More than a year after Stephen King first dropped the hint, director Nikolaj Arcel has confirmed that the Dark Tower movie is a continuation of the books. Starring Idris Elba as gunslinger Roland Deschain, The Dark Tower hits theaters on Aug. 4, and I've got your primer to the film's connection to King's fantasy-western saga.
Back in May 2016, Stephen King tweeted a teaser for The Dark Tower that threw fans into a tizzy. In the image, the words "Last Time Around" were superimposed over a photograph of a horn lying in the dirt. Fans recognized the item immediately as the Horn of Eld, an ancient artifact that belonged to the first gunslinger: Roland's ancestor, Arthur Eld. For King's Constant Readers, the meaning was clear: Nikolaj Arcel's The Dark Tower would be a direct sequel to King's The Dark Tower. Here's how that all works out.
Spoiler warning: the following may give away key plot details of both Arcel's Dark Tower movie and King's long-running book series. You have been warned.
Roland Deschain was once in possession of the Horn of Eld, but gave it to a member of his original ka-tet, who used it to call for aid on the battlefield. Unfortunately, Randall Flagg — whose alter-ego, Walter O'Dim, will be portrayed by Matthew McConaughey in The Dark Tower — killed Roland's friend as he used the Horn of Eld, and the gunslinger never went back to retrieve it.
The books hint strongly that losing the Horn of Eld has doomed Roland's quest to save the Tower. At the end of The Dark Tower, readers learn that Roland has made the journey to the Tower countless times, only to fail and be placed back at the beginning of his mission.
But when we last see Roland in King's concluding 2004 novel, something has changed: the gunslinger has the Horn of Eld. If what has been intimated so far is correct, that means readers have just witnessed the first moments of Roland's triumphant final push toward the Dark Tower when they close the final book in the series. And if that's the case, then the upcoming Dark Tower movie will tell the story of the gunslinger's last journey.
In an interview with IGN on Monday, Arcel confirmed that The Dark Tower would be a sequel to King's novels. "It is actually a canon continuation," Arcel told interviewer Terri Schwartz. "That's exactly what we intended and what Stephen King signed off on." In addition to giving the film his blessing, King sent Arcel and crew "a hard copy of the script with handwritten notes" to shepherd the characters toward authenticity.
Arcel also noted several changes to what viewers may have expected from a Dark Tower movie. "Susannah and Eddie are not going to be in this film," he said, breaking all of our hearts, but he revealed that more obscure characters may make cameo appearances in The Dark Tower. "We actually took the world and sort of stitched it a little bit together without ... losing the promise of greater adventures."
Watch Arcel's interview over at IGN, and prepare to see Roland Deschain in his final showdown with the man in black when The Dark Tower hits theaters on Aug. 4.