dark tower spoilers

The film version of The Dark Tower has been filming for a few weeks now and everywhere you look, fans are filled with a strange combination of enthusiasm and dread. Enthusiasm because after years and years of being trapped in development hell, Stephen King‘s messy-but-magnificent fantasy/horror/science fiction series is being made into a movie. Dread because the movie director Nikolaj Arcel is shooting looks like a very loose adaptation of the books. 

But what if there’s a reason for this being a loose adaptation? What if the film happens to be more than just a basic adaptation and may very well add to the Dark Tower mythos in an intriguing way? Stephen King himself has now seemingly implied this, but the details will be spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the books.

Seriously. Huge book spoilers lurk below. C’mon, don’t be that person who ignores the spoiler warning and gets mad about it.

As many of you may remember, the seventh and final book in the Dark Tower series concluded with Roland the Gunslinger reaching the Dark Tower, facing the villainous Crimson King, climbing the tower and…realizing that this is not the first time he’s completed this quest. In fact, he’s reached the Dark Tower many times, only to be sent back to the start of his journey by Gan, the godlike being that uses the tower as his physical form. And then Roland is shot backwards in time, back to the start of the first book in series, without any memory of having made the journey in the first place. The only difference is that he is now carrying the Horn of Eld, the family heirloom that he had abandoned at the Battle of Jericho Hill years earlier. The implication is that something has changed. This time, the journey may be different and Roland’s quest may actually reach a satisfactory conclusion.

And then Roland begins his quest again and a lot of readers get angry. To be fair, King does literally step in and warn the reader to skip the final chapter in a special author’s note. He knew exactly what he was doing.

Anyway, Stephen King tweeted this image today:

Yep, that’s the Horn of Eld and yep, the words “last time around” are superimposed on it. Unless King is messing with us (and he could be messing with us!), the suggestion here seems to be that the movie adaptation of The Dark Tower is actually a continuation of the book series rather than an adaptation, following Roland on one of his later attempts to reach the tower. And maybe, just maybe, the film will chronicle the time that Roland does everything just right and is finally allowed to find peace and hang up his revolvers for good. This would give the film version every excuse it needs to diverge from the source text. After all, it is heavily implied that each of Roland’s attempts to reach the Dark Tower have been different from the others. We’ll know for sure if we see the Horn of Eld hanging from Roland’s belt when the production releases an official image of Idris Elba in costume.

This news also makes me wonder about the previous incarnations of this project, back when the film was still going to be helmed by Ron Howard. The earliest incarnations of The Dark Tower were huge, telling the story over a series of films and a television series. It would’ve had plenty of room to operate as a Dark Tower sequel and adaptation. The new film is a more modestly budgeted affair and there is no guarantee of a sequel at the moment. If this is the case and King is implying what he seems to be implying, we’ll just have to wait and see if we ever reach a point where this is confirmed.

Heck, maybe that’s the climax of the first movie. Forcing Roland to confront the fact that he’s been down this road and failed countless times would be one helluva way to kickstart the series.

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