Stephen King’s epic fantasy, The Dark Tower, is finally headed to the big screen. But, unfamiliar viewers might be left with some lingering questions. One of the most intriguing mysteries is who Matthew McConaughey is playing in the film. The trailers have only referred to him as the Man in Black. No, he’s not Johnny Cash. Let’s take a closer look at this magical antagonist and what role he has to play…
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
Stephen King’s The Gunslinger kicks off the saga of The Dark Tower with protagonist Roland Deschain chasing a man in black across a desert. That man is an evil sorcerer who goes by many names and we’ll get to those shortly. He is a servant of the Crimson King, a mad tyrant who is bent on wiping out all of reality in an event he calls Discordia. After Discordia, the Crimson King hopes to re-shape existence in his image. The man in black seeks to help his master by any means necessary. In order to achieve Discordia, the Dark Tower must be destroyed. The Tower is the nexus point of all realities, and if its many beams are destroyed and the Tower falls, then everything that is will be lost.
However, this mysterious figure has not only appeared in The Dark Tower. In fact, he’s shown up in many of Stephen King’s works…
“Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name.”
He first appeared as Randall Flagg in The Stand. He was a force of utter destruction and chaos. Though he failed his mission in that story, he was reborn as he often has been throughout the ages. Chronologically, his first incarnation came in the form of the dark magician Flagg in The Eyes of the Dragon. He has many aliases and alternate forms and appears throughout King’s body of work as an embodiment of all that is evil. In The Dark Tower, he is mostly known by the names Walter o’Dim and Walter Padick.
“As for the end of the universe…I say let it come as it will, in ice, fire, or darkness. What did the universe ever do for me that I should mind its welfare?”
It’s clear that McConaughey’s Man in Black is the legendary antagonist. Considering that the film version is actually a sequel to the books, it will be interesting to see how much of the book character will make his way to the screen. How much of his history will be included? Will the movie touch on his relationship with the legendary wizard Merlin? Or will they touch on his various forms in other universes?
We’ll have to wait and see when The Dark Tower hits theaters on August 4.