Directed by Directed by Nikolaj Arcel
Starring Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor
Stephen King adaptations have always been thwart with peril. Only a handful of them have been great films, and a fair number have been atrocious. The Dark Tower takes an interesting approach to this, acting as a sequel to King’s series of novels, but because of the cyclical nature of Roland’s quest, it also acts as a reboot (with elements from the novels). It’s a bold concept… if it works.
Jake (Tom Taylor) is haunted by dreams of a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) assaulting a Dark Tower. Dreams that terrify him, dreams that he can’t stop, dreams that he thinks are real, and as they become more and more associated with increasing earthquakes, dreams that he fears may signify the end of the world. As the minions for the Man in Black hunt for Jake hoping to use his gift to see things (his Shine) as a weapon, Jake becomes convinced that the one chance he has is the Gunslinger Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) he has seen in his visions. The last of a great order of warriors, who stood against evil on an Earth unlike ours, called Mid-World. Perhaps together they can stand against the Man in Black, and protect the Tower that is a linchpin to the various worlds.
This is a profound disappointment. At just over an hour and a half, The Dark Tower feels like a perfunctory tour through Mid-World, given by a listless tour guide. It rushes to the end, hitting some of the points it needs to, but never with any verve or care. There is little done to expand or explain much of the mythos of the world, you are given no character development, and very little complexity in plot. For a viewer not familiar with the novels, there is enough to get the bare bones of what is happening, but not enough to care. For fans of the epic series, they will experience something that has some small resemblance to the novels (OK not much beyond a few names and places), but compacted down into the course of one short film.
The result is something that will please few, with little sense of danger, despite the stakes involving the collapse of reality itself. In attempting to make a streamlined film, it feels like everything has been hollowed out and we have been left with a thin shell. Its meld of horror, high fantasy, and Old West is pretty to look at, but has no substance, or sense of grandeur.
Elba does what he can with a one note character, but displays no real range beyond the gruff embittered Gunslinger. McConaughey cavorts, and seems to be having fun overplaying evil incarnate, but never really brings it to life beyond that of a pantomime stage. Tom Taylor is serviceable as Jake, however his character is so generic that it fades into the background radiation.
The Dark Tower is so stripped down for general consumption that there is nothing of substance. It’s bare bones plot fails to excite, and although some of the design and visual elements are nice, that alone does not bring a world to life. Fans of the books will wish it had stayed on the page, and those that are uninitiated into this segment of the Kingiverse will not find this a compelling introduction.