As we all know, I love Stephen King (duh). And I love The Dark Tower series (duh, again). I consider it to the greatest fantasy series ever written. I am on my fourth re-read of the series. There are very few books or movies that I can return to so many times, and learn something new each time.
So naturally, I want a Dark Tower movie. I want a Dark Tower movie really, really badly, in fact.
Sometimes, wanting a movie version of your favorite book is akin to taking back your ex. You know he’s bad for you. He makes promises and then he breaks them. And he changes things in your life that WERE JUST FINE BEFORE HE MEDDLED, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! But yet you are still hopeful that it will work out, as you try to convince yourself that the decision is a good one, after all.
So yes, I am conflicted. I may say I want a Dark Tower movie, but sometimes I feel the idea is almost as bad as taking back my ex (that will never, ever happen, for all curious parties. Not no way, not no how, just in case you were wondering). Do I really want to see my favorite set of books of all time, possibly chopped to pieces and butchered like a pig in a slaughterhouse?
Well, yes. The pull is that strong. Almost as strong as the Tower’s hold over Roland Deschain, you might say.
Earlier this week, I was sent a clip, titled Susannah’s Lesson, via the magic of Facebook and all the Stephen King/Dark Tower related pages that have become my Achilles heel in recent months, of a pivotal scene from the third book in the Dark Tower series, The Wastelands. The clip is a mini movie directed by Shahab Zagari, and stars Sarah Gabriella as Susannah Dean, and Jacob Gallegos as Roland Deschain.
And when I saw this clip, even though it was short, my fears in regards to an adaptation were laid to rest, at least briefly. This clip managed to capture the essence of the scene in the book, which has always been a favorite of mine, in a convincing fashion, even though this mini movie was independently produced and directed. And if an entire movie (or set of movies, which is more likely) were to be filmed in this fashion…oh boy, I get chills down my spine just thinking about it.
To briefly summarize, the scene starts off with Roland passing down a lesson to Susannah, who is now a gunslinger in training. Roland is able to coax what he wants out of Susannah (accurate shooting) but resorts to bringing up painful incidents from Susannah’s past to fuel the anger that she often represses. This angers Susannah, and she and Roland exchange words. Meanwhile, Roland is being driven crazy by a paradox, but is keeping this from Eddie and Susannah. The movie ends with Roland and Susannah’s argument being interrupted by the trees shaking in the forest and the howls of some unseen creature (in the book, this was the attack of Mir, one of the Guardians of the Beam).
One of the first things I noticed about this movie was the scenery…it was gorgeous, and very close to what I imagined in my mind when envisioning this scene. The trees and even the rocks added an element of the familiar in what is supposed to be a surreal world.
I also noticed that sound was used effectively in this movie. There was haunting background music, which fits in very well with the vibe in the Dark Tower series, as the series has so many elements of an old fashioned western. The noises used to represent Mir were also effective, as the bear cyborg was never pictured in the film. Sometimes, less is more and the sound effects really emphasized that point.
But lets talk about my favorite part of this movie: the acting and the chemistry between the two actors. Both actors really captured the essence of Roland and Susannah. In particular, I was struck by Gabriella’s facial expressions, as she was really able to bring the character’s inner conflict (hippie war protester by day, cold blood gunslinger by night) to the screen. Oftentimes, books contain a lot of inner monologue that is really difficult to bring to the screen. Gabriella was able to show the viewer the complex emotions experienced by Susannah. Gallegos also did a great job bringing Roland to the screen, especially when Roland was coaxing accurate shooting out of Susannah. Gallegos appeared cold and even somewhat manipulative, which is exactly what Roland is. Its one thing to play a gunslinger in practice (i.e. Roland killing off an entire town with no second thoughts) and another to play a gunslinger in essence (Roland coaxing Susannah into cold-blooded, accurate shooting by bringing up an incident where she was jailed and treated inhumanely), and Gallegos was able to do the latter effectively. The two actors also had chemistry, and were able to convincingly play a teacher and student, which later transitioned to one friend who was concerned for the well being of another friend. The two were able to bring Susannah and Roland and an iconic scene in The Wastelands to life in a realistic fashion.
As a side note, I enjoyed the opening credits, as it contained a bear instead of the lion seen in certain other films…I see what you did there, Shahab!
Much like Luke Skywalker’s introduction to the Jedi, seeing this moving brought hope. It brought hope that maybe the concept of a Dark Tower movie would be a much better idea than me getting back together with my ex. Maybe the promises could be kept and the meddling would be minimal. In other words, sometimes things can work out, if they initially seem like they are against your better judgement!