Dark Tower. Roland, being the last gunslinger in the multiverse, must stop Walter before he completes his mission.
The Man in Black is known by many names throughout the series, and while there’s no indication that things will play out the same way in the movies, the villain has actually been an agent of chaos in many of King’s other novels, including The Stand and Eyes Of The Dragon.
In order to save or destroy the Tower, both men need Jake Chambers, played by Taylor, a boy who lives in our world but can see into others. Jake has an ability called “the shine” – not the only reference to The Shining in this trailer. In the books, he has the ability to sense things through ka, a force that binds all living things together. This allows Jake to see and feel certain things before they happen. It’s how Jake is able to have visions of Roland and the Dark Tower.
From this trailer, it looks Jake’s origin story will be remixed a bit in the movie. While Jake originally appeared in Roland’s world after dying on Earth (too much to get into here), I think we’ll go straight to The Waste Lands for Jake’s origin.
Before we get to how Jake joins up with Roland in the movie, we have to quickly call attention to a couple of things about his visions. He draws them on paper, and while there are many pictures of the Tower in this shot, there’s also something much more interesting afoot. The pictures of the different men and women? Those are almost certainly the Breakers, people who have special psychic powers that can be used to break down the beams that hold up the Tower. By the time of the movie, they’ve almost definitely been taken prisoner by the Man in Black, who plans to use them to destroy the Tower.
The Devar-Toi, the Crimson King’s prison where these Breakers are being held, is said to appear in this movie, which means that we MIGHT see a glimpse of these characters at some point in the film.
Richard Earnshaw, Stanley Ruiz, and Ted Brautigan are among the Breakers in the books. Earnshaw first appeared in the short story “Everything’s Eventual,” and Brautigan was first introduced in the book Hearts in Atlantis. (He’s played by Anthony Hopkins in the movie version!)
Also, is that a picture of a woman in a wheelchair front and centre? That’s unclear, but if it is, that’s our first tease of Susannah Dean, one of the members of Roland’s ka-tet – the gunslinger’s crew.
One other thing before we get to Jake’s journey to Mid-World: this is totally the Overlook Hotel, a nice callback to The Shining and an impressive way to establish the shared universe of The Dark Tower series, even if Sony doesn’t have the rights to the actual novel. This is not the only reference to a Stephen King book, by the way.
EW also pointed out something I didn’t notice at first: the little statue of the man blowing into a horn. Is that a reference to the Horn of Eld? This horn, which probably deserves its own feature altogether, will probably play a big role in explaining how this movie is a pseudo-sequel to the book series (it is!). The Horn of Eld was previously teased by a promotional poster that reads, “Last time around.” Hmm, what ever could that mean?
Okay, so Jake has a vision of an old abandoned mansion called Dutch Hill. It’s here that Jake finds the doorway into Mid-World, Roland’s world. You’ll find that there are many doorways in these books, and I suspect we’ll see a few of them in this movie. The one in Dutch Hill is guarded by the house itself, which is actually a demon.
Jake eventually defeats this demon and discovers the doorway into Mid-World, which looks very man-made in the movie, but involves a bit more magic in The Waste Land (and sex with a demon).
I don’t remember there being a mention of Mid-World having two moons in the books? Correct me if I’m wrong. Anyway, if for no other reason, the moons in the sky signify that Jake is no longer on Earth. It’s also a beautiful shot.
Interestingly enough, while Jake arrives to the Mohaine Desert, there doesn’t appear to be a Way Station in sight. Roland just seems to run into him. He’s less than enthused to find the boy, as evidenced by the immediate drawing of his revolver. (Seriously, why do these guns light up?)
After some more shooting – seriously, did you know Roland has guns and he will use them? – we get our first glimpse at the Tower!!! It’s clearly seen better days. This is probably a vision, but…is that supposed to be the red eye of the Crimson King in the background? Spooky.
Anyway, we get a shot of what looks like the Breakers attacking the Tower with their powers. Those blue lights come out of the Tower are the beams that connect it to the many different worlds of this universe. If Walter’s forces manage to break these beams, the Tower will fall.
At one point in the trailer, we see a red blast of energy being shot at one of those beams. Certainly, that’s the Breakers doing their slave labour.
Here’s a better look at those beams. While there are six beams in total, there are 12 spokes that connect to the tower. Each beam is protected by two guardians: bat, lion, bear, horse, rat, wolf, rabbit, eagle, turtle, dog, fish, and elephant. I don’t want to be too spoiler-y here since I don’t think the movie will cover everything in The Waste Lands, so I’ll just say that one of these beams in particular become vital to the story.
Oh, and you can see one of these beams running through New York City. Earlier in the trailer, there are hints of small earthquakes in Jake’s room and in the psychiatrist’s office. Those are reverberations from Walter’s attacks on the beams.
When a beam is destroyed, a cataclysmic event called a Beam-Quake occurs. It can destroy entire cities. Gilead, which sat under the Eagle-Lion beam, was partially destroyed when the beam fell.
So basically, good luck, NYC.
We get a shot of Walter inside what looks like Dutch Hill. He’s caressing a wall that says, “All hail the Crimson King.” As mentioned before, Walter works for the Crimson King, who’s basically the most evil entity in all of King’s work. He also appears in the novel Insomnia and is mentioned in a few other books, including Hearts in Atlantis.
The Crimson King’s plan is to tear down the Tower and rule what’s left in chaos. Walter is trying to facilitate that.
The Crimson King has a pretty big squad of supernatural minions at his disposal, including vampires, witches, and demons, as well as two King creations – the Taheen and the Can-toi. The Taheen and the Can-toi are basically humanoid monsters with the heads of animals. The Can-toi like to disguise themselves as humans and travel through our world, as shown in the novella “Low Men in Yellow Coats,” one of the stories in Hearts in Atlantis.
It’s unclear who these masked dudes are. They’re clearly enemies, but they don’t seem to have animal heads. Are they a more capable version of the Slow Mutants from The Gunslinger? I hope not. Where the hell are the real Slow Mutants? They’re so cool. Show em!
But these henchmen are probably Can-toi. And they have machine guns, which allows for more scenes of Roland shooting people with his “glow in the dark” revolvers. Also, these action scenes probably take place in the Dixie Pig, a restaurant in New York City that acts as a lair for the Crimson King’s forces in our world. Roland probably kills all the dudes in this place.
A great callback to It. Jake stumbles on an old Pennywise the Dancing Clown theme park. Pennywise, of course, is the main antagonist of the aforementioned novel and is also getting a new movie this year. The Dark Tower will probably not connect to New Line’s remake…
Not sure what this is supposed to be a reference to. If you know, let me know in the comments…
Later on in the trailer, we get a look at Steven Deschain, played by Dennis Haysbert. This is definitely a flashback because Steven is dead by the time of the books. Could Dennis play Steven in the potential Dark Tower prequel TV series?
Also, what is Roland remember here? In a literal sense, the face of his father.
Oh, and Jake has a mom, too. Her name is Laurie, played by Katheryn Winnick.
What is this weird red substance luring Jake in the woods? EW has two good theories: it’s the succubus that tries to capture Jake in The Gunslinger or a “thinny,” a tear in the fabric of reality.
Finally, we get to something from the fifth and sixth books – Wolves of the Calla and Song of Susannah – the Manni village. The Manni are a religious group that specialises in traveling between worlds. Roland probably needs them to go back and forth between Mid-World and our world.
That one villager behind Roland is played by Claudia Kim.
The Crimson King’s forces attack the village and try to take Jake, but Roland is too good with his luminescent guns. That minion never stood a chance….