DIRECTOR: Nikolaj Arcel
Anders Thomas Jensen
Jackie Earle Haley
The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O'Dim, who is also known as the evil and powerful Man in Black. Roland is determined to prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower which holds all the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, Roland must defend the tower from the Man in Black in a battle of Good vs Evil.
It's common knowledge and a thing of legend about the troubled production history of The Dark Tower movie. Getting this onto the big screen has been filled with many ups and downs. In 2009, J.J. Abrams had the rights and bailed on it for fear of messing it up. The rights were nabbed by Ron Howard back in 2010. After budgetary concerns, budget cuts, and years of development hell. It looks dead in the water. We finally got a movie adaptation after poor test screenings and reshoots. It looked set to fail.
My partner is a massive fan of The Dark Tower universe. I waited to watch the trailer with him when it initially debuted online. I wanted to get an idea of what a fan of the books thought of the movie trailer to one of his most beloved and cherished novellas. After he had watched the trailer, the footage was met with disdain. Frankly, he wasn't impressed and upset with the footage. Apparently, it looked and felt nothing like the book series. I thought nothing of it as I didn't have that same love for the series. I've only read several of Stephen King's more horror-themed novels.
When I went into The Dark Tower, I had no preconceived notions about what I was to expect from the movie. I was well aware of the backlash from critics and the die-hard fans of the novels, but not being one of them, myself. I went in with an open mind as I had no previous attachment to the series or this sprawling universe. I just hoped for a fun, action-packed horror movie that would at least do a decent job of keeping me entertained for an hour and a half.
After watching The Dark Tower, I was left with so many questions. Not because I'm not a fan of the books, but because the story felt convoluted. The eight novels span 4,250 pages. I have to assume there is a lot of backstory for each of the characters that play an integral part in this first chapter. My partner had said that after watching the movie, it's like they've taken elements from each of the eight books and thrown it into a blender. You can tell you have a monumental mess on your hands when a story feels like it says a lot but somehow still feels like nothing at all.
The movie runs at a short ninety-minutes. I assume had they given us another thirty or forty minutes of running time to flesh out the characters and their backstories. We may have had a story that made more sense to an audience who are unfamiliar with the novels. What transpires in this lean ninety-minutes is a maniacal villain in black who has the power to command the death of people by just saying the words, a boy who can see monsters, and a gunslinger who is handy with guns and out for revenge. There is no real history of the Dark Tower. We get no exposition at all.
Tonally, The Dark Tower makes no sense either. The film is part science-fiction meets western. We have elements of horror and comedy. There is a ton of action meets big-budget spectacle. The most uneven aspect is the comedy. The jokes that Roland has with the kid over our world and the weird things he doesn't understand feels like that T2: Judgement Day dynamic, only there is no chemistry and it's just not very funny. It feels bizarre to watch. I have to wonder if studio interference played a big part in the debacle that is the movie adaptation of The Dark Tower.
The things that I enjoyed were all the references to other Stephen King stories. The Pennywise circus being located in the forest. Cujo being led along by a family. The kid pushing the Christine Plymouth Fury around in the bedroom. We see a photograph of the Overlook Hotel. These little nods felt like a game during the movie. I was looking out for sneaky hints in every scene. I thought this was a nice touch in world-building that we sadly won't see if the box-office and critic reviews have anything to do with it.
Visually, I think the movie looked well made. Based on the poster, I thought we would get an Inception type of world. This was more reeled back in scale as the budget was slightly minimal when you think of how much gets spent on comic-book movies these days. I thought that for a basic sci-fi action movie. The action and visual effects were pretty good. Not groundbreaking by any means but enough to give us something to enjoy in this otherwise extremely messy production.
Lastly, we come to the acting. I've heard many people complain about the entire cast here. Idris Elba is a solid actor. Sadly, with the screenplay that he has to work with, it feels beneath his talent. Matthew McConaughey is in the same boat. He's received the most maligned reviews but I believe that is due to him being underdeveloped as is his powers. He comes across like he's chewing the scenery and I actually began to enjoy the silliness on display. I thought the biggest upset here was Tom Taylor as the kid. I have no idea who this actor is, but he was miscast. I don't know the character either, but his performance was wooden. That may be down to the fact the kid is written as angsty and devoid of personality. I just didn't enjoy his performance at all.
DEATH TOLL: 46 (Estimated)
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A little girl is strapped to a seat and has her mind warped.
- A man is burned alive by the Man in Black.
- Two kids have a punch-up in the school cafeteria.
- A man stops breathing and dies when commanded to by the Man in Black.
- A woman is turned to ash.
- A woman is made to answer a question and bleeds from the nose and dies.
- People are killed by demons with swords.
- A monster pierces a man through the shoulder.
- Groups of demons are shot dead.
- A drops dead at the command of the Man in Black.
- Two people are made to fight to the death in a deli.
- A man is stabbed in the chest with a sword.
- A man is pierced with a shard of glass through the hand.
- A woman's face is burnt.
- Many henchmen are shot dead.
- A man is shot in the heart and head.
- A man is killed by having the Man in Black places his hands over his eyes.
As someone who isn't an avid reader of the sprawling 4,250 page, eight novel saga of The Dark Tower series. I can't speak for the comparisons of the movie to the novels. I can only go off my opinions of a guy who has just witnessed the film. At a very short hour and a half, this story is a disaster. With so much world-building to cram into this origin story, we are thrown into the middle of a story that feels incomplete. With little to no backstory, an uneven tone, subpar performances, and a short running time. We have the result of what feels like a rush-job. Sadly, the Stephen King connections and some well-done visuals can't save this bombastic mess.