Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came...
Art is a funny thing. They say it's never over till it's over, but is it? Leonardo DaVinci once said something to the effect of "No piece of art is ever finished. It's simply abandoned."
I just came back from watching the recent film, "the Dark Tower", with this thought firmly in mind. I wouldn't profess to be a huge frothing fan of the books, but I've read them all and quite enjoyed them. I love westerns as a style, and love seeing the genre mashed up with other, unexpected genres. The Dark Tower series can be thusly described as a "post-apocalyptic science fantasy western". If you wanted to do so.
The film was good. A solid story, good acting, and well-paced. I felt there were a few times that the dialogue felt a little on the nose, but overall I enjoyed it. And I thought Idris Elba was just marvelous as Roland Deschain -- the Last Gunslinger.
I've been following the news about the film for months now. Reading Stephen King's Facebook posts, articles on movie news sites, etc. And there's a lot of fan frustration and upset about many elements of the book. From the get-go, however, King and the production crew have been pretty up front that this movie is supposed to be complementary to the books, not a strict adaptation of them.
And that's where the wheels in my mind are grinding along. When you create a piece of art, there's a lot of work involved. The artist's emotions range from excitement to introspection, self-doubt, and fear. And then you finally put the work out into the world and hope people will enjoy it. Considering the vast numbers of copies of the books King has sold, I've got to assume people like them. I know I sure did.
But when an artist looks back on the work weeks, months, maybe decades after the fact, inevitably they find flaws. Things they wish they'd done differently, things they didn't know at the time.
The Dark Tower books were begun when King was in college, and he wrote them sporadically throughout his career. I don't imagine he knew exactly where they were going when he started them. And as he continued writing, elements of the series began to populate his other work. The Dark Tower began to be the through line for his entire career.
I have to wonder if in many ways, the film wasn't his chance to go back and "change a few things". There are nods to other King stories in the film that he hadn't actually written when the Dark Tower series began. The relationship between Roland and Jake feels different. But at it's core, the story is essentially the same: good battles evil, and there are cowboys and monsters.
I don't actually know how much input King had into the script, or storyline. I would imagine he had some, so I like to think he was okay with the way the film was going. So in that sense, I am looking at the film as a companion piece to the books, with him in the role of original author
It's hard to sum up exactly what I felt about the film. But what came to mind was that it felt at once like a sequel, adaptation, and revision of the books. It was an example really of a piece of art that was thought to be abandoned, but then dusted off for one more look. As if with 30 years of hindsight, there was a feeling of "you know what, I've got a few more things to say about this."
Nothing one creates is really ever truly finished. And I guess that's a lesson for creative types. That sometimes you just have to say "this is good enough for now", and let the work stand on it's own.
You can always come back and revisit it later.