Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Force Slinger

I don’t usually review things on this blog, but I’m making an exception for The Gunslinger.

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Stephen King fan. Or, I was until he stopped writing decent books, though I have to admit, I haven’t read any of his recent work so perhaps I am missing out on some good stuff. But I digress. His early books were great. And the Gunslinger epic was, well, epic, so I was looking forward to the movie.

The Gunslinger would not, I surmised, be hugely disappointing to either my wife or myself for two reasons: 1) my wife has never read anything by Stephen King and knows nothing about the Gunslinger saga, so she couldn’t be disappointed in that respect, and 2) I knew that fitting a 7-book series into an hour and a half was impossible, so it was going to be nothing like the epic journey Mr. King took me on all those years ago.

The Gunslinger Movie - 4,352 pages condensed into an hour and a half.
I also thought, knowing the series, that fitting the Gunslinger story into a single movie wouldn’t be all that hard. Two of the seven books are only peripherally related to the plot, meaning a total of 1,300 pages could be (and were) left completely out of the movie. The remaining 5 books are also bulked up with side-tracks and Mr. King’s famously bloated prose. Take away all of that, and you get a 90-minute movie.

A classic movie, as it turns out. This is how it goes:

Luke, I mean, Jake, is a boy with a power he doesn’t understand, and this makes the Empire, I mean, the Man in Black, interested in him. He escapes and meets a Jedi Master, er, Gunslinger, but the Emp..Man in Black kills aunt Beru and uncle Owen,I mean, his mom and step-dad, so he goes off with the Jedi-slinger to learn the Ways of the Force, I mean, you know.

Anyway, young Luke, I mean Jake, ultimately destroys the Death Star, or whatever that thing the Man in Black is using to bring down The Dark Tower. So, in the end, evil is vanquished, Luke…er, Jake, is learning the Ways of The Force, and… oh, bollocks.

It might not have been Star Wars, but all the elements were there (as, indeed, they were in The Force Awakens), but this shouldn’t surprise us, or put anyone off from watching the movie. After all, there is an actual formula for these types of stories, so you expect them to be, at least, similar.

I know this because, when you decide to become a writer, they give you The Rules for Plots. I don’t know who “They” are—no one does—but unless you’re a writer, like me, you won’t have been given The Rules. So here they are:

Act I
1. Readers are introduced to the hero's world
2. A disturbance or "call to adventure" interrupts the hero's world
3. The hero may ignore the call or the disturbance
4. The hero crosses the threshold into a dark world

Act II
5. A mentor may appear to teach the hero
6. Various encounters occur with forces of darkness
7. The hero has a dark moment within himself that he must overcome
8. A talisman aids in battle

9. The final battle is fought
10. The hero returns to his own world (to which I add: or continues on his quest, depending on reviews and revenue)

It was because of these Rules that The Gunslinger parallels Star Wars in so many ways (note: this is not, however, the reason The Force Awakens parallels Star Wars in so many ways; the reason for that is, they were out of plot ideas and the first movie seemed to work, so…).

In fact, the only major difference between Star Wars and The Gunslinger is the budding sexual tension between Luke, Princess Leia and Han. (Don’t forget, in the first movie no one—even themselves—knew they were brother and sister, so the initial attraction was, um, okay, even when she kissed him – eewww! – to make Han jealous. Anything more than that, however, wouldn’t fly, except in the more southerly solar systems.) All young Jake gets to do is save a girl—one he’d exchanged meaningful eye-contact with earlier—from the Imperial soldiers, I mean, the Dark Forces.

Ewwww! With tongues and everything!
But by far most impressive thing about The Gunslinger is how it made 95 minutes seem much, much longer.

If you’re a King fan, you shouldn’t miss it. Otherwise, watch Star Wars, for the 187th time. You’ll enjoy it more.