The Dark Tower Trailer, Fan Reaction, and Why The Horn of Eld Doesn’t Sway Me

At the time of this writing, it’s been about 6 hours since I first saw the trailer for the Dark Tower movie, and I have some feelings.

I admit that I can be a bit too much of a purist for my own good. Whenever I love something, a book series in particular, I love it hard, and when it makes the leap from page to screen, I have high expectations – just ask my friends about me and GoT, or TWD. I don’t expect a perfect page-to-screen retelling, but themes should remain, the gist of the story should remain. The things that make the story THEE STORY should remain.

Which brings me to my feelings about this trailer. The trailer is not the movie, but I think we’ve gleaned enough from it to get an idea of what it’s going to be about. Very little seems to be about very much of the original story. However, fan reaction I’ve seen so far seems to be very ok with this. Roland’s got the Horn of Eld, things are supposed to be different, it’s not going to be exactly like the books, on and on. Hey, I admire the ability to rationalize this, I really do. I hope that these fans find this movie enjoyable. But you can’t sell me on this movie using the Horn, and I’ll tell you why.

When Roland exits the Tower, for the however-eth time, he finds himself on the desert ground. He picks himself up, knocks off the dust, and smells roses more than devil-grass. He has the Horn. Perhaps this time will be different, he tells himself, the memory of what “this time” even means already fading away. Judging by what I’ve seen of the community of Constant Readers, we’re far from a consensus on what having the Horn entails, or how it impacts the next go-round on the wheel of Ka. I think the text is clear, though: because said Ka is a wheel, Roland will walk the path of the Beam again. He doesn’t remember how to get there, and thus needs to re-reacquaint himself with Walter o’Dim, our very own Man in Black, to learn again how to reach the Tower. That path will resemble the path as it has the hundreds or so times Roland’s traveled it, but the Horn, the Horn remembers, and so may Roland, this time. These remembrances will assist him when he reaches Tull, and the Waystation, and the beach with the lobstrosities. He’ll know what to do so he can plan more effectively, which will bring changes to event outcomes. The path itself, however, will not change. At least that’s what I gather.

It is because of this that I call hooey on the Horn of Eld defense. I’ve worked in advertising for just shy of 20 years, so I know a cash-grabbing con job when I see one. This series is way too big and intricate to film as a direct adaptation, even if we use The Gunslinger as the litmus test for audience interest. Big and intricate means expensive – even if they trimmed the fat – which explains why the film has been in development hell for about 10 years. Using the argument “the Horn of Eld changes things” is a cost-saving cop out, because even if events changed, themes should not.

Our (anti?) hero, and I say this with all the love I can muster, is a self-absorbed, single-minded, unimaginative brute driven by revenge and a deep abiding need to finish the thing that he started, no matter what. He doesn’t care about anything but completing his quest. He’s not out to reach the Tower to save the world, at least not initially, and even then not really. He doesn’t begin to chase down The Man in Black to prevent him from destroying the world, but to get directions. He sacrifices Jake, a child he eventually and thankfully comes to regard as his own son, because he doesn’t know how to love or care about anything but his goddamned quest. It took earning his ka-tet – The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, eventually Jake again, and even our lovable Throcken – for him to begin to care about preserving the Tower for a reason other than “I gotta get there because it’s the only thing in the world that matters to me”. Even when he learns to trust and love his ka-tet, becoming an-tet, Roland fighting off the Beam breakers is still more about preserving the Tower so he can reach it and complete his quest than preserving the Tower so that our world doesn’t collapse upon itself. Saving the world is a secondary benefit, because he can’t reach the Tower if there’s no world for it to stand in.

With the trailer as our only evidence, Roland’s quest seems to be the antithesis of this. The Beam breakers are dangerously close to destroying the Tower already, guided presumably by a Man in Black who wants to destroy the world instead of beating Roland to the Tower to increase his own power. Also, Jake is thrust into Roland’s life not as a test of Roland’s dedication to reaching the Tower, but as an oracle of sorts who helps him on this noble journey to save the world. Comparatively, this does not jibe with the original story, Horn of Eld be damned.

Even if we can get past these…divergences, I have some questions for these excited fans. Is this what you’ve waited to see for the past 10 years or so? Regardless of how long you’ve been wrapped up in the written story, once you learned that this film was going to come to pass, each and every one of us had an idea of what we would like to see. How close does this come to those images, those desires you had in mind? Did you expect that you wouldn’t get to see the contortions of emotions on Roland’s face before he ultimately allowed Jake to fall into the abyss? Did you anticipate being ok with not seeing a proper palaver between Roland and Walter? Perhaps we could do without the lobstrosities eating off Roland’s fingers, but did you really want to go without seeing him gunfighting back-to-back with a naked Eddie Dean? Or getting cursed out by an awesomely terrible Detta Walker? Or being told to “be qiet” by Oy? Are you honestly, truly ok with doing without all of the things that made this story rich and warm, that gave it depth…the things that finally humanized Roland, just because the Horn of Eld said so?

When you imagined Childe Roland through the Dark Tower come, Horn of Eld slung on his hip, is THIS the ‘different’ path you imagined he’d travel? If not, why are you so readily ok to eat this meal you’re being served?