Sunday, August 6, 2017

It's Really Not That Complicated...

Time for an exercise.
Before we begin, let me answer a question some of you might have: no, I will not be reviewing The Dark Tower.  Not, at least, for now; you can look for that review at some point in the future, though, for sure.  It might be as late as whenever the Blu-ray comes out, or as soon as whenever the movie exits cinemas; but for now, I won't be speaking to it here.  I won't be entertaining comments about it, either, which might seem frustrating to some of you; trust me, I get it.  There's a reason for it, though; it's got to do with my job (I'm a movie-theatre manager), and for the time being, I just don't think it's a good idea for me to talk about the movie.
In lieu of that conversation, I'd like to offer a few thoughts as to why I don't think it was necessary for anybody to be afraid of actually adapting The Gunslinger (a thing the movie certainly does not do).  That novel gets criticized by King fans and by Dark Tower fans alike (albeit not all of them) for being too weird or too boring or too offensive or some combination of those qualities.  I try to keep myself in check anytime this issue comes up, and I'm mostly successful; I mean, yeah, sure, it baffles and aggravates me that some people look at The Gunslinger -- which is my favorite King novel of them all -- that way, but hey, whatever, you do fandom your way and I'll do it my way, and we'll all be okay in the end.
So my aim today is to show you how a movie based on The Gunslinger could have played out.  Bear in mind -- as I would be well-advised to do (he said to himself, warningly) -- that I have never made a movie, have never even tried to make a movie.  I don't really know what I'm talking about, so take all of this for what it's worth.
I've been watching movies my whole life, though.  And I've been reading books my whole life.  Specifically, I've been reading books like The Gunslinger (an epic combination of science fiction, fantasy, and horror), and I've been watching movies that aspire to be the kind of crowd-pleasing hits that a series of Dark Tower films ostensibly wanted/needed to be.  I'm a critical-minded thinker who understands that if one wishes to draw a line from books like that to movies like that with the aim of turning the story of one into the experience of the other, one cannot draw a straight line; it is necessary to curve the line, to loop it back on itself as needed to avoid the pitfalls that come with such an effort.  What matter is getting from point A to point B while bringing as much of the book with you as possible.
If you don't have that intent, it means you were only ever interested in point B, in which case, why are you even bothering with point A?
In order to conduct this exercise, I will be spoiling certain aspects of the series, including the very ending of Book VII.  So if you haven't read the books, I'd advise against reading this post.
The main charge against The Gunslinger, as far as I can tell, is that it's boring.  I think that's ridiculous, but I've heard it from too many people to shrug it off.  That being the case, I'd be a fool not to take it into account when proposing this film version.
Let that be lesson #1, then: divorce your ego from the project as much as possible in service of accomplishing the intended goal (i.e., to translate these books into a mass-audience-friendly cinematic context and thereby make billions of dollars).  Part of that means letting go of certain aspects of the novel in favor of making an enjoyable movie; but it also means keeping the end product recognizably similar to the novel.  

So if the complaint against this novel is that it's boring, how do you keep it from being boring on film?  You have to engage people's attention.
How do you do that?  Via filmmaking technique.  The first thing is to make them interested in the characters, which in the case of this book consists of Roland, Jake, and the Man In Black.  People sometimes say that Roland is unlikable in this book, and I guess I have to take that charge seriously.  That's okay; putting the right actor in the role will fix that issue.  From there, you use both Jake and the Man In Black as agents to help define Roland.  Jake can be an agent who helps us like Roland more by virtue of Jake liking him; and the Man In Black can give Roland an enemy to oppose, so that we understand part of what makes Roland the way he is.  By Roland bouncing between those two characters, the means of our coming to like/love him is already present.
From there, keeping the film from being boring is a matter of pace.  I love the novel The Gunslinger for its prose as much as anything else.  What's the cinematic equivalent of prose?  Shot selection; cinematography; editing; art direction; costuming; etc.  No movie should settle for less than excellence in those qualities; hire top-flight artists/craftspeople for those jobs.  Set a realistic budget so as to give them room to do what they do best.
That said, pace is key.  You've got to capture the audience's interest immediately, and not let go of it.  With that in mind, I think it makes sense to tighten the beginning of the story a bit.
We now turn to spoilers for Book VII.  
Still with me?
Okay, so as you know, Book VII ends with the revelation that Roland is being forced by the Tower to repeat his quest on a seemingly endless loop.  There is a hint that redemption and resolution may be possible; but a hint is all it really is.  Any film series I were to be involved in based on these books WOULD end in precisely that fashion, so to me, it makes sense to structure the beginning of the movie so that, years later, in retrospect, the end of the final film could literally be edited into a loop with the beginning of the first film.  Like it's a 20-hour-long GIF or something, you know?
A big part of the way this could be accomplished is via music.  In my version, music would be crucially important, not mere background noise.  I'd like for Roland to have a theme that implies the circularity of his journey, but which could be cast into different modes across the films as the tone of the scenes warrants.  So here at the outset, I'd like it to be Morricone-style spaghetti-western music, complete with guitar and wordless singing and percussion and brass; later, the melody could be plaintive, or heroic, or mysterious, or frightening, depending on what the scene needs.  This would culminate in the most majestic orchestral version you can imagine as Roland approaches the Tower in the final film; every instrument in the orchestra engaged fully, including a massive choir wordlessly singing the melody.  As Roland enters and explores the Tower, the orchestra's performance becomes gradually less intense, and instruments begin dropping out until there is just a single voice, repeating the melody.  And then, as he goes through a door to his ultimate destination, instruments rejoin, and the music turns right back into the music that we encountered at the beginning of the first film.
So here, in the beginning, the music needs to take that idea into account.  A skilled composer could do that; an inspired composer could deliver something for the ages.
In any case, against the music is a black screen, on which the following words appear, fading in from darkness:
They fade back out, and new words fade in:
Cut to a desert vista, massive, blinding.  In the middle of the image, a man, with his back turned to us.  He is striding -- calmly, but purposefully -- into the distance, toward the horizon.  We (via the camera) follow along with him.  Perhaps the music emphasizes the pace of his stride in some way; I'd leave that for the composer to work out, but I'd put the thought in their ear.
Cut to a different view of the man, so that we see the guns on his hips; we must understand right at the outset that this is the Gunslinger the introductory words told us about.  There should be no confusion as to whether this might be the Man In Black, we must KNOW it is the Gunslinger.
We do NOT see Roland's face during this sequence, which will end up being a relatively brief montage of lapsing time in which we see that the Gunslinger is alternating between periods of rest and periods of pursuit.  He sleeps briefly during the day, wakes, walks all night, walks into the morning, tracks his quarry via leavings of a campfire, sleeps briefly when the heat of the day grows unbearable, wakes, resumes his quest, repeat, repeat, repeat.  This can't go on too long, though, lest people get restless; it needs to go on long enough to get the point across, but boredom cannot be allowed to set in.  The music can help; it can -- and should -- establish a rhythm in conjunction with the editing.  This will be helpful later on, because it can be used as a callback, and deliver meaning and context.
Before long, the Gunslinger passes a home: Brown, the farmer, with Zoltan the raven.  We will not spend much time here.  Still not seeing Roland's face, we hear him ask Brown for information about a man in black.  The music settles down into something more contemplative for a few moments while this conversation takes place.  "Will you stay and take supper?" Brown asks.  We see Roland's face finally.  The music returns to the pattern from before, turning Roland's stay with Brown into another montage, of eating, talking, resting, departure.  This should play almost like a joke, and should emphasize Roland's purposefulness.
Brown will have pointed Roland toward Tull.  Yes, I know that Roland meets Brown after Tull in the novel; that's okay, we can make a change of that nature and not feel too bad.

From here, Roland ends up in Tull relatively soon, probably by means of another time-lapse montage.  I'd say we're not even quite five minutes into the film by this point.  We will be condensing the entire Tull sequence heavily.  Roland will still go into the saloon, and will probably still order something to eat.  Everything will be tense and uncomfortable, and nobody will want to meet the Gunslinger's eye when he asks them about the Man In Black.  The only person who will answer his question is Nort, the weed-eater, who wildly tells him about being recently returned from the dead.  "There's a trap been left for you in this town, Gunslinger," he'll eventually whisper, grinning sickly.  "Best get out while there's gettin' to be had."   The music will have never dropped all the way out; it will likely have faded a bit and become more mysterious, but it will continue as a single unbroken cue for now.

From there, the Battle of Tull takes place.  Roland's exit from the saloon is barred by a number of people brandishing knives and clubs and whatnot; I'm pretty sure there will be nineteen of them in all.  (There will be nineteen all over this movie, but it won't be right out in the open; it'll be subtle, and placed purposefully.)  Roland will give them a warning of some sort; not necessarily a verbal one.  Something to let us know he is giving them the option to keep their lives, but won't be terribly upset if they choose not to take it.
Maybe Allie, the saloon-keeper -- whose role is obviously greatly reduced here compared to the novel -- still serves the essential purpose of letting Roland know that they've been magicked by the Man In Black and are not responsible for their actions.  "Then you're dead already," Roland proclaims as he blows her away just as she moves to attack him.  The music becomes somewhat frightening, intense, persistent; it reinforces the notion that Roland is doing a thing he is very good at, horrible though it may be.  This should be a tour-de-force action scene, perhaps a single take; establishing Roland's skill and determination are the paramount goals.  He is, obviously successful.

The music fades a bit as he surveys the scene, grimly stepping outside to resume his pursuit.  When he gets outside, the music quickly ramps up again, becoming even more intense as he finds the remainder of the town waiting for him.  The fighting becomes even more desperate, more awful, more frightening.  The audience should be horrified by how excited all this makes them; Roland has a harder time of it here, but before long, the town is dead.

The music fades almost entirely out, but is still present in muted form as Roland takes up the pursuit again.  Another montage, and then, Roland reaches a way station, where he hears the sounds of what he assumes to be the Man In Black.  Now, the music does drop all the way out, preferably with some kind of minor flourish that ties the entire beginning of the film together, culminating what I'd envision as one of the most spectacular uses of film music -- nearly twenty minutes of sustained scoring -- in cinematic history.

And that's the point I'm trying to make.  I'd want the beginning of this film to be relatively simple -- we're not talking a hundred-million-dollar spectacle here -- but insanely ambitious.  I want everyone involved to be shooting for the moon with this first reel.  Maybe some of the violence might put some people off -- this WILL be rated R if I'm working on it (which I won't be, but hey, we're pretending, so let me keep my illusion) -- but for everyone who's left, I want them to feel almost as if they didn't breathe while they were in Tull.
If you can accomplish that, then most of the rest of the movie is a cakewalk.  If you can get an audience to believe Roland is damn near a force of nature, then you've got them, not only for the rest of this movie, but for the rest of the series.

What comes next is Roland meeting Jake.  He thinks he's caught up to the Man In Black, but instead, he's met the boy who will shape the rest of the film.

At this point, the pace can slow down a bit, as we get to know a bit about who Jake is.  Not too much about him, though; not at first.  Roland asks Jake where he has come from; Jake just shakes his head and says he doesn't want to remember that yet.  Roland, a man who understands silence, lets this stand.  There will be a small action scene -- hopefully a rather scary one that gives people a good jump scare they can talk about after the movie -- involving the speaking demon in the wall.  Maybe Roland won't be sure about taking Jake with him until this happens.
I think that what's important here is this: we need to like Jake immediately; Jake needs to like Roland immediately; and while Roland should be somewhat distant toward Jake, I think we should understand that it is because he likes Jake and is afraid of him getting hurt.  But in the end, Roland will take Jake with him, perhaps due to what the speaking demon says to him.

As the two of them journey, Jake asks Roland why he's chasing the Man In Black.  We should want to know the answer to this ourselves, but Roland should -- not with a huge amount of conviction -- refuse to answer the question.  Jake will say something like, "I'll tell you who I was ... before ... if you tell me."  And then we will see/hear the story of Jake Chambers' death, and his waking suddenly in Mid-World.

In return, Roland will tell us what a Gunslinger is.  (My inclination is not to do this via flashbacks, but strictly through Roland telling Jake the story.  And it might be possible to deliver Jake's story that way, too, although my gut says to do it via flashback.)  He'll tell us that the Man In Black was a crucial component in the fall of Gilead and the end of the Gunslingers.  He'll tell Jake about the Tower, which seems almost to be a myth, but one which Roland believes in.  He believes the Man In Black is the key to the Tower, and that the Tower is the key to setting the world right again.

Jake asks what this means.

"The world has ... moved on," Roland says, unsure how to express a concept he himself does not understand.  "Time no longer flows correctly; the land no longer grows; there are fewer and fewer ... untroubled births."  He shrugs, with seeming frustration.  "The world has moved on."

"And the Tower can ... fix the world?  I don't understand."

"Nor I.  Once, mayhap, my teachers could have explained it to us.  But they have all reached the clearing at the end of the path, driven there by revolution and chaos.  The Man In Black is evil, but he is also a powerful sorcerer.  He will die at my hands, but before he does, he will point me in the direction of the Tower."

"And when you get there...?"


Before long -- the next night, presumably -- they encounter the oracle, where Roland fights off another demon in a bravura effects sequence.  There should be more jump scares here, if possible; jump scares are good for word of mouth.
Not long after this, Roland and Jake unexpectedly encounter the Man In Black himself.  He hints that Jake will not survive the journey under the mountains.

Here, we have to make a choice as to how heavily we (as hypothetical filmmakers) lean on the notion that Roland expects Jake to die; specifically, as a sort of sacrifice.  The speaking demon will possibly have hinted at it; and the oracle will have told him this: "The boy is your gateway to the man in black.  The man in black is your gate to the three.  The three are your way to the Dark Tower."

We have to be careful, though, because the rest of the movie depends on how we play Roland's decisions regarding Jake.  In the book, he more or less allows Jake to fall to his (second) death, merely so he can catch up to the Man In Black.  I think it works in the book, but would fall flat in the movie, and would possibly ruin the entire narrative if it plays out exactly like in the novel.

The true moment of decision should seem, in retrospect, to be the moment when Roland persuades Jake to follow him under the mountain.  Looking back on it, we will realize that this is when Roland sacrifices Jake.  But that means that while they are beneath the mountain, Roland must fight HARD to keep Jake alive, including in the moments before Jake falls.  So what I'm saying is that I think for a movie, this moment has to play out somewhat differently.  Maybe Roland tries as hard as he can to save Jake, but it doesn't work.  Maybe -- and I kind of like this idea -- Jake saves Roland from death, thereby proving to actually BE the gateway to the Man In Black for Roland.

Either way, I think that in order for the audience to stay on Roland's side, he has to fight for Jake; maybe he even tries to send him back at first, only for Jake to refuse because he doesn't want to face the darkness alone.  Then, the slow mutants show up (in a jump scare to end all jump scares, preferably), giving us another bravura action setpiece.  They get out of that danger, but there's no going back for Jake now; forward is the only sane direction to go, regardless of the hints from the Man In Black.
Regardless, the bottom line for this section of the film is this: if Roland does not still have our sympathies by the time he walks out alone from under that mountain, the movie is sunk.  I'm not sure the movie can survive if we get the feeling that Roland has consciously sacrificed Jake.  I think audiences can be okay with him having risked Jake's life, especially if Jake's death has an obvious impact on him (especially if it elicits emotion from Roland for the first time in the film).  But if things go the way they go in the novel, I think a lot of people would turn on the movie.

What follows after Roland emerges from under the mountain, of course, is the palaver between Roland and the Man In Black.

Things get a little tricky here, too.  We've exhausted the novel's action scenes at this point, and there's no getting around the fact that the final chapter of the book involves two dudes talking about existential matters around a campfire.  I'm enchanted by this, and I envision some sort of bizarre tour-de-force effects sequence not unlike something out of Kubrick (aided tremendously by our excellent musical score).  But it can't be only that.

If it's only that, it won't work for general audiences.  So it's got to also be a battle to the death between these two enemies.  Walter has lured Roland here to destroy him -- or so it seems (we'll learn much later in the series that Walter knows this is impossible and is merely acting his part) -- and thereby help bring about the fall of the Tower.  Perhaps we learn about the Crimson King here in some way; perhaps we learn that the reason the world has moved on is that the Tower is under attack from the Crimson King. 

Regardless, the palaver must culminate in a battle between Gunslinger and sorcerer.  Roland must feel like a hero here; this is our opportunity to win not only the battle, but the movie.  It would be nice if this could somehow be connected to Jake; maybe Roland still possesses some talisman that Jake owned and gave to him, and he uses that in some way.  I don't immediately know; but I think that giving this moment to Jake in some way would help.  However it plays out, Roland prevails, and as he does so perhaps he becomes able -- so he thinks (and we along with him) -- to read Walter's mind. 

As Roland pierces Walter's thoughts, the music swells into something heroic, and we get our first glimpses of the Three, living in their own worlds, blissfully unaware of Roland's.  Walter perishes, promising to see Roland again.  (Could we get away with giving him Jake's "Go, then; there are other worlds than these" line?  I want Jake's death to more immediate, less resigned; so I'm taking them out of his mouth, and I figure somebody may as well benefit from them.)  Roland comes to understand that he will find his Three, and soon, and sets off up the beach toward his destiny, the Man In Black a quickly-decomposing corpse behind him.
The music swells to an even greater degree, and Roland closes his eyes.  We cut -- the music continuing -- to a field of roses, the camera racing along to find the Tower standing there in all its glory.  This is the first time we have glimpsed it fully.  As we get closer, we find that we are within its shadow.  The shadow grows darker, but the music somehow continues to intensify in its grandeur.  The screen goes almost entirely black as we fall fully within the shadow of the Tower, and then music reaches a crescendo and culminates.

The darkness disappears, replaced by a shot of Jake's eyes opening, a gasp escaping his mouth as he sits bolt upright in his bed, seemingly alive all over again.

Cut to credits.

So, to recap, here's what we've got:

  • A big action setpiece toward the beginning of the film;
  • a developing friendship between Roland and Jake that gives the film its heart;
  • a trio of action/horror scenes that increase in intensity each time and provide some memorable scares for audiences to talk about;
  • a tragic end to the friendship that is redeemed by Roland seemingly using the remnants of that friendship to eliminate a major opponent to the Tower; 
  • a visually stunning climax that provides both existential wonder and an exciting hero-versus-villain showdown;
  • and an unexpected tease (of Jake's fate not being quite so final as we thought) that helps point the way toward what the sequel might be.

I think all that adds up to the structure for a pretty damn solid movie.

And that's from what many people think is the worst book in the series.

Oh, Hollywood; you and I should have gotten together at some point.  I think we'd have had some good times, you and I.

Frankly, I don't think it's too late.

Nor do I think it's too early to be thinking about a reboot for a certain would-be franchise...


  1. Interesting alternate idea for a films.

    I have my own thoughts about this, however, I'll wait until the direct film review is reached.


  2. They should have hired you as a consultant.

  3. Just thought of something. This is actually just a fan idea I've had for a long while now. However, this post just brought it back to mind.

    Basically, the image I have in my mind is the final duel from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". The difference is that it would feature Roland, Flagg, and Mordred. I found myself thinking in an idle hour that such an idea could almost make for a neat alternate part ending for the final Tower novel. The rest after that would mostly follow the book, though.

    I don't know how good an idea that is to include in any future film though. To m it just sounds derivative.


    1. Okay, one last thought, as part of that Leone rip-off, in this version, Oy would get to live.

      Spoilers for those who don't know.

      ,,,I'll go take my meds now.


    2. Poor Oy.

      The seventh novel presents major challenges in adaptation. I would want to keep the ending the same, but otherwise, it feels like audiences would require something else. I can see how the Crimson King's ending is thematically and philosophically worthy, but it's not satisfying as storytelling; not even for me -- so imagine what general audiences would make of it!

      Nah, we'd have to come up with something different.

      It's not looking good for Oy in my version, though. Fair warning...

    3. To be clear, I'm not shooting down your "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" scenario. That might work, and it would certainly honor the original intent of King's books.

      So when I say I say "we'd have to come up with something different," I mean something different that the Crimson King throwing grenades and hollering and then getting painted out of existence. Your idea is a pretty good starting point, I'd say.

    4. I got the "not shooting down" loud and clear.

      In fact, your bringing up the King reminded me of two other points. It literally took that character's name to bring about an "Oh yeah, almost totally forgot about that" moment.

      My thoughts about an alternate ending for the CK don't take things much further than, rather than having his image erased from a scrap of paper, Roland opts to just burn the drawing, and the King incinerates along with it.

      The second is that, if the King were to have a name, then the best suggestion on offer right is: how "Eld" Deschain.

      I don't know, just thought it had a ring to it. Like I said, not much to add.


    5. I like the idea of Roland setting fire to the drawing. That's gangsta.

    6. Okay, unbelievable as it is, here's a "brain(fart)storm" I just had Re: Crimson King Showdown.

      What if it starts off the same, and then comes the moment when the King falls silent. As the King hits the mute button, we a shadow come up behind Roland. He whirls, around, guns drawn, only to gawp in disbelief. Another one of those standing doors has formed right behind him.

      A take in of the scene would reveal Patrick has out his old drawing from "Insomnia", and now he has added the new door at the bottom of the picture. Roland also sees that Patrick has added a door on the CK's balcony. Roland risks a glance only to discover the King staring at the second door that has appeared right in front of him. After, a beat, the King regains himself, and disappears through the drawn door.

      The rest of the segment would be Roland having to follow the King through is own door, and both find themselves in a fantasy facsimile of the King' Court (insert song reference joke of choice here). It would start out with the King having the upper hand, until, somehow, Roland might lure him down to the basement level somehow, where there is an exit portal.

      To be Continued.


    7. Concluded from above.

      Here's the final showdown could even have a way to tie in with the released version, botched as it is. You have Roland and the King chased by what appears to be the Dutch Hill guardian. It starts out that way, until the boards of the face begin to crack and break apart. Once that face breaks apart, the creature underneath is revealed to be the Palace Guardian that R and Susannah escape from in book 7.

      This time, Roland and the King must make their way toward the final exit Patrick has drawn, and wouldn't you know it, its unstable and could collapse shut at any time. Everything begins to break apart as Roland and the King make a simultaneous leap for the door. What happens is your basic "Temple of Doom ending". King ahead, Roland below, Gunslinger makes his way up to King, brief struggle King gets knocked back or loses grip somehow. Cue shot of screaming Crimson King tumbling into Palace Guardians open, and waiting jaws. After which Roland makes the obligatory hair-breadth escape.

      We can even have the following bit of business:

      Roland (to Patrick): Next time warn me, if you're gonna do that!

      Patrick: (points to throat and mouth, gives self a sarcastic head-slap).

      I don't know, somehow it just feels a bit too cheap, yet I guess its what the public wants (shrugs).


    8. I feel a bit as if Patrick Danville might not make the cut at all. He's okay, but he's almost literally a deus ex machina on two legs.

      As for the Crimson King, I don't know what to do with him. On the one hand, I don't want to just wholly rewrite Stephen King. On the other hand, there isn't a lot of drama in what he does once Roland reaches the Tower. So it would almost make sense to me for the Crimson King to be defeated earlier in the story; not sure how or when, exactly, but I'm sure there's a way.

      Then, the climax could simply involve Roland reaching the Tower, and then the gut-punch of the ending.

  4. Hi Bryant. I just recently discovered your blog, and I've enjoyed immensely the time I spent getting lost in the backlog of your previous posts. I don't comment much, but you better believe I'll be around reading and enjoying what you write!

    I love your take on what a Gunslinger movie could be. I agree wholeheartedly that a more direct adaptation of book 1 would be the best way to introduce this mythos to a new medium. It worked for the millions of us who read the books, so even people who don't absolutely love book 1 have to admit that King did enough right to get them to continue on to book 2.

    My only change to your suggestions would be to let Jake keep his "other worlds" line. In fact, I think that could be a key to adapting that scene in a way that would work for general audiences: rather than how book Roland sacrifices Jake in order to catch Walter, in the movie, Jake sacrifices himself to buy Roland time to catch Walter. This could play out as such: slow mutants attack; its obvious that Roland and Jake can beat them, but it's going to be a long, drawn out battle; during the fight Walter shows up, taunting Roland and offering up that choice to leave Jake behind; Roland hesitates, and we can see that he's torn, but he ultimately turns back to the battle; Jake also sees this, and, uttering his famous line, he sacrifices himself to end the battle quickly so that Roland can follow Walter. There can even remain a hint of callous book Roland by having him turn to continue on quicker than we would expect him to do so (yet obviously mourning and upset enough by Jake's sacrifice to maintain audience sympathies).

    As for the final meeting of the gunslinger and the man in black, I think that Marvel movies like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange have shown that audiences will accept strange psychedelic, metaphysical content in a movie if presented in the right manner. So I think there's definitely recent precedent for your ending that combines a climactic, action-packed showdown with revelations about the nature of the Tower. I'd work in the tarot card reading by having Walter sitting by the campfire with the cards already laid out when Roland catches him. The fight between the two could ensue, and then once Walter is defeated, Roland could stumble over to the fire and see the cards before passing out. He wakes up to see that much time has passed (although it doesn't need to be explicitly stated how much time), with the skeleton where Walter's body was, and we go into your ending, with Roland setting off down the beach. (And I love your suggestion of ending with a glimpse of Jake waking up. It's the perfect teaser to get audiences excited for a sequel.)

    Man, what a great movie you've outlined here! Regardless of anything to do with the movie currently in theaters, I would love to live on the level of the Tower where that flick is a reality!

    1. You are hereby hired to be part of my writing staff when and if I am given fifty million dollars or so to make this a reality.


      I actually thought of the end of this novel while watching "Doctor Strange." I was like, oh, okay, this sort of thing CAN be done now. It's just a matter of finding the same sort of stakes that that film had (in terms of Strange versus Dormammu); if you could manage to make it feel like the culmination of the novel's story -- which my outline has arguably failed to do -- then boom, you've got a hit.

    2. Awesome! I know a guy who has a pet raccoon we can use as an office mascot!

  5. I love this version of a possible film adaptation of the 1st book the Gunslinger. Great eye for how it could / should play out. I agree that music and cinematography would need to play a vital role. Love your ending and how the audience would get a final tease of the tower and get them salivating and wanting to see the NEXT film so we WANT to follow Roland on his journey to find the tower....if only this could be true.

    Havent seen the DT movie but heard the podcasts about it and read the bad reviews and am saddened by what they put out

    Just goes to prove...SK books esp weird very complicated on SO many levels and huge grandiose books/series like the DT, can really only be successful in the movies of our minds. On film it just too expensive to make the visuals realistic and too hard to make the Gen Public (non SK fans) comprehend/understand what it all means.

    1. Yeah, maybe so; it certainly seems to be the case more often than not. Although I think it would be relatively inexpensive to have done something like what I laid out here. I honestly don't think that would have needed to be more expensive than what they actually did; and might have been a bit less. Maybe even a LOT less.

      And "The Drawing of the Three" wouldn't have to be super-duper expensive, either. Most of the big-budget stuff comes in book three, and done correctly, I think the audience would have grown significantly with the second movie; so a bigger budget theoretically should have been just fine by the third film.

      Ah, well.

  6. Replies
    1. Instead, indeed.

      Oh, don't think I don't have thoughts. I have many, many thoughts.

      Coming soon to a Truth Inside The Lie post near you!

  7. I still don't know if I should go watch the movie or not. Due to the spoilers above I didn't read the full article, I forgot a lot over the years and want to keep it that way until I reach the end of book VII (I am in its middle. So still very puzzled what to do, I was hoping for a spoiler free advise here... :(

    Still want to continue my notes at one point, but got stuck, sorry.


    1. I suppose I'd say see the movie and make up your own mind.

    2. Hi Dan. I'm like you in that I don't like to mix my multimedia franchise experiences together. Meaning that if I start the book first, I finish the story that way before watching the adaptation-- and vice versa.

      That being said, I think you're probably okay going to see the movie before finishing book 7, especially if this is a re-read of the series. The changes are extensive enough that I really don't think seeing the film is going to ruin the experience of reading that book through to the end. On the flip side, although I personally love watching movies in theaters (especially sci-fi/fantasy), I think this will play well enough on TV in HD that if you don't make it to the theater, you won't miss a lot.

      As for the idea that the movie works as a sequel to the books... I can't support that concept. That just opens up a whole slew of problems and plot holes.

      My short 2 cents on the movie itself: when taken solely on its merits as a late-summer popcorn flick, I think it's pretty enjoyable. As an adaptation of the books... not so much. If this had been an original story I had experienced as a kid (or teen), I would have really dug it. But having loved these books, and the "Stephen King Universe" for almost 30 years, my feelings are vastly more complicated. I know that sounds wishy-washy, but to try to elaborate any more would only force me into spoiler territory.

      Bottom line: the only 100% perfect solution involves someone finding a portal that takes us to the version of Earth where Bryant is producing his version of the story! Until then, "ka is a wheel..."

      Hope that all helps at least a little.

    3. Thanks guys.
      The spoiler concerns were mainly preventing me from fully reading Bryant's main post above (as he gave a spoiler warning), not from the movie. But anyway I heard to much bad stuff about the movie and therefore stuck to the advice to not support this movie by buying a ticket, but only watching it later on tv if at all.
      I heard negative comments from people not knowing the books, telling the story is an absolute average adventure story following all the typical cliches. It tries but fails to be something unique, and does nothing better than other adventure movies. (That alone already tells me it can't be true to the books, otherwise it would be quite unique.)
      Comments from people knowing the books were even worse. Not complaining just about changing things, that we knew in advance. But complaining about how none of the changes added something interesting and instead rather just destroyed the things making the story so special.


    4. I'm still reluctant to host a conversation on the topic, but I will say this much: I overheard numerous comments to that effect coming out of the show I watched.

      Which was attended by a single person: me.

      Draw from that what conclusion you will.


    5. XD
      Ok, understood.


  8. I've also put some thought in writing a Gunslinger screenplay. I like your ending, but mine would go a sloghtly different rout:

    At the end of the Palaver we see Roland asleep and the MiB grabbing some bones from the Golgotha and dressing it up with his monk's clothes. The audience then knows he is not dead.
    Roland wakes up, studies the bones and doubts if it's really Walter (preferably without dialogue. Who talks to themselves like that right?)

    Roland, visibly aged, walks and walks untill he reaches the sea. He falls asleep but it crudely awaked by lobstrobcities eating him. He loses his fingers, a toe, and becomes ill.

    Roland keeps walking and walking and walking. Much more ill, he sees a door. He reaches it, even crawling at the end, and sees The Prisoner written on the door (people will recognise it from the tarot card, so no lame "we think the audience is dumb, so will show a quick flashback" scene)

    The door opens. Inside we see an airplane, probably in the eighties based on clothes and smoking.

    Close-up on Roland's face, mouth wide open, slowly zooming in on his blue eyes. Cut to black, and end movie.

    I think an ending like this will really have audiences going like "wtf" and "what happens next?!"

    In my version Jake TELLS Roland about New York while hypnotized. We never see it in the movie, because Roland doenst see it. Also it would be a plottwist for the audiences to find out it wasnt MiB who killed Jake, but it was Jack Mort.

    1. It'd save some money on the budget, and would also let the actor playing Jake have a great monologue. I think doing it that way would bring with it a danger: audience members wondering if Jake was being dishonest about his former life.

      The idea to end the movie with the first scene of "Drawing of the Three" is intriguing, but imagine what a gutpunch that could be at the beginning of the sequel!

  9. So, Bryant, you spent quite a bit of time discussing the score in ways that have my salivary glands working overtime. I'm curious though, who do you think would be best suited to the task? (Out of the current crop of actively working composers, that is; obviously if we can pick and choose from history, then Ennio Morricone circa the late 1960s is the undisputed best choice). Obviously this would have to be a composer who likes to be bold, melodic, foregrounded, and it would have to be one who is versatile enough to juggle a lot of genres - Western, action, horror, fantasy - and still keep things grounded around a central identity, your circular Roland theme. The first name that comes to mind for me would be Christopher Young, although I think Marco Beltrami would do a fantastic job as well if the more inspired version of him shows up.

    I'm guessing it wouldn't be Junkie goddamn XL, right...?

    1. It's an excellent question. I suspect -- and obviously, we're tip-toeing through super-duper-hypothetical funtime here -- I'd want to find somebody who maybe came from outside the world of film music. Or who knows, maybe not. But that's where my mind goes. I can tell you without doubt that this decision would be at least as important to me as hiring the actor to play Roland. Ultimately, I'd leave it to my director, but my director would be somebody who shared my vision for the music.

      As for Junkie XL, I've got nothing against the guy. I don't know that anybody -- Williams, Zimmer, Elfman, freakin' Mozart -- could have made much hay with the score to The Movie That Shall Not Currently Be Named. Holkenborg didn't, either, but I don't personally hold it against him.

    2. I think Mr. XL's film scoring talent is notable mostly by its absence - his one halfway decent effort, Mad Max Fury Road, succeeds largely because the film matched his narrow range moreso than anything else. But you're probably right. Still, I think of what a lousy adaptation The Golden Compass was, and Desplat did a great job with that one in spite of everything (he was clearly setting up for sequel scores that never ended up happening, which is a damned shame).

      My knowledge of the outside-of-film-music world is probably too limited to speculate much on who you might want to pursue for Dark Tower. But e.g. Daft Punk on Tron Legacy was a match made in heaven, so I'm certainly not against it if you can come up with some sort of similar genius pairing!

    3. That's a stellar example, actually.

      Based on that, my mind goes straight to Moby, if only because I've long thought of his "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters" as a sort of representative piece of music for the end of the seventh book. But I suspect his range is much too narrow to actually work.

      It'd be a rare talent that would be able to actually pull off the sort of thing I imagine. But that's okay. Aim for the moon, I say.

  10. I would definitely see your movie Bryant, sounds like it would be awesome.