Just about every big, sprawling epic fantasy movie or TV show is based on a book series. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones — they all got their start on the page. The latest is The Dark Tower, the first film adaptation of Stephen King's massive tale of the battle between good and evil. But with eight lengthy books in the series, trying to get caught up before the movie is a massive undertaking, so do you have to read the books before seeing The Dark Tower movie?
It's up to you whether or not you want to read the books first. Some people prefer to read the books before seeing these types of movies, and some don't. The movie isn't going to be a straight adaptation of the series — in fact, it's not even starting at the beginning of the story, more on that later — so book-readers may be disappointed about all of the things that get changed in the transition from page to screen (they always are). On the other hand, readers of the books will have a massive leg up on understanding the film's complicated world and mythology from the get-go, and will likely better understand what's happening on the screen.
The movie certainly is made for a wider audience than just those who've read the books. There may be a few Easter eggs to reward faithful fans of the novels, but newcomers should have no trouble enjoying the film. For example, I've never read any Harry Potter or Tolkien (shocking, I know), but I was able to enjoy and understand the movies based off of those works just fine. Game of Thrones is currently the biggest show on television, and I would guess that the bulk of its fans have not read A Song of Ice and Fire (I actually have!). However, there is one aspect of the Dark Tower movie compared to the previously mentioned works that will be an extra bonus to those who have read the books.
As it turns out, The Dark Tower is actually a sequel to the entire novel series. At the conclusion of the books (spoiler), Roland reaches the Dark Tower only to learn that he has gone on the same journey many, many times before. However, when he begins his journey anew, he is in possession of the Horn of Eld, an artifact he left behind in all of his previous journeys, but that is the key to his emerging victorious at the tower. While promoting the film last year, King tweeted out an image of the horn with the text "Last Time Around," indicating that the events of the film will depict Roland's last journey, taking place after the final novel and therefore altering the story. This theory has since been confirmed by the film's director, Nikolaj Arcel.
Whether you read the books or not, you should still be able to watch The Dark Tower. It's slated to be one of the biggest, most action-packed films of the year, and that's something no one is going to want to miss.