“There are other worlds than these …”
That’s an important line from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, and it sets the unfamiliar up with everything they need to know: Our world is one of many. Some aren’t as fortunate.
The new trailer for The Dark Tower film has dropped, and it has heavy lifting to do. This otherworldly genre-bender (and blender) of a story defies easy explanation. It’s the story of Roland, (played by Idris Elba) the last of the knight-like gunslingers from a place called Mid-World, where the apocalypse has already come and gone.
It’s also the story of The Man in Black, played by Matthew McConaughey, a semi-immortal practitioner of dark arts and a trans-dimensional anarchist who goes from world to world sowing destruction. There’s more to him than that, but this is a start.
Finally, it’s the story of Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) a boy from our world, our time, who harbors the power to reach — or destroy — this mythic tower that stands as the hub, the nexus point, for all the worlds beyond.
That’s the upshot for the uninitiated. But there’s a lot more embedded in this trailer to unpack.
Director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel is one of Uncle Steve’s “constant readers” — so he has included a few nods to both The Shining and It…
Let’s venture forth into Mid-World and take a scene-by-scene study of The Dark Tower:
“For thousands of generations, the gunslingers were knights. Sworn to protect us from the coming of the dark …” So intones Elba’s Roland Deschain, but the first glimpse of this world shows a sprawling edifice — a futuristic castle – gone to ruin. The dark has come. It did not leave peacefully.
After a flash vision of Roland, The Man in Black, and something monstrous, we see our young hero, Jake Chambers, awaken in his bed in New York City. The room is shaking. In the story, these earthquakes are puzzling scientists and city managers. They shouldn’t be happening. What our world is detecting are reverberations from another realm — The Man in Black’s efforts to collapse the tower, and all its worlds, into one hellscape.
Jake draws to get the visions out of his head. Here we see his wall, covered with illustrations of the tower — obviously — and the ominous Man in Black, as well as the gunslinger. But see those other figures, smaller ones, strapped to chairs? In King’s books, those are “Breakers,” people with powerful psychic abilities who can be harnessed to attack the cosmic beams that keep the tower standing.
While Jake is talking to his psychiatrist about these disturbing “dreams,” another quake rattles the city. We catch a glimpse of this shelf rattling. This is Arcel’s first tip-of-the-hat to Stephen King’s other worlds — the image in the frame is the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. Also interesting is the statue beside it, a sculpture of a being blowing a horn.
(Spoiler alert: in King’s books there is something called The Horn of Eld, which signifies that life repeats, fate is a wheel, and it keeps returning to the same place again. This story has played out before, perhaps a bit differently this time.)
There’s a lot more to explore. Let’s step a little deeper …