Sweet Jesus what was that.
I first read The Gunslinger in high school when I was a hardcore Stephen King fan and would read pretty much everything he wrote. It was definitely different than all his other books, walking some weird line between Camelot-dark fantasy-horror. My particular edition had a long author's note where he described the long process of writing the book, then eventually moving on with the series. The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands are probably the best two in the series, and yes it takes some dips over the course of seven books (the eraser thing at the end..) but I always thought it would be an awesome TV show. At first I thought it would be, especially when Game of Thrones stuff was getting hot, but I was totally willing to accept a movie. It would be a no brainer: just film the goddamned book and people would be happy. I was particularly excited after hearing Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey would be in it-- not a fan in the latter, but he's a good actor, and I thought he'd be an excellent Walter.
But seriously, what the fuck.
Where do you start the movie? How about the man in black fleeing across the desert and the gunslinger following? You know, the desert. The devil grass. Those weird towns. The intense loneliness.
It's hard to count all the ways this movie went wrong but I think the most profound was the decision to center the movie around Jake Chambers. Centering the movie around a random boy in New York City who suddenly discovers a secret portal to another world, and oh by the way there are all these bad guys after him, but why, now you have to find out why for that to make sense TAKES WAY MORE EXPLAINING than the actual starting of the book.
For the love of god, you got Idris Elba. He could trim his nails and make it riveting. The book is called The Gunslinger. The way the series eases you into all the crazy fantasy elements is starting with something really simple: here's this western-ish guy walking through the desert with a really single purpose: find the guy who screwed over his mother (and a bunch of other people). In staying with him, we can slowly unravel the history of Gilead. Of the lore surrounding Gunslingers-- about what it even means. In the movie you literally get one scene where Roland's father gets killed--we don't even know the context or get to actually SEE any of Gilead. (How do we even know who Roland is without seeing where he's from? What he's lost?)
They should have just straight shot the movie, but I'm guessing they didn't because they thought audiences wouldn't get it. They wouldn't get why Roland wanted to get to the Dark Tower without knowing exactly what the Dark Tower is. So the movie tries to deal with this by getting into stuff from the later books--like the last three--about the kids with the shining and the weird humanimals--but that stuff is just so WACKY that if you don't ease into it you're like WHAT NOW? WEASEL FACES?
How about trusting that an audience doesn't have to be spoon fed everything? Or if not that, that the movie is going to be seen purely on the basis of Stephen King's name and fans of the series so don't worry about all the lose ends not being tied up.
Walter has all these magical powers, but we are given no sense of what he wants, what he is doing, why he wants to bring the Tower down (only a vague sense of wanting darkness to come). There are references to the Crimson King and Sombra but no explanation whatsoever of what those things are (so why include them?) There's none of the complex personal history between Walter and Roland. Matthew McConaughey delivers these stiff lines with none of Walter's oily evilness. He's an awesome character, and McConaughey can be an awesome actor when he wants to--so what happened?
Same thing for Roland--he's an incredible character I was happy to follow across a long series of books. Idris Elba has amazing range when he gets a good script, but it felt like he has a third as much dialogue as Jake (who I give two fucks about), NONE of his history is covered, which then makes no sense because all he wants to do is kill Walter, and he doesn't care about the Tower until Jake tells him to. I don't even think the word Gilead is mentioned. Or any of his ka-tet. There are some stunts (I guess you could call them that?) that were the kind that made you cringe because you could tell the director wanted you to think they were cool but they so weren't.
Then the movie shoots itself in the foot in an attempt to wrap everything up cleanly. Roland kills Walter pretty easily (never mind that takes the entire series of books to happen and how it happens is way creepier). The tower-breaking structures are easily blown up. There's no "Go then, there are other worlds then these." Jake and Roland happily walk into the sunset despite the fact that the former's entire family is dead and the latter had no real character arc.
The thing that makes this saddest is that it was so bad, there's definitely no way Drawing of the Three is ever going to get made. There go my fantasies of Aaron Paul playing Eddie Dean. #SAD