The Dark Tower: The Man in Black's Origins Explained

Warning: Spoilers for The Dark Tower books and movie


The cinematic adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower has finally arrived in theaters, though the movie might not be everything that fans of King's magnum opus had been hoping for. It was always going to be a difficult line for director Nikolaj Arcel to walk; fans of the book wouldn't want to waste precious time having the plot and structure explained to them, but to scrimp on that risks alienating newcomers to the franchise. The resulting movie sits somewhere between the two; The Dark Tower is not a faithful retelling of the first book in King's seven novel series, neither is is a retelling of all the books combined. Instead, The Dark Tower movie serves as another cycle of Roland's tale. Those who have read the books will know exactly what that means, but for those that haven't; think of it as a retelling of all the books with plenty of differences thrown in, and plenty taken out.

The essence of the tale remains the same, though; a battle of good versus evil. On the good side, is Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). Roland is the last in a long line of gunslingers hailing from Gilead in Mid-World. Essentially the role of a gunslinger is a kind of old-style Wild West Cowboy law enforcement, but Roland is exceptionally skilled and life has led him on a quest to reach the Dark Tower before the Man in Black. The Man in Black (Matthew McConnaughey), on the other hand, is firmly on the side of evil. He wants to destroy the tower, and, as is mentioned often in the books, he is both chasing and being chased by, Roland.

Confused? Let's start with the Tower itself. The Tower sits in the center of all existence. It is a real, tangible place, and from that place, eight beams flow. The beams connect to other worlds, and while the Tower still stands, and those beams remain intact, the universe exists. If those beams are damaged, or the Tower falls, all of existence will collapse. So Roland's quest to stop the Man in Black from carrying out his evil plan of destruction is pretty important, all things considered.

The logical question to ask, is why does the Man in Black want to destroy the Tower, and why does he hate Roland so much? To answer that, we have to go back to the very creation of the character, whom King introduced in another novel, 'The Stand.' There, he was called Randall Flagg, and he has appeared in various guises in many of King's stories, though it's important to remember that it's always the same character. Names he goes by include Ramsey Forrest, Russell Faraday, Richard Fannin, Richard Freemantle, and Robert Franq. King originally meant for The Man in Black, also known as Walter O'Dim, to be a different character for 'The Dark Tower' series, but he decided instead to bring back his popular embodiment of evil, and so, although he doesn't share the initials R.F., Walter O'Dim is the same person. In The Dark Tower novels, Walter goes by the nickname the Man in Black, while elsewhere, again, he is known by various nicknames including The Walkin' Dude, The Dark Man, and The Hardcase.

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Key Release Dates
  • The Dark Tower (2017) release date: Aug 04, 2017
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