King’s Western Fantasy Series “Comes of Age”

August 01, 2017
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King’s Western Fantasy Series “Comes of Age”

“I do not aim with my hand. He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I do not shoot with my hand. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun. I kill with my heart.”

So says Roland Deschain, the final gunslinger who has been involved in an eternal battle with the Man in Black, Walter O’Dim. The goal? to keep the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, an edifice that holds the universe together.

In just a few days, The Dark Tower: Gunslinger will open. It is a part of Stephen King’s western fantasy book series, that has never achieved the fame of his other famous books-turned-movies.

Not Without Controversy

The film has not come to launch without controversy, specifically over the selection of Idris Elba in the role of the Gunslinger, pitted against Matthew McConoughey as the Man in Black. Much of the controversy swirls around the fact that Elba is black, and those aficionados of the book series insist that the Gunslinger was always portrayed as white.

While many angry fans insist that they are not racist, their comments sometimes come off as such. But in general, the anger does stem from the insistence of readers/fans that Elba was always portrayed as white.

On Stephen King’s twitter account, the battles began to rage in 2015, to wit:

And in a forum on the casting, one angry fan wrote the following:

I can't believe they're casting Idris as Roland Deschaine in the new Dark Tower movie. I like the guy just fine, but he's NOT ROLAND!!! You can't just CHANGE the main character's race, especially when it will directly conflict with the ENTIRE storyline! WTF are these morons thinking? And I'm definitely NOT racist, so don't even go there. And I can't freaking believe Stephen King doesn't have the balls to stand up and say, "No F-ing Way!!. Roland was NOT BLACK!!!" Making Roland black changes the entire backstory of Roland, and for those of us who have perseveered through the years and invested more than just money into these stories, this change ruins it completely. Where I was once very excited to see the Dark Tower saga FINALLY made into a movie, now I can't imagine even watching it. Ever…

King’s Reaction

It was pretty swift:

The fact that King did not see the casting as an issue did serve to calm some of their anguish.

And Producer Akiva Goldsman shared his thoughts/rationale for the casting.

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A Long Time Coming

Most do not know that this movie has been “in the works” since 2007, and that at different times, directors J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard had some involvement. At one time, it was envisioned as a trilogy with an ensuing TV series, and during the planning phases, it was passed among Universal, Warner Bros. and finally to Sony Pictures.

Filming began in South Africa in the spring of 2016, with an intended release date of January, 2017. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Box Office Predictions

Obviously, the weekend of August 4-6 stats will tell us of the enthusiasm for this movie. Stephen King always has a big draw, but this older novel series (1980’s) is not as well known. Still there is a large demographic that will love the sci-fi aspect and the combination of the “wild west” with sci-fi. And there is certainly a huge contingent of King fans who will want to take a chance on the film.

The controversy over the Idris Elba casting has indeed died down, despite some die-hard fans who continue to object. What will really matter, as King himself says, is how Elba carries the role.

For those expecting a typical Stephen King plot, there may be some disappointment. The plots, themes, settings, etc. are not anything like King’s later novels and, in some respects, are more akin to Star Wars without the environment of space. Many, in fact, liken this series more to a Lord of the Rings genre, and those who love Tolkien may indeed love this film as well. The overriding theme is, of course, good vs. evil.

As for the Controversy Over Elba

It is important to look at the role history of Elba to understand why he was a logical pick for the role of the Gunslinger in The Dark Tower. These roles include major parts in two Thor films, American Gangster, Pacific Rim, Prometheus, Mandela, and The Losers. His roles have been amazingly varied and in each of them, he has demonstrated exceptional versatility. There is no reason to believe that his performance in The Dark Tower will be any different.