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Warning: Spoilers for The Dark Tower and The Gunslinger are in play. If you don't want the movie, or the book, ruined for you, come back after you're up to date.
One of the pivotal moments of Stephen King's The Gunslinger, the first book in the Dark Tower saga, didn't make it into the movie. With young Jake Chambers taking a role front and center in The Dark Tower film, those fans of the original books probably expected young Jake to die towards the end of the film's events, seeing as that's exactly what befell the young character in his literary incarnation. But by the end of co-writer / director Nikolaj Arcel's first entry in a proposed greater canon, Jake is not only alive, but he's crossing into the world of Roland the Gunslinger from the very world we inhabit. Which begs the question, why shy away from sending Jake to his maker?
It's a question I had to ask Arcel when I sat down with him at a Dark Tower press junket this past week, and he did not fail to produce an answer. As not only a writer on the film, but the director who brought this vision of The Tower to life, he's also a pretty big Stephen King fan. So when presented with the question of why young Jake should live, rather than be sacrificed in Roland's quest against the Man in Black, he said:
I think that for us, and even for Stephen King, it felt like, if you are going to make this the last journey, that is about a Roland who will become even more enlightened than he is in the novels, he has to make different choices this time. He can't make the same choices that he did in the novels. Because then he will end up having to go back again. So we did have to have one or two [major] choices that will differentiate from the novels, and that was one of them.
Thinking about the decision to keep Jake as a long-term character in The Dark Tower makes a lot of sense when you think of the context that Nikolaj Arcel has just laid down. With the films and proposed TV component intended to serve as the final trip around the wheel for Roland and the Man in Black, our characters have to have learned something through their infinite battle. Rather than sacrifice Jake in the name of progressing on his journey of anger against the Man in Black, Roland now has himself a sidekick to teach the ways of the Gunslinger. Though, to be fair, the Man in Black never presents him with the situation from The Gunslinger in which only one out of the two heroes can make it out alive and face him directly.
With Roland finally going into a cycle of battle with the Horn of Eld in his possession, this journey's already changed from square one, so obviously the entire sequence of events is going to play out somewhat differently. As Nikolaj Arcel and I talked further about the changes that The Dark Tower made to The Gunslinger's story, the understanding was that ultimately this new cycle of adventures is one of enlightenment. Roland is now more enlightened when it comes to what he has to do to break the cycle of repetition he's been fighting through, and to a certain extent the Man in Black has learned some new tricks himself.
However long this franchise lasts, we'll be seeing this epic battle between good and evil becoming a fresh new story, while at the same time honoring continuity. In particular, it sounds like the TV series that's currently in development will be locking down some of the past Dark Tower literary canon in the filmed version of events. So while things will definitely change, there are many apects that'll stay the same. With that in mind, maybe Jake isn't as safe as we thought he is, and his eventual fate is merely prolonged for the time being.
For now, The Dark Tower looms in theaters, with the fate of its cinematic and televised universe hanging in the balance.