'The Dark Tower' Trailer Breakdown: Aim With Your Eye, Kill With Your Heart

After years of development hell, a surprisingly quiet production, and a series of release date delays, the big screen adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower is finally hitting theaters this August. The first trailer arrived this morning and it...well, it's certainly not what this book fan expected. Everyone who loves these novels is going to carry their own baggage into this movie, which is already going to be a weird sell for normal folks.

So, in the interest of coming to terms with this movie as book reader, and to explain to newbies what the hell is going on, it's time for a Dark Tower trailer breakdown.

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Welcome to Mid-World, a dimension very much unlike our own that has seen far better days. What was once a thriving world is now in the midst of its own post-apocalypse, a collection of towns and settlements strewn across a violent landscape filled with monsters and magic. As you can see, a community of some kind has sprung up in the shadow of a ruined castle and it feels like it could be one of three places: Tull (a troubled town visited in the first Dark Tower novel), the Manni village (which we see for sure later in the trailer), or Algul Siento, a location introduced late in the actual books where the villainous "man in black" is housing psychic "breakers" who he is forcing to destroy the Dark Tower. Knowing that this film is effectively a remix of the novels and not a direct adaptation, I'm going to assume it's the latter for now.

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Meet Roland Deschain, the last of the gunslingers. In Stephen King's books, Roland is very much a cowboy, described as a Clint Eastwood type, complete with a hat and western attire. We'll talk more about the gunslingers themselves in a bit, but it's worthy noting that the film adaptation seems to have really stripped the western out of The Dark Tower. While he still wields six-shooters and his clothes seems inspired by older styles, that long coat can come from a number of different eras and locations. For better or worse, Idris Elba's Roland is no cowboy – he's a completely different fantasy creation.

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Portions of The Dark Tower were shot in South Africa, which seems to be an inspired choice to represent the beautiful and dangerous Mid-World. Plus, what genre-bending adventure movie would be complete with a sweeping shot of its solitary hero standing amidst the wilderness?

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Meet the man in black. Otherwise known as Walter. Otherwise known as Marten. Otherwise known as Randall Flagg and the Walkin' Dude. The chief villain of the Dark Tower series haunts the Stephen King multiverse, a powerful, scheming warlock with a habit of destroying entire worlds. In addition to his work in the Dark Tower stories, he's also served as chief baddies in novels like The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon. To put it in terms some of you may understand, he's the Thanos lurking above the entire Stephen King bibliography.

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Here's our first look at an action scene we see several times throughout the trailer: Roland, a pistol in each hand, fires upward...

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...at a CGI beast that is moving too quickly to secure a clean screen shot. We'll revisit this guy in a bit, but in the meantime, note its slightly-too-human-for-comfort face.

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But first, let's meet Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who awakes to find himself in the middle of an earthquake. Wait...an earthquake in New York City? The ground shaking has nothing to do with tectonic plates and everything to do with Walter, who is attempting to bring down the Dark Tower, the pillar that upholds all of creation and the many worlds, dimensions, and universes therein.

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And Jake is no ordinary kid. He's been having dreams of the Dark Tower, alternate worlds, and a host of mysterious people he has never met. Naturally, his psychiatrist thinks he's just nuts. We know better, though. After all, those shadow sketches on the right...

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...clearly depict Walter, played by Matthew McConaughey. This is the point where I'll moan a little and say that I have a hard time buying this character in a modern suit – I always pictured him doing his evil deeds in a medieval cloak with a hood. Then again, this isn't my take on The Dark Tower. This isn't even Stephen King's. This is director Nikolaj Arcel's, and if he wants to put the man in black in a black suit, that's his call. I'll just grumble about it for a moment.

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"The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed." The famous first line of the first Dark Tower book comes to mind with this shot, which sees Roland staring across a vast, desolate landscape. He's in hot pursuit of the man who destroyed his world and now threatens all of existence, but it's a big journey and there's a long way to go.

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Here's another look at Jake's dream drawings, many of which depict the Dark Tower in various stages of distress and several of which feature a sky with two suns or two moons. Others feature strange creatures, like the picture near the top center. Are these the Taheen, animalistic beings that traverse our world wearing masks that let them pass as human at a brief glance?

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Since the Dark Tower novels connect Stephen King's work into one sprawling literally universe, it's only right that this trailer (and presumably the film itself) will be filled with Easter eggs. That right there is the Overlook Hotel, as seen in the film version of The Shining.

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Speaking of evil buildings, one of Jake's dream drawings take him to the house on Dutch Hill. It looks like a perfectly ordinary place where nothing bad could possibly happen, right? Wrong.

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And here we are inside the house, which has seen better days. As we will soon see later in the trailer, there's a lot more going on in this house than meets the eye. Interestingly, the house on Dutch Hill and Jake's trip there occurs in the third Dark Tower book, The Waste Lands, which gives you an idea of how this movie is picking and choosing events from across all seven books to tell this story.

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In addition to various other horrors (seen a little bit later in the trailer), the house on Dutch Hill contains a door that connects Earth to Mid-World, allowing Jake to traverse dimensions and visit the heroes and monsters he's been dreaming about.

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This is another choice where I have mixed feelings. In the books, these doorways between doors are just that – doors. Here, they appear to have been given a science fiction makeover, looking more like Stargates than anything from King's writing. This goes hand-in-hand with the de-westerinizing of this entire world. Science fiction is pushed to the forefront, leaving the cowboy hats and such by the wayside.

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Anyway, Jake finds his way to Mid-World, which has two moons in the sky (as foreshadowed by the drawings we saw earlier in the trailer). And he shares this vast and unforgiving desert with...

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...Roland Deschain, who doesn't seem to have time for dimension-hopping kids who know more than they should about certain Dark Towers. Roland is a gruff SOB in the early novels, a hardened, stone-cold killer who slowly learns to accept others into his life over the course of the entire series. Jake may eventually warm his heart, but right now, he's putting a pistol in his face.

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Naturally, Jake is able to show Roland one of his drawings, earning his trust. After all, they're on the same mission. As noted earlier, Roland is the last of a nearly extinct order. Back in the day, the gunslingers were the "knights" who protected Mid-World, skilled marksmen who lived by a strict code and used their weapons to defend the land and wage wars. However, a series of events (spurred on by Walter), led to the downfall of the gunslingers, which led to the downfall of Mid-World.

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So that brings us to this shot, which answers an important question: "We've seen thousands of action heroes who are really good at shooting stuff, so how do you distinguish a cowboy-knight from an alternate fantasy world from the other skilled cinematic marksmen we've seen over the years?" The answer seems to be "By making his skill with a firearm look completely and positively effortless." Not only is Roland's belt filled with enough rounds to take down a small army, he is capable of reloading at inhuman speeds, loaning all six chambers of his revolvers in a matter of seconds. It's one thing for Stephen King to write that Roland can pull off this stuff – the real trick is selling it onscreen.

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And at first glance, they seem to be doing a fine job of selling it. There are lot of gunshots in this trailer and Idris Elba looks like he means it every single time he pulls the trigger. While it's not clear, this particular scene could be taking place in the Dixie Pig, a New York City restaurant that actually serves a secret base of operations for the Taheen.

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If you thought the Lord of the Rings movies had a lot of scenes where characters trek across landscapes...well, get comfortable, because The Dark Tower may very well give it a run for its money. There's a lot of travel in those books and this trailer has its fair share of moments where characters are just walking.

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Virtually every single shot of the Dark Tower itself in this trailer finds the structure in distress. But since the destruction of the tower means the destruction of the universe, these shots are likely dream sequences, nightmares envisioned by Jake of what may happen. Note those red clouds swirling in the background. We're going to get to that in just a moment.

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Take note of those strange lines emanating from the tower. Those are the "beams" that support the Dark Tower, with each of them connecting to a different world and a different animal guardian. It's all very complex and wild and probably won't be important in the movie, so let's leave it there for now. The important thing is that, should these beams fall, the tower will come crashing down.

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First of all, the woodsy setting here appears to be the same location from earlier in the trailer, where Roland was unloading his pistols in the direction of monster. Second of all, that red cloud Jake is approaching looks an awful lot like the red clouds seen swirling around the Dark Tower in an earlier shot. The color suggests a certain villain (we'll get there momentarily!), but this could also be a "thinny," a place where the walls between realities have grown thin. Despite making horrible noises, they tend to lure in travelers, trapping them. In the books, they are described as silver/green fog clouds, but this could have been changed for the film.

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Here's another look at the monster seen earlier! Has it somehow emerged from the thinny?

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Here's another look at Walter, standing in a doorway with some kind of desolate landscape behind him. He could be pretty much anywhere...literally. Walter walks between worlds with ease, making him a hard guy to pin down.

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Here's another look at Walter, seen in a location glimpsed several times in the trailer. Could this also be the Dixie Pig, or at least his own private lair within it?

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Walter is an agent of chaos and destruction, a powerful, immortal being with too much time on his hands. While I have mixed feelings on how the movie has chosen to dress him, McConaughey's laid-back menace feels perfect for the character, a guy who really does just want to watch the world burn.

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In contrast, Roland is painfully mortal, a weary, broken man who has lost everything and everyone he has ever cared about. While Walter plots and schemes, Roland trudges through trial after trial, pushing himself to the breaking point track down the man who destroyed his world and now threatens every other world.

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Could this be our first look at the Taheen? In the books, they literally have the heads of animals, only appearing human once they don disguises. Since these guys have their faces covered, it's hard to tell if what's lurking behind those masks. However, we can probably say this much: they don't look human.

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Whoever they are, they are seen leading a raid on a Mid-World village, where they don't seem to be sparing any prisoners. The internet seems to think this is the Manni village, a community whose religious beliefs (rooted in long lost science) empowers them to travel between worlds. They're actually introduced much later in the books, but it seems like they've been boosted to the forefront for the film adaptation.

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Yep, that certainly looks like an overgrown skyscraper, reclaimed by nature and slowly crumbling in the middle of a lush valley. Welcome to the world of The Dark Tower, where just about anything is possible.

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The title creature from It actually makes a cameo appearance in one of the later Dark Tower books, a terrifying moment in the middle of a very bleak novel. While it probably won't rear its ugly head in the film, this is a nice touch: a derelict sign featuring the name "Pennywise," as well as the remains of an old statue...featuring a fist grasping a handful of balloons.

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Here's our only look at the Dark Tower where it's not being destroyed! While everyone has their own idea of what this thing looks like, it's hard to imagine any fans taking too much issue with this depiction. This shot also gives us our best look at the beams, which shoot out from the tower like spokes of a wheel.

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"Do they have guns and bullets in your world?"

"You're going to like Earth. A lot."

Well, at least The Dark Tower won't be without humor.

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Roland doesn't pay a visit to our world until the second book, but the movie is taking him straight to New York City. Here, we see him and Jake activating a doorway, possibly the same one previously used at Dutch Hill.

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Note the graffiti on the wall and gasp, Stephen King fans – that says "All hail the Crimson King." Like Walter himself, the Crimson King is a villain referenced throughout King's work, a figure of pure, malevolent evil who only wants to bring about chaos as part of a plan to destroy the world(s) and remake reality in his image. Walter actually works for him...a relationship made slightly complicated because the Crimson King is currently imprisoned within the Dark Tower itself.

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Remember how we said the house on Dutch Hill was a pretty dangerous place? Well, here you go: it's not actually a house, but a demon disguised as house that exists to guard the gate connecting Earth to Mid-World. As in the book, it comes to life and does everything in its power to stop Jake from reaching Roland.

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Are we back in the Dixie Pig? And are those men, armed with Earth weapons, disguised Taheen? That seems likely. Expect these guys to be treated as cannon fodder in this movie.

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Eagle-eyed viewers may note that Walter is holding a shiny black sphere in this shot. This may be a Wizard's Glass, a object of magical power that grants the user all kinds of a powers. In fact, this could be Black Thirteen, one of a baker's dozen magic stones (representing the 12 beams and the Dark Tower itself) known as Maerlyn's Rainbow.

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But enough magical mumbo jumbo! Does The Dark Tower have gun fights where Roland gets to hide behind pillars as thousands of rounds chip away at his cover! Yes, it does.

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And will he emerge from behind that cover in slow-motion, pistols blazing? Of course! While this action certainly looks slick, it's also the least interesting part of the trailer. The Dark Tower books were always about exploring an incredible world, not massive battles. Then again, this is what is going to get butts into seats.

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And let's just face it: Roland's speedy reloading just looks plain cool.

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Although I'm not sure how I feel about Roland going all John Woo on us. Maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe I'm just used to thinking about Roland as a cowboy, not a guy who leaps off second stories while firing his gun in slow motion. But once again: these are the shots that grab the attention of non-readers.

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The quote spoken by Roland in the final stretch of this trailer is a slightly abridged version of the gunslinger mantra heard throughout the novels. Here's the full version: "I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye. I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart."

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Speaking of fathers, that's Dennis Haybsert as Roland's father, Steven Deschain. It looks like we'll be getting at least one flashback to Roland's younger days, before the fall of his world and before...well, let's just say dear old dad isn't alive anymore.

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I'm still getting used to Roland sliding along the floor like he's Neo, guys. I'm sorry. This will take me a little while.

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And I'm still getting used to the idea of Walter using telekinetic powers to match wits with Roland in a gun battle. In fact, watching these two physically duke it out like this rather than play their epic game of cat-and-mouse can't help but feel weird.

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But you know what? I'm not going to have to get used to watching Idris Elba reload those guns.

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In the final moments, the trailer takes us back to the Manni village, where Jack is kidnapped by the maybe-Taheen...

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...and Roland calmly listens rather than pursue.

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Without looking, he raises his pistol (which glows blue, a magical touch that, once again, gives me all kinds of mixed feelings)...

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...and fires...

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Taking Jake's abductor down with a single hit to the head.

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Look: this is a cool trailer filled with cool stuff. It's not the Dark Tower I envisioned, but I think readers are going to have to come to terms with that before it hits theaters in August. Right now, I like what I see, even if certain choices can't help but feel peculiar. I'm still choosing to have high hopes for this one.

But what do you think? I'm especially curious to hear from those of you who haven't read the books at all.