The Gunslinger, one of Stephen King's earliest departures from the horror genre, begins with an evocative sentence: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
Seven more novels followed, charting the course of the Roland Deschain, a gun-toting knight, and his ka-tet, a band of warriors plucked from across parallel world, who together quest towards the axis of the universe, the mysterious structure known as The Dark Tower. Their main adversary along the way: The Man in Black, a sorcerer and servant of darkness. Roland's destiny was to ascend to the and reveal the secrets of the Dark Tower. King's tomes were destined to become a Lord of the Rings size movie series. Now we're finally seeing it on screen, and fans can only hope that at some point, the man in black flees across the desert, and the gunslinger follows.
Our first look at The Dark Tower, due in theaters on August 4, teases the bitter, bloody feud between Roland (Idris Elba) and The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). But the real focus is on Jake, a New York City kid sucked into the ka-tet through visions... and then an actual inter-dimensional portal. In the two-minutes trailer, there are shades of LOTR, John Ford Western, the Underworld series, and even a little Neverending Story. From anyone on the outside of Dark Tower fandom looking in, there's potential in this kooky-sounding combination
Anyone steeped in the Dark Tower mythology becomes immediately aware that writer-director Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) is playing fast and loose with the events of the book. The Gunslinger was a compact, cowboy story with a paranormal twist. Not until the later books did King widen the scope, which included entering into our "real world." The Dark Tower movie remixes the story into something that can stand up to modern blockbusters. Thanks to a final plot twist -- he who spoils the ending of a seventh book has forgotten the face of his father -- this could make a whole lot of sense.
Encouraged? Worried? The Dark Tower will ride into the final moments of Summer in hopes of launching a brand new, Stephen King-approved franchise. Cross your fingers it works. And if you're a purist, remember: there are other worlds than these.