kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
So . . . that was a thing.

Okay, it is actually shaped like a movie. It required (at least) one explicitly-acknowledged "just because" in order to make the plot work, but by and large it was shaped like a movie and, as far as I can tell, got its exposition across—very obviously, granted, but I'm starting to think smooth exposition is no longer something movies care about? (Feel free to provide counter-examples.)

As a standalone movie, it's . . . unexceptional? I thought some of the special effects were oddly shoddy and uninspired, but it does contain gunfights, Idris Elba being grizzled and badass, and Matthew McConaughey waving his hands around, so if that's a thing you wanted from seeing the trailers, then you'll get it. I'm not sure that it would particularly zing or feel fresh, but it does generally provide what it promised, though there's a lot more of the kid, Jake, than one might expect.

(This review has movie spoilers but amused me and seems about right: The Dark Tower Is Not That Terrible — But It Does Feel Like a Copy of a Copy of a Copy, by David Edelstein at Vulture.)

As an adaptation, it makes some interesting choices, most of which I did not like.

all the spoilers for the movie and the entire book series, so many spoilers

The pre-movie statements were that this was not an adaptation of the first novel but a sequel. And it is definitely not an adaptation of the first novel! It's drawing from all across the seven books (okay, technically there's an eighth but I haven't read it), including a bunch of stuff from the last three that I don't remember particularly well, to tell a Roland-Jake-Man in Black story.

To wit: Jake's firefighter father died a hero and his mom remarried. Jake is having visions of Roland's world, where the Man in Black is attacking the Tower by putting captive psychic children in a big machine that amplifies their power and shoots it, Death Star-style, across the universes. Jake also has a flashback-vision of Roland watching the Man in Black kill his father by telling him to stop breathing. (Roland is, to the MiB's great annoyance, inexplicably immune to the MiB's magic.)

Keystone Earth is having lots of earthquakes, and creepy people with seams in their skin (Snuffers, for the FL players) are trying to get their hands on Jake. Jake escapes from them, goes to a house he saw in a vision, and activates a technological-ish portal. He ends up in a desert where he finds Roland, who is chasing the MiB for revenge only, because fuck the Tower, the darkness is going to win eventually no matter what.

They go back to Keystone Earth as a shortcut to the Death Star-analogue (via a village that has a portal and which is, thankfully, not Tull). The MiB fridges Jake's mother. Jake convinces Roland to care. The MiB's minions grab Jake and shove him into the Death Star. Roland fights his way through dozens of the MiB's minions in the Dixie Pig, then shoots and kills the MiB and destroys the complex, with Jake's psychic help (the fate of the captive psychic children is not raised). Roland asks Jake to leave Keystone Earth with him, and they go.

So I respect that they're drawing from all across the books to make a single movie-shaped story. I didn't see how they could get Eddie or Susannah in, and they didn't try. (There is possibly the tiniest hint of Eddie: Jake posts a sketch of the portal-house to the Internet and someone, whose screen name I didn't catch, id's it as in their old neighborhood. This may honestly be my wishful thinking.) And the Tower is threatened and is saved. That is a complete story.

However, this idea of it being a sequel is, frankly, nonsense from a book-reader's POV. (And must make zero sense to non-readers who happened to see and remember the comments.) The only thing that I could think that meant, was that this was the next time loop, the one that started at the end of book 7. And that made me intrigued but confused, because while I loathe the time loop concept with the passion of all the suns at the heart of the rose in that vacant lot, if the movie showed Roland getting it right this time . . . I didn't see how that would work, how you would convey the importance of the new choices he would presumably make, without knowing the bad old ones. But doing a fix-it is pretty relevant to my interests.

There's no hint of any of that, and this doesn't seem at all plausible as another loop. Which, again, makes sense from a story-shape POV, but is kind of shitty from a book-reader expectation standpoint.

Arguably more importantly: Roland doesn't want to save the Tower?! Roland just wants revenge on the MiB and doesn't care about the rest of the universes??!!??!! That's not my Roland, his viewpoint is too nihilist.

And it's so predictable! Plus it's wrapped around movie-only dead daddy issues, also incredibly unsubtle (okay, the MiB does mention Roland's mother being dead in passing, but come on: two dead dads, this movie is clearly disposing of Roland's book-canonical mommy issues).

I also find it very unsatisfying that the movie posits that the MiB can control people's bodies completely, except Roland's, just because, on the one hand; and yet he's still fleshy and can be killed by a bullet, on the other. It's both too much and not enough.

I'm sure there are lots of other changes, but I don't remember the last three books very well, so I'll leave it at that, with one note: the Beams don't hold the worlds together, they hold out demons. Not-very-impressively-CGI'ed ones, either. And the house that Jake crosses through! That was a scary fucking scene, and the house is just . . . a bunch of boards that wrap him up like a spiral. Bleh.

I am now resisting the urge to reread the books, at least the first three that were formative for me. Tull is properly consigned to the dustbin of history; I don't want to have to navigate the revisions to The Gunslinger; and I'd inevitably get sucked into reading all of them because I barely remember the hidden New York bits which get adapted here, and I'd want to read the actual rescue of the Breakers, and then I'd run head-first into the ending and want to spit again. So no! Stay strong, self!
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