The following contains minor spoilers for The Dark Tower book series.
Stephen King's epic fantasy series The Dark Tower finally arrives on the big screen this weekend. The first book in Stephen King's series is light on characters, with only a handful even appearing, while the later books have so many different odd names floating around that you'd be forgiven for forgetting who was who. The new film falls someplace in between.
The Dark Tower on film is a fresh take on the material, and it introduces many characters and elements that don't appear until much later in the books. In case you haven't reread every book in the series in anticipation, here are the people who are important to know in Sony's new The Dark Tower.
The original title of the first book in The Dark Tower series is The Gunslinger. That man is Roland Deschain. Roland lives in a world that has "moved on." It bears a resemblance to our own, but only in a post-apocalyptic sense. Gunslingers are a little like knights, only instead of carrying lances or swords, they're armed with revolvers. Roland is the last of his kind as the story opens, the rest are dead and gone. He's chasing after somebody simply known as The Man in Black, though for what reason is not entirely clear. In the film, Roland is played by Idris Elba.
The Man in Black
Every great hero needs a nemesis and for The Gunslinger, it's somebody called The Man in Black. When the first book opens, Roland has already been chasing the Man in Black for some unknown period of time. Exactly how long, or even exactly why, are not clear. The Man in Black is a step on the road to The Dark Tower, Roland's ultimate goal. As the first book is a chase, we don't even actually meet The Man in Black until near the end of the book, Roland only discovers what the Man in Black has left behind. It's clear from the trailers that Matthew McConaughey's version of the character will be much more prevalent.
Jake Chambers is a young boy from modern New York City who finds himself in Roland's world and on Roland's path. The boy joins Roland on his quest, as being with the Gunslinger is safer than being alone. It should be pointed out that "modern" when the book was written meant the 1970s and 80s. The Dark Tower film updates everything to our modern day. That's not the only significant change to Jake, as we've seen in the trailers. Jake is vitally important to the book series as a whole, but for very different reasons than what the movie will create. Tom Taylor plays Jake in the film.
Roland is a Gunslinger, as his father was before him. Steven Deschain is long dead when the events of the first book begin. The book does contain flashback sequences in it, but we don't really get a chance to meet and learn about Steven until much later in the novels. Roland's father is really only referenced in passing. We will actually see him in the Dark Tower movie, as Dennis Haysbert has been cast in the role. It's possible the movie could be including information in the first film that the books don't reveal until later, something we know is happening in many other places.
Richard Sayre is not mentioned until the fifth book in The Dark Tower series, but he'll appear in the first movie played by Jackie Earle Hayley. Sayre is what's called a can-toi, a sort of humanoid animal that disguises itself with a mask to look like a human. He's also a high ranking member of the Sombra Corporation, a company which exists in the modern world but works for an evil force that exists in Roland's world and has designs on the Dark Tower. Assuming that Sayre plays the same role here, expect to see the name Sombra in the modern America film sequences.
Pimli Prentiss is a name you won't find until the very last book of the The Dark Tower cycle. He's the warden of a place called Algul Siento, a sort of dormitory/prison where people with psychic abilities are taken so that their power can be used against The Dark Tower. While you'll never hear the name Pimli Prentiss used in the movie, Fran Kranz from The Cabin in the Woods is playing that part. Pimli is from our world, but was hired to keep watch over the psychics in Roland's world. Pimli's major contribution to the books involves one character we know we won't see in the new movie, which may indicate the plan is to see him again.