The Dark Tower Explained: Everything to know about the upcoming film
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. So began the first book in “The Dark Tower” series, what would go on to become Stephen King‘s magnum opus, and the start of a journey that would span decades for constant readers. This Friday sees another journey coming over a major hill as the feature film adaptation of the popular novels opens, and despite readers around the globe that have followed the journey of Roland and his ka-tet, questions may still linger for newcomers to the world of “The Dark Tower,” so allow us to walk you through them.
What is The Dark Tower?
There are two ways of answering this. “The Dark Tower” is a series of eight novels by Stephen King that draw from a wide, wide range of influences, including Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, The Lord of the Rings, Arthurian Legends, and all birthed from the Robert Browning epic poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.” The series follows the journey of Roland Deschain, a gunslinger of Gilead, in pursuit of the fabled Dark Tower through Mid-World and on the trail of his sworn enemy, The Man in Black.
The Dark Tower itself is the center point of all universes, it holds all of them together including our own reality.
Who is Roland?
Roland Deschain, son of Steven, is the last gunslinger left in Mid-World. He has wandered the world and though he appears to have the body of a 40-year-old man, he’s actually well over 100 years old. His journey has been a tragic one, filled with the deaths of his confidants and friends and seeing his desires slip through his fingers, and even losing his fingers along the way. He walks in pursuit of The Dark Tower and his enemy, The Man in Black. Idris Elba plays the role of Roland in the feature film.
What is a Gunslinger?
The gunslingers were similar to knights in the Middle Ages, who work as peacekeepers and diplomats for the kingdom, be it in combat or helping deal with problems of small villages.
What is Mid-World?
Mid-World is the home of Roland and the primary location for the entire Dark Tower series. It has a variety of ecosystems ranging from boiling deserts to forests and frozen tundra. Throughout Mid-World there are portals and doors to other places, some that can draw back people like Jake Chambers into Mid-World, and some that allow people to travel to our own world, more often than not either New York City or Maine.
Who is Jake Chambers?
Jake is a young boy from New York that is Roland’s oldest traveling partner in the series. His origin into Mid-World is a strange one that involves both arriving in the world, dying, but then coming back again thanks to some timeline trickery. Tom Taylor plays Jake in the feature film.
Who is The Man in Black?
An evil sorcerer that works as a servant of the Crimson King, The Man in Black has tormented Roland for decades and goes by many names, including Walter Padick, Walter O’ Dim, The Walkin’ Dude, Marten Broadclock, and even appearing in another Stephen King story The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon as Randall Flagg. Matthew McConaughey plays the Man in Black in the film.
Who is The Crimson King?
The Crimson King is an evil entity that hopes to bring down The Dark Tower. His presence is felt throughout the novels but he only makes one actual appearance in its pages. His legions spread throughout all realities, however, from The Man in Black in Mid-World to the Sombra Corporation and North Central Positronics in our own world.
So the real world is part of these books?
Yes, The Dark Tower is an incredibly meta fantasy series and even ropes author Stephen King into a pivotal plot point. The feature film will play with this as well as the characters will travel to New York from Mid-World.
How can someone destroy The Dark Tower?
The Dark Tower is held together by six beams that keep it standing. The Crimson King and The Man in Black plan to use people with psychic abilities (such as “The Shine” from another Stephen King tale) to bring it down.
So is the movie an adaptation of the first book?
No. The film is taking pieces from many of the books and remixing them into its own thing. Elements like Jake’s entry into New York from the Dutch Hill Mansion from Book 3, The Dixie Pig from Book 5, and others have been blended into one tale. The film is also in fact a sequel to the book series. Spoilers ahead, highlight the following to learn how that is actually possible: At the conclusion of the seventh Dark Tower novel, Roland finds himself at the top of the tower and when he opens the final door he is transported back to the very desert where his journey began in Book 1, which we’re lead to believe isn’t the first time that has happened either. This time though he is in possession of an artifact, The Horn of Eld. Roland has spent many books thinking “How different would things be if I had that?” and as his cycle begins once again he has it in his possession. So the film will pick up where the books left off and focus on his final rotation in finding the Tower.
How does this connect to Stephen King’s other works?
There’s a thread that can be tied to almost every major work of King’s back to The Dark Tower, in keeping with the theme of the books that the Tower is the center of the universe. Some notable connections include: The Salem’s Lot character Father Callahan who finds himself in Mid-World after the events of that novel; Insomnia, which features the Crimson King at its center and which features the artist Patrick Danville, who plays an important role in the series; and IT, whose lead villain Pennywise the Clown is likely related to the evil Dandelo.