For a long, long time, the first novel in Stephen King‘s Dark Tower series sat on my shelf; awaiting to be consumed on a rare, sunny afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of London life. I had read the prequel comic series at university – predominantly as a distraction from my thesis – and it had tantalised my unquenchable desire for other worlds with well crafted mythologies.
It sat there as I ploughed through China Mieville‘s tomes, and a good part of Iain M. Banks‘ Culture series, and even the most recent re-trawling of Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica. I had faith, not in King himself, but the power of the story contained within the eight novels; a post-apocalyptic western with biblical overtones at its hip and chewing tobacco in its teeth.
And then, one day when the sun was shining and the god’s of the hospitality industry relented, I picked it up, took it to a cafe, and began to read. I was, to say the least, infuriatingly disappointed. Stephen King, the great automatic writer of our time, had crafted and incredible and dense reality in a novel that read as if it had been written by a child. I couldn’t continue; I left the book were it lay on a coffee shop table and left. My only hope now lays with the long gestating film franchise, and a fragment of news from The Wrap has managed to rekindle my excitement.
Idris Elba, star of Prometheus and British TV show Luther, is rumoured to take up the mantle of Roland the Gunslinger; the central protagonist of the Dark Tower series. Earlier this year the same role had been offered to Matthew McConaughey, who I cannot deny would have been a delight to see. However, Elba, who has long been sidelined in cameos and secondary roles, would excel as the gravelly, tortured cowboy, wandering the desert in search of revenge.
His ability to flit between vulnerability and authoritative control, his grizzled handsomeness, that deep, dark voice; and to have a character so aptly race-swapped in such a major project, it seems too perfect to be true. Elba has been confirmed to be in early talks for the role, so there is still chance for him to back out, but we can hope, right? The Dark Tower series follows Roland, last in a line of warrior gunslingers – who take a healthy dosing of samurai philosophy and culture – in a post-apocalyptic America.
Following his vague and malevolent nemesis, the Man in Black, through a wasteland of violence and depravity, the eponymous gunslinger moves ever closer to the Dark Tower, a figure of immense power and importance to hero and antagonist alike. With heaps of biblical and ancient mythology, endless pop culture references, and an affinity to lose itself in side-quests, the series could potentially form a successful and long-lived film franchise, if handled well.
Nikolaj Arcel, who helmed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and A Royal Affair, is set to direct, and his ability to manage emotionally complex, rich narratives is not in question. If only McConaughey would sign on as the Man in Black I would be all in! The first installment of the franchise, likely titled Dark Tower: The Gunslinger is set for release on January 13, 2017.