The Dark Tower will begin the same way the book does: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” However, the new movie “will remix the novels much the way superhero movies often draw from decades of comics mythology to create a new cinematic origin story.” So if you’re expecting a faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s beloved novels, you may want to adjust those expectations.
In an interview with EW, Idris Elba explains where his character, Roland Deschain, begins. “At the start of the film, Roland is driven by rage, but deep down he is something else. ‘He’s a protector,’ Elba says. He just needs something to reawaken that part of himself.”
That reawakening comes from tracking down Walter (Matthew McConaughey), aka “The Man in Black”. The Man in Black is a powerful warlock who’s looking to bring down the film’s setting, Mid-World, and he’s tracking a young psychic boy, Jake (Tom Taylor), whose ability, “The Shine”, “could help Walter break the ethereal beams that keep the Tower standing and maintain order in the multiverse.” Roland sees it as not only his duty to protect Jake, but also as a path on the road to redemption. “Until he meets Jake, he doesn’t have anything to believe in, really,” Elba says. “He’s really pent up and releases his soul through [defending] the boy.”
In the books, Roland is a white guy, but Elba sees that as a superficial description of the character. What’s more important is the character underneath:
“It’s better just to treat it like no big deal,” Elba answers. “There should be no difference. The character that was written in Stephen’s imagination, it could be any color. It just happens to be me and, you know? In the artwork, it just so happens to be a white guy, but I don’t think that makes any difference. … I think what’s great about it, if I want to say anything about it, is that it is a sign of the times in terms of a colorless society. People go, ‘A good actor is a good actor,’ you know?”
When it comes to Roland, Elba explains:
“There’s a mystical element to him,” Elba says during his break between scenes. “He’s about 200 years old. He’s been around for a long time, and has a deep-rooted connection with the [supernatural] nature of the film. Roland’s completely tuned into that. When you meet him, he’s very much a stoic man, doesn’t want to talk. But when you get to know him, he really knows quite a bit about the world and his world’s history.”
EW also got to see a scene being filmed. The scene features “Taheen, demonic, half-human creatures with animalistic qualities — but they are currently in our world. They disguise themselves as human beings with rubbery masks, but their true identities are given away by a scar-like red seam running down the sides of their necks.”
The scene gives a neat idea of what director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel is going for. For example, “Roland emerges into a room dangling with what appear to be hundreds of scalps — the long clusters of hair drooping down and swaying in the breeze like spider legs.” That’s a very cool image, but Arcel hasn’t forgotten about character. There are moments in the scene where Roland displays his efficiency and confidence as well. “He’s just very efficient in that sense,” Elba says. “You know, if he can clear a room with five bullets as supposed to six, he will.” There’s also a moment where rather than gun down a potential foe, he’s able to just stare him down and scare him off.
It all sounds incredibly promising, and we’ll learn more later today when EW publishes its piece on The Man in Black.
The Dark Tower opens February 17, 2017.