Roland the Gunslinger and The Dark Tower

Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Gunslinger and his Quest for The Dark Tower is an epic series of books by Stephen King that has captured the imagination of millions of fans worldwide. The story is based on the Robert Browning Poem, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" and would be best described as a mix between Lord of the Rings and the old Spaghetti Westerns. It takes place in the remnants of a world that has "moved on" from an apocalypse so long ago that it is nearly forgotten. From every end comes a new beginning as we join Roland the Gunslinger in the desert as he tirelessy pursues the Man in Black (aka Randall Flagg). This is my return to the adventure after years of attending to other things in my life. What brought me back is the news that there will be an upcoming movie and mini series based on what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest adventure stories in modern day literature.

I'm going to use this opportunity to read the whole series once again in anticipation of the movie. I use the word "read" loosely becasue you don't really read The Dark Tower, you live it. We all are, to a certain degree, Roland Deschain. The friends, the destinations, the bizarre encounters, and the enemies that the Gunslinger encounters on his journey are vague in my mind, like memories from a previous life. The ka-tet of Jake Chambers, Eddie Dean, Susannah (Odetta Holmes, Detta Walker) and Oy the Billy Bumbler are calling me back and I must answer.

I remember that my favorite Dark Tower book was The Waste Lands which was the third in the series. Who can forget the city of Lud and the "Tick-Tock" Man. The creepiest encounter from, my point of view, was with Blain the Mono (Blain the Train that talks like John Wayne) and the riddle "Game of Death". What sticks in my mind is how Blaine the Mono was connected to a childhood book about a train called Charlie the Choo Choo. The word "Char" meaning death and Jake wondering if the children pictured riding the train were laughing or screaming to get off. I always think of this when I see the real life children's book Thomas the Train. This is just one of the countless weird and disturbing images I've come away with in my past experience with the Dark Tower.

Now about The Dark Tower movie. I know that there are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle when it comes to whether or not it's a good idea to make a film adaptation of a great series of novels. Those that are against it fear that the movie production is going to ruin the way they've pictured the story in their head, and that is understandable. However, I'm of the camp that believes a Dark Tower movie is a good idea for a couple of reasons; First, the money is too good and they are going to make one sooner or later anyway. Second, look at how The Lord of the Rings films turned out. Those series of movies based upon the J.R.R. Tolkien novels were genius and almost identically captured the images from my mind. The locations, the main characters, the enemies, and especially Gandalf the Wizard were all done fantastically.

I believe the same will happen with The Dark Tower movies becuase the project is being put in the hands of a successful director with decades of experience in the film and entertainment industry, Ron Howard. I think it's fitting that Ron Howard has the opportunity to shape a movie about The Gunslinger, since he once co-stared in a western movie with one of the greatest Hollywood gunslingers of all time, John Wayne, in the Shootist. As far as who will play the part of Roland Deschain, it's been recently reported that Javier Bardem, who starred in "No Country for Old Men", has been offered the role. Bardem's gruff demeanor and familiarity with movies in barren western landscapes makes him a great fit. When I first read The Gunslinger and knew it was loosely based off of the Spaghetti Westerns, I always pictured Roland as Clint Eastwood. Obviously, he is too old to play the part and I think the pick of Javier Bardem has definite potential. The only problem is, what are they going to do about Roland's hauntingly blue eyes. Maybe that can somehow be entered in as some sort of special effect, since Bardem has brown eyes.

As I read through the entire series of The Dark Tower books, starting with The Gunslinger, I will post my progress. I will also chronical my adventures by offering a synopsis of each book on different pages of this blog. I want to share the experience with other Dark Tower fans who are interested in revisiting this epic story. We can even form our own ka-tet as we live in anticipation of the upcoming Dark Tower Movies.