The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (Book Review)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The story centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who has been chasing after his adversary, “the man in black”, for many years. The novel fuses Western fiction with fantasy, science fiction and horror, following Roland’s trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way.

My Thoughts:

Another quickie book review! I figured I better “review” The Gunslinger since The Dark Tower movie is out now in the US (and out August 18th in the UK). Not many positive reviews so far, though! Damn.

Stephen King is easily my favorite author. I’ve read almost all of his books other than The Dark Tower series, which never really appealed to me for some reason. I got into King in my early teens (maaaaaaany years ago now) and I did read The Gunslinger early on but didn’t remember a thing about it other than that I didn’t really enjoy it at the time. Therefore, I guess that’s why I never continued. I hate re-reading books. Don’t know why. But I obviously had to re-read this one before I could continue with the series & the movie coming out has finally forced me to read it again.

I lie – I do remember one thing from reading it many years ago. Desert! Lots of desert. I remember the book dragging in the first half (in the desert). Reading the book again now, I wonder if I didn’t actually finish it as I remembered nothing at all from the second half of the book, which I found much more enjoyable. The story really picked up once Roland met up with Jake (toward the end of the long desert journey). I mean, I love King but a guy walking alone through a desert gets a bit boring after a while. Maybe I just don’t like stories set in the desert? Nah, that can’t be – I love post-apocalyptic desert landscapes (like in Mad Max: Fury Road or the book Wool). And I don’t mind long journeys (like in The End Of The World Running Club or King’s own The Long Walk or, you know, The Lord Of The F*^king Rings…). So. I dunno. Wow, I suck at reviews lately.

I think the main problem may have been that I didn’t really buy into the character of Roland Deschain. I didn’t like him (not that you’re meant to). He’s so stoic. Having to walk through the desert with that guy would be a total drag. I made him super hot in my head, though, so that helped. Oh! I did like the flashbacks to when he was young & being trained to one day fight to declare his manhood. The flashbacks & the time spent with Jake were the best bits (for me) and made up for the bits that dragged on a bit too long (like the time spent in Tull, although I liked his relationship with the woman while there). The “man in black” was a disappointment but I’m assuming we get a lot more of that story in the remaining books…

Well, I did like this book more than it probably sounds from this so-called review. I’m probably rating it half a point more than I otherwise would since a) it’s Stephen King & b) I can see a lot of potential for the remaining books. I’m assuming this first book barely even scratches the surface of this story. You really learn nothing whatsoever about Roland & the “man in black” and I found it entertaining enough to want to continue & learn more, especially about Roland’s past. I’ll read the rest. Eventually…

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

Oh, and it looks like the Mr. Mercedes TV series is starting today on the Audience (?!) network in the US. So I don’t know how I’ll see that in the UK but I’d like to as I enjoyed the book (more than The Gunslinger). Here’s the trailer for the show, starring Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Mary-Louise Parker, Kelly Lynch & Ann Cusack:

My Top Ten Drew Struzan Movie Art Pieces

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Yesterday I reviewed Drew: The Man Behind The Poster, which is a documentary about legendary movie poster artist Drew Struzan. Struzan has created some of the most well-known & iconic film posters and I love his work. I decided to do a separate post highlighting some of my favorite Struzan pieces of movie art.

At first I was going to focus just on his art that officially got used (whether originally or for anniversary editions). But in looking at his official website (HERE), I discovered a lot of art I like that I’d never seen before. So I figured I’d include all movie-related work (so, I’m excluding things like his super cool Black Sabbath album cover). I already KNOW I’ll be missing something & I’ll later kick myself for it. He’s done so much that it’s hard to narrow it down and, while there’s a long list on his site, I have no idea if it’s complete plus not all the images are shown.

So, after spending probably an hour looking up Struzan’s art, I’ve decided that these are my favorite. Probably. For now. I’m so indecisive! 😉 I’ll fully admit that I have a very hard time not letting how much I like the movie influence my opinion and, indeed, I like all of these movies. Remember I’m not an art expert in the slightest – I just really like the look of these. Especially number one. 

Now here are My Top Ten Drew Struzan Movie Art Pieces:

Honorable Mentions

Indiana Jones Quadrilogy, Squirm (I don’t know this movie but the poster makes it look awesome despite the 4.4 IMDB rating!), Star Wars Original Trilogy, Back To The Future 

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10. TIE: The Goonies & Adventures In Babysitting

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9. Big Trouble In Little China

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8. Ladyhawke

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7. The Dark Tower as seen in The Mist

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6. The Muppet Movie

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5. Revenge Of The Jedi

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4. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

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3. Back To The Future Trilogy

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2. Pan’s Labyrinth

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1. The Thing

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Drew: The Man Behind The Poster (2013) Review

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Drew: The Man Behind The Poster (2013)

Directed by Erik Sharkey

Starring: Drew Struzan, Dylan Struzan, Harrison Ford, Guillermo del Toro, George Lucas, Michael J. Fox, Thomas Jane

Running time: 97 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Drew: The Man Behind The Poster is a 2013 documentary film directed by Erik Sharkey about the career of American film poster artist Drew Struzan.

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My Opinion:

I watched this documentary last year and kept meaning to review it. I don’t know how to review documentaries (or books! man I’m behind on book reviews). As a documentary, I suppose it was pretty good. I don’t watch too many of them unless I’m really really interested in the subject, though, and this one was right up my alley. I love movies (obviously) & movie poster art and Drew Struzan has designed some of the greatest & most well known movie posters. So I’ll warn you right now that I may end up talking more about his art than about the actual documentary.

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Personal Life:

What I liked about this documentary, as with any documentary, was finding out more about Struzan’s personal life as well as his work. They talked to him and to his wife a lot and they seemed to have a lovely, very close relationship (I love a good husband & wife team). I’d say Struzan came across as a bit bitter and angry over certain things (he got very screwed over by someone in his career so I can understand that anger). He was the very definition of a “starving artist” in his early days and his wife was always by his side. I think this documentary got the balance right in talking about his personal life as well as his art. I can’t find any photos of his wife (Dylan) in the documentary, which is odd as she’s a very important part of it. But I found the above photo here, on the website of an artist who met Drew. It’s an interesting article if you want to have a look at the link & get an actual artist’s perspective on things (I can’t draw anything other than stick figures. I can’t even paint a wall properly!).

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It’s interesting how artistic types can sometimes be difficult but I liked how Struzan seems to have said “screw it” and lives for his wife & his art now. I’m difficult too but I have zero artistic talent of any sort so I don’t know what my excuse is… 😉 I’m not saying he came across as unlikeable – just that he does what he wants to do now & too bad if others don’t like it. I think more people should be like that, actually. He was far less grumpy than Paul Williams was in the Paul Williams Still Alive documentary that I watched at the same time. I suppose I should do a mini-review of that sometime too… Here’s my review: Paul Williams is a grumpy fart! Lol. Seriously, though, Struzan came across as a private person who’s very passionate about the things he loves and I have a lot of respect for people who are like that.

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Artwork:

First of all, I’ll say they did a good job getting some famous people to talk about Struzan and the work that he did for/with them (I especially loved Michael J. Fox’s enthusiasm for Struzan’s work – you could tell just how much he loved being a part of the Back To The Future posters). Speaking of grumpy famous people, they even got Harrison Ford to talk about Struzan! How cool is that? He must be the actor Struzan has painted more than any other… We also heard from Guillermo del Toro, George Lucas, and Thomas Jane.

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I’m really glad they spoke to Thomas Jane about his part as a movie poster artist in Frank Darabont’s The Mist. For anyone not familiar with the movie, Struzan’s artwork was used in the beginning and Jane’s character is shown painting Struzan’s art for Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (which Struzan painted specifically to be used in The Mist). Three things I love all together: Stephen King, Drew Struzan & Frank Darabont! Wait… Four! Thomas Jane is a hottie. Anyway, Struzan showed Jane how to make it look like he was really an artist doing a painting then, being the perfectionist that he is, later told Jane that he did it completely wrong in the movie. I loved Jane’s re-telling of the story – he had a great sense of humor about it.

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Frank Darabont is clearly a big fan of Struzan’s as he’s had him do art for a lot of his work (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Walking Dead, and of course artwork for & in The Mist). George Lucas is also a huge fan and Struzan has done loads of Star Wars art for books, anniversary editions, etc. There are so many different Struzan Star Wars pieces that it’s hard to choose a favorite. I think it’s between Revenge Of The Jedi & this one, which was a collaboration with artist Charles White III:

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Struzan did the poster art for Hellboy but he also did an amazing piece for Pan’s Labyrinth, which the studio rejected (much to Guillermo del Toro’s anger). But del Toro is very proud to have this hanging in his home – I’d love to have this!:

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I hate how studios so often feel the need to have horrible, boring movie posters just featuring photos of the film’s stars these days. I understand that seeing the stars so prominently displayed convinces some people to watch a movie (I guess?) but it doesn’t work on me. I’m more interested in a film if it has a really interesting, artistic poster (I’m the same way with books. I’m drawn to books with good covers). Struzan paints the film’s stars anyway so I don’t know why anyone would ever choose some crappy photoshopped photo over a painting for a movie poster. I’d much rather see something like this:

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Summary:

I’ve decided to stop here for a couple of reasons. First of all, I sometimes feel ridiculous “reviewing” movies when I know as little about filmmaking as I do about writing. When it comes to art, I have even less experience or knowledge. I just know what I LIKE and I have a passion for film, music, books, and art & love discussing it with all of you in the same way that someone like Struzan has a passion for actually creating that art. Believe me, I’d far rather be creating it but I just don’t have that ability.

Second of all, if I continue I know I’ll just ramble on & on about all my favorite Struzan pieces. So, in the middle of this, I decided to do a separate list of My Top Ten Drew Struzan Movie Art Pieces, which I’ll post tomorrow. I’ve actually not even mentioned a lot of my favorites, including the one that is my favorite Struzan poster, hands down. I’ll just mention this as I decided that my list tomorrow should focus on only his movie art: When watching this documentary, I had NO idea that Struzan had done album covers and that he did one of my all-time favorites for Black Sabbath. How on Earth had I not known that?! The Alice Cooper one is amazing as well:

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Love those! Like I said, I know what I like and I know that seeing Drew Struzan movie art makes me happy. As for this documentary, I really enjoyed it as I find the subject matter fascinating and it was great getting to know a little bit about this private and talented artist.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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