THE DARK TOWER

It’s finally here, folks. The long awaited adaptation to Stephen King’s self-proclaimed magnum opus, The Dark Tower… a book series that I’ve never read. I’ve actually never read any Stephen King novel before. I’ve seen quite a few films based off his works, however. Did you know he directed a film once? It’s called Maximum Overdrive, and it’s awesome for all of the best and worst reasons. I can’t really say the same for The Dark Tower film, though. 

11-year-old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has been plagued by nightmares of children being kidnapped by the evil Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) in order to destroy The Dark Tower. When Jake finds out his parents want to send him away to a psychiatric institution due to his behavior, it’s revealed the people taking him there are actually subordinates of the Man in Black. Jake escapes and locates a mysterious portal from his dreams, which takes him to another dimension. Here, he meets Roland Deschain aka The Gunslinger (Idris Elba), another man from his dreams and the sworn enemy of the Man in Black. Together, they begin a journey to prevent the destruction of The Dark Tower, which would destroy all universes as we know it. 

Not being the slightest bit familiar with the source material, the most I expected from The Dark Tower was a middling, forgettable action film. What I got was a middling and forgettable TV movie. It seriously felt like an extended pilot for TV series, all the way down to the actual aesthetic of the film. The cinematography, the lighting, the visual effects, the production design, the costume design, the writing; everything about it felt so cheap and lazily slapped together. It all felt like some sort of bizarre mixture of a late 1990’s/early 2000’s action film and a Syfy Channel film. This is kind of funny, considering some of the more popular King adaptations were made for television. Unfortunately, it’s less funny when you realize you’re watching something of that caliber in a movie theater. 

While easy to follow, the plot is completely half-baked and uninspired, with a story about a misfit kid dealing with family issues, such as the death of his father. When he meets the cynical Roland in the new dimension, there’s a lot to work with character wise there. Where a father-son bond relationship could have been established between our two leads, nothing really happens. They just go on an adventure together, and Roland saves Jake’s life a couple times. Without hardly any dramatic buildup or stakes, it quickly gets boring and repetitive. It does get a little bit more fun near the end when they get to Earth, though. When the film decides to have fun during the last act, it’s pretty entertaining. I actually kind of enjoyed the finale with Roland jumping around and shooting dozens of bad guys with his dual revolvers, reloading them in the most ridiculous and seemingly impossible ways. They sure seemed to hold a lot of ammo, though. 

Idris Elba will always turn in a fine and committed performance, reciting poor dialogue with ease, but there’s nothing to his character beyond a lame revenge plot to kill the Man in Black. He has no chemistry with Tom Taylor, but that could be because Tom Taylor unfortunately just wasn’t very good. It more had to do with the writing, but his presence really took me out of the film, making me take it less seriously. He just made it feel even more like a young adult book adaptation. Even Matthew McConaughey falls victim to the same terrible characterization and dialogue. His whole character doesn’t go much further than, “I’m evil and want to destroy the world.” He’s your standard cliché villain who walks around saying evil things and murdering people with his demonic powers. Just another checkmark on the list for this creatively bereft affair. 

I understand that a lot of context in the movie is perhaps lost on me as I haven’t read the books, but I shouldn’t have to read the source material in order to enjoy a film. The Dark Tower is practically the definition of a studio lazily slapping some film together in an attempt to make any money they can off of brand and fan recognition. It felt like nobody’s heart was in it, but I’m sure the paychecks were nice. One thing I’ve always admired about Stephen King was his twisted, yet incredibly creative, mind, but if you make a journey to The Dark Tower, it’s about as generic as it gets. 

4/10

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