pennywise

Why Does Mid-World Have Stuff Like Abandoned Amusement Parks? What is This, A Scooby-Doo Episode?”

Roland and the Man in Black inhabit a place called Mid-World, which is actually one of three regions that make up All-World – In-World, Mid-World, and End-World. Time has “moved on” in All-World, and things are slowly falling apart. But at one point, All-World was once home to an advanced civilization where life more or less mirrored that of the modern United States. Only remnants of this great civilization still survive, but they reflect things very familiar to us mortals, including cars, computers, and, yes, amusement parks. The amusement park in The Dark Tower movie also gives the filmmakers an opportunity to reference another King work via a sign that reads “Pennywise”, the malevolent clown from It.

Oh, Right! References – There Are A Bunch. Why Is The Hotel From The Shining Referenced? How Does That Fit Into The Story?

Almost all of Stephen King’s books are connected in some way, and The Dark Tower universe joins them all together. King himself even appears as a character in the Dark Tower series, where it’s revealed that everything he writes – whether it be a Dark Tower book or not – is still connected to that universe. King even tied his real-life near-fatal 1999 accident, where he was struck by a van while on a walk, into the narrative, revealing it as a plot from The Crimson King to kill him off. King doesn’t appear as a character in the film, of course, but to drive home the “everything is connected” theme, the film features several not-so-subtle references to King’s work: Jake’s therapist has a framed photograph of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining; Jake has a toy car that looks like the killer vehicle from Christine; a poster of Rita Hayworth hanging in a gun shop is the same poster from The Shawshank Redemption; there’s a store near the Dixie Pig called “Barlow and Straker” – the head vampire and his human familiar from ‘Salem’s Lot.

tower beams

What About The Portals? Why Doesn’t Roland Just Use a Portal To Go Right To The Dark Tower?

That’s sort of like asking “Why didn’t Frodo just ride one of those eagles all the way to Mt. Doom in Lord of the Rings?” The simple answer is: if Roland did that, there wouldn’t really be much of a movie (although maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing). In the books, there are two types of portals, or doors – magic doors, which are rare, and man-made ones, which are more common. But there isn’t one of these doors leading to the Tower, which is why Roland can’t use it. That said, the Tower itself does have portals at the end of six beams that shoot out from it. But each beam portal is protected guarded by an animal. The Crimson King wants to destroy all these beams to topple the tower. But again, the movie doesn’t bother to explain any of this, so don’t be too concerned about it.

Hmm. So, What Is Up With Matthew McConaughey In This Movie?

Uh…what do you mean?

Like, What Is He Doing? Why Are All His Acting Choices Here…Wrong?

He’s collecting a paycheck, I guess. McConaughey is clearly having fun playing a seductive bad guy, and I don’t think he’s that bad in the role. The problem is the script – the Man in Black here is your standard sci-fi bad guy, the type prone to long exposition about why he’s so darn evil. The Man in Black in the books is far more complex than that. He actually has a rich, troubling backstory that involves abuse as a child that may or may not have influenced his actions later in life. The character also appears in one form or another in other Stephen King works. In The Eyes of the Dragon, he’s the evil sorcerer Flagg. In The Stand, he’s Randall Flagg, a force of evil trying to construct a new civilization following a massive plague.

King describes him in The Stand like this:

“He looks like anybody you see on the street. But when he grins, birds fall dead off telephone lines. When he looks at you a certain way, your prostate goes bad and your urine burns. The grass yellows up and dies where he spits. He’s always outside. He came out of time. He doesn’t know himself. He has the name of a thousand demons. Jesus knocked him into a herd of pigs once. His name is Legion…He knows magic. He can call the wolves and live in the crows. He’s the king of nowhere.

It’s a creepy, effective description, but that doesn’t match the character we see in The Dark Tower at all. We can’t blame McConaughey for this as much as we can blame multiple screenwriters Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen and Nikolaj Arcel.

Think They’ll Make Any More Of These Movies?

Currently, there’s a TV series in the works, with The Walking Dead’s Glen Mazzara serving as the showrunner. Poor Dark Tower box office might kill this idea, but if not, TV might be the best place for The Dark Tower to end up. A TV show will give the complex mythology room to breathe and expand. Of course, they might just screw it up again.

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