The Dark Tower Review
Stephen King at the movies has been a bit of a mixed bag. For every Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, Stand By Me, or 1408 (highly underrated) there’s a Secret Window, Cell, Maximum Overdrive, or Dreamcatcher. For a long time attempts have been made to adapt The Dark Tower series, King’s self-professed Magnum Opus that spans multiple books and even realities; dipping into other books of King’s and even featuring the author himself as a character. How do you go about realising such a monumental task?
By doing a rush job that won’t satisfy anyone.
A young boy named Jake (Tom Taylor) is haunted by nightmares of the Man In Black (Matthew McConaughey), a sinister figure who is attempting to destroy a large tower, and the Gunslinger Roland (Idris Elba), the only one who can stop him. Jake falls into another world and finds that what is at stake is the safety of reality itself.
This is not a bad movie. However the reason it is not a bad movie is because to call it bad is to imply that poor creative decisions were made when in reality I don’t believe that any real creativity went into any aspect of production. It is a very generic and by-the-numbers film in the way that it is shot, the beats of the story progression, the look of bad guys and various environments, all leading up to a safe Save The World plot complete with destructive light shooting up into the sky like we’ve seen countless times by now. The action is nothing special apart from one standout sequence towards the end which takes place at night with plenty of cuts so you don’t see anything clearly. You can also see moments where they had the potential to make a really mature and dark story, but they make sure to cut away or limit the effect as much as possible. It all feels like a waste of a really great concept, watered and dumbed down to the level of a YA book adaptation along the lines of Percy Jackson.
Of course some things are going to get lost when you adapt a series of books that has a grand total of 4,250 pages, but it feels like they didn’t even try with a rushed running time of 95 minutes. This is the kind of story that needs world-building and really digging into the roots of the characters, not things happening with little explanation or with an explanation so quick that you miss it completely.
Idris Elba does a lot with very little here; you can see the weariness and history of the character with just a look at his eyes and face. He is the absolute highlight of the film and his developing relationship with Tom Taylor’s Jake is done well and doesn’t feel forced. Matthew McConaughey is clearly having fun as the Man in Black, but is about as one-note as a villain can get. He’s evil and wants to destroy reality. Why does he want to do this? How did he become a being of such evil magical power? Eh, he just sort of is. Sometimes that’s fine but here it is another case of crippling the potential.
As a stupid popcorn movie The Dark Tower is okay and certainly never boring, but as anything more it’s a little frustrating. I suppose the movie did its job in one sense as I now want to read the books, but that is because I want the better version of this story.